It's been a very long time (six years) since Andrei Arlovski was an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter, but the former Heavyweight champion will return tonight (June 14, 2014) against Brendan Schaub at UFC 174 from Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Canada.
In his time away, Arlovski has put together a decent record (8-5, 1 NC), with one of those wins being a knockout over Roy Nelson ... the only finish loss in the mixed martial arts (MMA) career of "Big Country."
Arlovski made a name for himself long ago when he submitted Tim Sylvia for UFC's Heavyweight crown, but after losing the belt to "Maine-iac" just two fights later, he has never reached the same heights. In his career, Arlovski has faced notable opponents such as the aforementioned Nelson, Fabricio Werdum, Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio Silva, which is this kind of high-level experience that makes him a dangerous opponent.
His inclusion back in UFC sees a skilled, experienced fighter enter an admittedly shallow UFC Heavyweight division, but he comes in with one major flaw ... his chin. As much as he denies that he has a glass jaw, Arlovski is notoriously easy to hurt with strikes. And although his striking is more technically sound than some of his contemporaries, he is far from un-hittable, which could mean big problems for him against UFC's heavy hitters.
The good news is that fighting Schaub, the flaw may not be as big an issue as it would be against some of UFC's more respectable heavyweights. Schaub is athletic, sure, but he lacks a honed striking game or any chin to speak of, making him a fairly easy return fight for Arlovski.
Of course, his power is an equalizer in this match up, but being that he has knockout losses to the modern versions of Ben Rothwell and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, I'm fairly confident in seeing Arlovski come out victorious in this bout. Schaub may look to bring this fight to the mat, but given Arlovski's experience against top opposition -- and being far better on his back than Lavar Johnson or Matt Mitrione -- I don't think it is a reliable path to victory for Schaub.
Ultimately, all Arlovski will have to do in this fight is take a careful, strategic approach to taking on a fighter he is definitely more skilled than. Schaub can definitely pose some problems for Arlovski, but "Pitbull" has overcome tougher opponents in the past.
And he can do it again here.
Indeed, if Arlovski comes out victorious, he can emerge as one more fighter who may be able to crack the Top 10 in what is one of UFC's weakest divisions at the moment. And that is a pretty big deal for the former champion.