This Saturday night (June 14, 2014), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweights Andrei Arlovski and Brendan Schaub will fight on the main card of UFC 174, airing live at 10 p.m. EST on pay-per-view (PPV) from Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Former UFC champion Arlovski is returning to UFC after a six-year hiatus. He was last seen finishing Andreas Kraniotakes at the little known Fight Nights: Battle on Nyahmiha from his native Minsk, Belarus, in November 2013. The talented striker has won four out of his past five mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts, including a 2-1 stint for World Series of Fighting (WSOF).
"Pitbull" is looking to score a huge comeback win against No. 13-ranked Schaub, the former NCAA and NFL football player who most recently submitted fellow The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran Matt Mitrione at UFC 165 in September 2013. "Hybrid" has two straight wins after suffering two straight knockouts.
A win over Arlovski could have Schaub knocking on the door of a heavyweight Top 10 spot, making this perhaps the biggest bout of his career. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Arlovski vs. Schaub:
Record: 21-10(1) overall, 10-4 UFC
Key Wins: Fabricio Werdum (UFC 92), Roy Nelson (EliteXC: Heat), Tim Sylvia (UFC 51)
Key Losses: Fedor Emelianenko (Affliction: Day of Reckoning), Anthony Johnson (WSOF 2), Antonio Silva (Strikeforce: Heavy Artillery), Tim Sylvia (UFC 61, UF 59)
Keys to Victory: At this point in time, Arlovski's game has been relegated to that of a slugger who swings for the fences and hopes his power shot lands first. It hasn't always worked out for him, however, as seven of his 10 losses have come by way of knockout.
He'd be well served to implement a more patient, intelligent gameplan against Schaub. Like Arlovski, "Hybrid" isn't exactly known for having the strongest of chins, so Arlovski needs to take advantage of that without leaving himself open to another highlight reel knockout.
That's easier said than done, but "Pitbull" should hold the edge in pure kickboxing. Schaub recently retooled his strategy to a wrestling-heavy gameplan that he used to smother Lavar Johnson and submit Mitrione. As his ground prowess progresses, expect Schaub to look for multiple takedowns at UFC 174.
Arlovski has always had an excellent sprawl that is aided heavily by his size, strength, and athleticism, and he has an extensive background in Sambo. However, his only UFC submission came against Sylvia way back in 2005, so he'll most likely be looking to keep this fight standing.
If he can't, all is not lost. Arlovski has never tapped out, and opponents rarely keep him on the ground for too long. With Schaub shying away from the stand-up game a bit, Arlovski will be looking for the knockout early and often.
Record: 10-3 overall, 6-3 UFC
Key Wins: Matt Mitrione (UFC 165), Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (UFC 128), Gabriel Gonzaga (UFC 121)
Key Losses: Roy Nelson (TUF 10 Finale), Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (UFC 134), Ben Rothwell (UFC 145)
Keys to Victory: Possessing high-level athleticism similar to Arlovski, Schaub appears reinvented after depending on his ground game in recent bouts. Despite his background as a Golden Gloves boxing champion, Schaub should be looking to neutralize "Pitbull" with a heavy dose of grappling.
Schaub does have seven knockouts in 10 total victories, and with Arlovski having a glass chin on par with his own, standing and trading with the former champion may get him a big knockout win.
But it could just as easily see him staring up at the lights. It's clear that Schaub knew he had some things to fix after getting knocked out in 2011-2012; implementing his improving Brazilian jiu-jitsu game has paid dividends thus far. Looking to exercise positional advantages against Arlovski will keep him out of harm's way while still scoring points.
That's not to say he can't strike with Arlovski; he can. His quickness and timing is excellent for a heavyweight, but there is no reason to take on a striker of this caliber in the one area he might hold an advantage. While it's going to be difficult to make Arlovski tap out, throwing caution to the wind and winging haymakers would be foolish, to say the least.
Both of these fighters have insane knockout power; that much is not on trial. If Schaub is to win, he's going to have to do so by being the more intelligent fighter.
Bottom Line from Vancouver: The bottom line for this fight is that it could truly end in an instant. That may be cliché in MMA at this point, but given the size, power, and track records of both Arlovski and Schaub, it holds true in this case.
Their chins have also failed them repeatedly in the past, something that obviously doesn't bode well in the UFC heavyweight division.
Neither fighter is close to title contention in a division starved for legitimate challengers, but a win in Vancouver would help them get on that path. Schaub has more potential due to his age and developing skill set; it's clear that he's willing to learn and adapt based on his recent results and methods of winning.
However, Arlovski is the polar opposite of that. He's continuously left his chin hanging out for top-level heavyweights to blast into oblivion, and many have already called for his retirement after some of the brutal losses he has absorbed. Many were in fights he was previously winning.
But it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, so we shouldn’t expect anything else from the bruising Belarusian. He’s back in the UFC for one last run, count on him to go for broke.
Given his takedown defense and experience, he’s going to be tough to control on the mat, meaning that Schaub may have no choice but to engage Arlovski on the feet.
That should translate into an exciting (although short) bout. Enjoy the fight.
Brendan Schaub will welcome Andrei Arlovski back to the Octagon in Vancouver. Which fighter's chin will hold up long enough to score a solid win?