A highly intriguing heavyweight bout took place last night (March 23, 2013) as former UFC standout welterweight Anthony Johnson moved up to his fourth weight class to take on former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski in the main event of World Series of Fighting II in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Many expected the story of last night's fight to be Arlovski's superior technique pitted against Johnson's explosiveness and power.
They were right.
At the beginning of the fight, it was evident that Johnson had the advantage in terms of hand speed and the ability to land first when he wanted to, scoring with some crisp straight punches, but Arlovski responded with a series of slick combinations which kept "Rumble" on the defensive.
Just when it looked like Arlovski was going to utilize his size and overall boxing to win the first round, he got clipped by a huge right hand from the Blackzilian and nearly finished. In fact, he was so close to being done that Johnson initially thought the referee had stopped the fight when he jumped in to separate them at the end of the frame.
That explosion of violence set the tone for the fight, as Arlovski was forced to play it a bit safer from then on, trying to avoid eating that huge shot while Johnson definitely slowed down after consuming a ton of energy with his nearly fight-finishing flurry.
Despite the adrenaline dump, Johnson continued to find a home for his shorter, quicker strikes on the inside, backing Arlovski into the fence continuously, but instead of keeping the pressure on the former champion, he instead would finish off ever flurry with by bending over at the waist and hanging onto Arlovski's midsection in what some would call a takedown attempt.
By the third round, both men were completely exhausted and Arlovski could not take advantage of his opponent's condition because he had a badly broken jaw and was too tired to land some good, solid strikes. Instead, he was forced to play defense as Johnson relied on his wrestling and takedown attempts to hang onto his lead and coast to a unanimous decision victory.
For Andrei Arlovski, speed kills and he could not handle the quickness of Johnson's attacks in the early goings of the fight. Despite all the work he's put in, he still has some bad defensive tendencies whenever he tries to attack and it left a huge opening for Johnson to exploit at the end of the first round which ended up costing him the fight. Despite getting hurt badly, he did show some serious testicular fortitude by hanging tough and trying to win the fight for fifteen straight minutes. There's no telling exactly when he had his jaw broken, but it must have hurt like hell every time he got hit in the face and he kept on coming all the way to the final bell.
Once his jaw heals, I'm sure Arlovski will want to continue fighting, but it's pretty obvious his dream of being in the UFC is probably over at this point. He could still take on any of the heavyweights on the WSOF roster if he wants like Chris Barnett or Dave Huckaba. Hell, they could even sign Tim Sylvia and let Arlovski try and settle that potentially unfinished business with him.
For Anthony Johnson, his striking actually looked much cleaner when he was composed and settled into a rhythm on the feet. He snapped Arlovski's head back a few times with that straight jab of his early on but he went away from it. "Rumble" proved his power translates all the way up to heavyweight by nearly finishing Arlovski at the end of the first round, but after that excellent blitz of offense, he was really frustrating to watch, capping off every big flurry of strikes with a takedown attempt instead of continuing his offense. There were moments it looked like he might have had Arlovski dazed along the fence after a good flurry and he instead hunched over with a takedown attempt. He potentially could have finished this fight if he didn't go back to his habit of finishing every combination with a takedown attempt.
Perhaps a potentially broken hand had a say in his strategy, we won't ever know for sure.
Johnson wants to return to 205 pounds after this fight, but there are slim pickings at light heavyweight outside UFC. I suppose he could fight a known veteran like Gilbert Yvel and if he makes weight, we could potentially see him in UFC at light heavyweight by the end of the year.