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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC Fight Night 87's Andrei Arlovski resident fighter analyst -- and aspiring professional fighter -- Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of UFC Fight Night 87 headliner Andrei Arlovski, who looks to settle a grudge this Sunday (May 8, 2016) inside Ahoy Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight kingpin, Andrei Arlovski, squares off with part-time teammate and K-1 Grand Prix champion, Alistair Overeem, this Sunday (May 8, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 87 inside Ahoy Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Arlovski's recent run was some of his best work in years. The Belarussian scrapper was aggressive and firing off his right hand often, which made him an exceptionally dangerous fighter and lead him to win four straight bouts inside the Octagon. Unfortunately, a quick loss to Stipe Miocic brought Arlovski's win streak to a close. Luckily, Arlovski can return to the win column and the title hunt quickly if he's able to decimate Overeem here.

Let's take a closer look at his skill set:


Arlovski may not be a textbook boxer, but he's one of the most powerful and effective punchers in the division. His striking education began as a teenage in the arts of both kickboxing and Sambo -- which at this point, was many years ago -- and his skills have been sharpened over the years by trainers like Mike Winkeljohn and Freddie Roach.

Though Arlovski has a quick jab, he's not confident with it and has a difficult time maintaining range with the strike. Instead, Arlovski relies very heavily on his right hand. The Belarusian packs intense power into his right and is aware of his stopping power, so he throws it often. In general, Arlovski does a good job moving his head off the center line when he attacks with his power hand.

Arlovski frequently leads with his straight right and overhand (GIF). "Pitbull" has both a hand speed and overall quickness advantage over most heavyweights, which allows him to lead with his power hand so frequently. Plus, he explodes into the punch quite well, allowing him to close the distance quickly.

After beginning his combination with the right, Arlovski will mix in a left hook. Then, he'll usually finish the combination with another right hand (GIF). In order to prevent himself from becoming predictable and counter his opponent's movement, he often will switch to a right uppercut after landing the overhand earlier in the combination.

Arlovski's combination of the overhand and right uppercut is devastating. He usually establishes the overhand first and then catches his foe ducking down, but it works both ways. As his opponent moves to avoid the one strike, Arlovski lands the second with additional power.

This double threat allowed Arlovski to finish two of the best heavyweight chins in the sport, as both Roy Nelson and Ben Rothwell were overwhelmed by Arlovski's flurries. In each finish, Arlovski was firing off a large number of punches at his hurt foe (GIF). Eventually, an overhand or uppercut sealed the deal, as it connected cleanly after being set up by the other strike (GIF).

While this combination of right uppercut and cross also brought about Travis Browne's end, Arlovski showcased a new technique in that fight. After missing on his right hand, Arlovski would return to his stance with a back fist rather than a left hook. It turned out to be quicker and caught his opponent off-guard, dropping the Hawaiian striker (GIF).

Finally, Arlovski will often look to counter with the straight right hand. Though he sometimes looks to come over his opponent's jab for a cross counter, he usually cuts straight through his opponent's looping shots. Even against Fedor Emelianenko -- the king of corkscrewing overhands -- Arlovski was able to counter "The Last Emperor" early and often with his straight right hand and speed advantage.

In addition to his boxing, Arlovski has an excellent kicking game that he simply does not utilize enough. His leg kicks are particularly devastating, as "Pitbull" is capable of ripping apart both the inside and outside of his opponent's legs. Plus, he occasionally darts in with punches after knocking his opponent off balance with a low kick, an excellent technique that is difficult to counter.

It does seem that Arlovski has been throwing a few more kicks to the head and body as of late. He finished Travis Fulton with a beautiful switch high kick several years back, and he has added front kicks into his game. If Arlovski were to fully utilize his kicking ability, it would go a long way towards building a new win streak.

Considering how many of Arlovski's defeats came via knockout, it's clear that he does have some defensive issues. Most problematic is that when Arlovski does not plant his feet and counter, he often backs straight up, occasionally with his hands down.

There's not much room for error at Heavyweight, and that's a big one.

Additionally, Arlovski often freezes up after getting clocked. That's not as bad as simply crumbling after getting punched hard, but it's hardly a good thing. It's far too common for Arlovski to swallow a hard shot, survive the hit, but absorb another dozen strikes as he regains his wits.


As an International Master of Sports in Sambo, Arlovski is a talented wrestler. He's usually in excellent physical conditioning as well, meaning that even larger heavyweights have a difficult time out-muscling him.

Arlovski attempts takedowns only on rare occasion. He does not often shoot for a double and prefers to do his work from the clinch. Usually, Arlovski will secure a body lock from the over-under or double under position, drive forward, and attempt an outside trip. Or, he'll simply put a lot of pressure on his opponent's hips without the trip.

The Belarusian is a pretty strong counter-wrestler as well. It helps a lot that Arlovski has powerful hips and keeps his feet under him when he punches, rather than getting off balance. That alone allows Arlovski to stuff a majority of the double leg takedowns that come his way.

Inside the clinch, Arlovski's Sambo background often keeps him upright. He usually plays defensive when his back is to the fence, merely fighting off his opponent's underhooks until an opportunity to push away comes along. Occasionally, Arlovski will transition into a double collar tie to land some knees before exiting the clinch.

For the most part, Arlovksi only gives up takedowns when his opponent gets in on his hips along the fence. Both "Bigfoot" Silva and Anthony Johnson managed to take down Arlovski from that position, as Arlovski does not always fight the underhooks well when his foe is deep on the shot. Alternatively, Frank Mir actually did a really nice job picking his opportunities to shoot and was briefly successful on a couple of occasions, getting in on the shot when Arlovski was out of position.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

In more than 30 career fights, Arlovski has finished a mere three opponents via submission and has yet to be finished himself. Though he has legitimate Sambo credentials, Arlovski's fights rarely hit the mat.

And when they do, Arlovski is content to pound away at his opponent with hard punches.

However, Arlovski did pull off a beautiful straight footlock (or Achilles lock) in his first championship bout with Tim Sylvia. After dropping "The Maine-iac" with his right hand, Arlovski latched onto one of Sylvia's feet and fell back. Arlovski then draped his outside leg across Sylvia's trapped leg, preventing Sylvia from sitting up and relieving the pressure. From this position, Arlovski turn onto side that Sylvia's foot was trapped. This puts all of Arlovski's weight on top of the ankle in addition to "Pitbull's" squeeze.

In just 47 seconds, Sylvia tapped out.

Unlike the heel hook, the straight footlock does not do serious ligament damage, which is why it is legal inside even most beginner grappling tournaments. However, it can crush some of the smaller bones in the foot and, rarely, the ankle itself. Overall, it is a pain move that tests the receivers tolerance.

Sylvia, despite his public reputation, is a legitimately tough fighter. The fact that Arlovski forced him to submit to a straight footlock should key fans in on just how deadly Arlovski is with this technique.

Outside of his footlock finish, Arlovski has demonstrated a strong defensive full guard. He doesn't look to sweep or submit, but Arlovski is able to defend passes and strikes while occasionally delivering an elbow from the bottom. Then, he'll put his feet in the hips and kick in search of an opportunity to stand up. To his credit, Arlovski had little trouble avoiding Mir's submission game when on the mat with the former champion.


How long does Arlovski have left inside the cage? That's a big question that Arlovski is likely asking himself. He's been competing forever and has taken his share of damage, but at the same time, Arlovski is legitimately one of elite in his division. While hanging up the gloves at any point in the near future wouldn't be unreasonable, Arlovski would surely like one last title run, and he can make that happen quickly by knocking out Alistair Overeem.


Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an undefeated amateur fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport's most elite fighters.

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