Last night (Sat., June 14, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweights Andrei Arlovski and Brendan Schaub squared off on the pay-per-view (PPV) main card of UFC 174 from Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
One of the most recognizable heavyweight champions mixed martial arts (MMA) has ever seen, Arlovski most recently knocked out Andreas Kraniotakes at an event called Nights: Battle on Nyahmiha from his native Minsk, Belarus, in Nov. 2013. After six years fighting in promotion like Strikeforce and World Series of Fighting (WSOF), Arlovski earned his ticket back to the big show.
Schaub won his last MMA bout with a first round submission over Matt Mitrione at UFC 165 in Sept. 2013 --the No. 13-ranked fighter had thus been out of the cage for a while. "Hybrid" was looking to continue his evolution by scoring three straight victories over an icon in Arlovski.
"Pitbull" was looking to make a big statement with a return win over former NFL football player Schaub. When it was finished, Arlovski picked up a big win, but it wasn't all that impressive. It may have even been a bit controversial.
The fighters took the center of the Octagon to start the bout. Arlovski threw a hard shot and clinched to land some knees, but a lull in action earned a warning from referee John McCarthy. Schaub landed a big overhand right followed by a left hook, but Arlovski neutralized him by clinching again. Schaub whiffed with a flurry and a massive overhand.
Arlovski missed with a weak trip takedown and appeared quite tentative, the nerves of his UFC return perhaps getting to him. Schaub scored a glancing right and was smothered in the clinch yet again. Schaub missed on a takedown as the relatively uneventful first round came to an end.
The second round saw a low blow from Arlovski halt the action momentarily. Schaub continued to look for his big right hand, but Arlovski began countering with a left. The Belarusian rushed forward with a big body shot, opening up his game a bit. He clinched again, and ate a right hand when it went back to the striking.
Schaub was snapping some solid lefts, faking it to follow with his right. Schaub shoved Arlovski up against the cage this time and the crowd began to boo. Schaub got a double leg, but Arlovski got right back up. Arlovski countered Schaub with another left hook, eating an uppercut before landing a big right hand to close out the round.
The final round began with Schaub pushing forward wildly. Arlovski snapped a decent combo and clinched again. Schaub responded with a good takedown to land in Arlovski's guard. Schaub went to work with short punches to the body and head, posturing up with some hammerfists. More and more rained down as Arlovski couldn't get back up. Schaub clinched when the action stood back up. Arlovski broke free and missed a big right hand, swinging sloppily as the fight came to an end.
Arlovski took home the controversial split decision victory with a rather uninspired performance. It appeared that Schaub may have locked up the fight with the late takedown and subsequent ground and pound, but Arlovski did control Schaub in the clinch in the first two rounds despite not doing much with it.
Controversial or not, Arlovski is back in UFC with a win over a Top 15-ranked opponent. He appeared way too cautious last night, but will most likely settle in to some good battles with some of the UFC's better heavyweight sluggers. He might be knocked out for his efforts, but he'll probably lay it on the line a lot more in future fights.
For Schaub, the loss is disheartening, but he most likely won't lose too much standing with the debatable decision. He appeared to have suffered a brutal injury to his face, so we'll have to wait and see how that affects his timetable for returning. It will also be interesting to see how Dana White responds to the decision. If the timing works out, Schaub could rematch Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira -- who knocked him out in 2011 -- in the near future.
Schaub looked decent enough but just couldn't seal the deal, so he has some work to do if he wants to be a serious contender in the Octagon.
Andrei Arlovski made a ‘triumphant' return to UFC by winning a close decision over Brendan Schaub. What's next for the once-feared former titleholder?