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UFC on FOX 23 fight card: Andrei Arlovski vs Francis Ngannou full fight preview

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Ngannou vs Hamilton Michael Adamucci-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight bruisers Andrei Arlovski and Francis Ngannou will brawl this Saturday (Jan. 28, 2017) at UFC on FOX 23 inside Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.

The Heavyweight division is a cruel landscape. Just about one year ago, Arlovski was in the midst of a career renaissance and six-fight win streak, hot in pursuit of a title shot. Fast forward through 2016, and “The Pitbull” has been stopped three straight times and may be on the chopping block. On the other hand, Ngannou appears to be the breakout prospect his division so desperately needs. He’s a physical monster and has stopped four straights, showing some impressive well-rounded skill for his level of experience.

Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each athlete:

Andrei Arlovski
Record: 26-13 (1)
Key Wins: Travis Browne (UFC 187), Frank Mir (UFC 191), Antonio Silva (UFC Fight Night 51)
Key Losses: Stipe Miocic (UFC 195), Alistair Overeem (UFC Fight Night 87), Anthony Johnson (WSOF 2)
Keys to Victory: Even as he’s aged, Arlovski’s speed separates him from most of the division. He’s always been an athlete with a massive right hand who is difficult to take down ... and that’s still true today. There’s a reason he’s knocked out 17 men.

Ngannou has a ton of hype around him, and he deserves plenty of it. That said, Arlovski is a completely different type of challenge for Ngannou, as most of his past foes have been slower men looking to score a takedown. The Frenchman may have countered excellently, but that mold is a far cry from Andrei Arlovski.

To defeat the up-and-comer, Arlovski cannot show him any respect. Instead, Arlovski needs to throw his right hand aggressively and rely on his veteran instincts to keep him safe, as this bout may be a simple question of who lands first. As sharp as Ngannou appears, he’s unlikely to find his range quicker than a nearly 40-fight veteran who’s pushing the pace.


Francis Ngannou
Record: 9-1
Key Wins: Curtis Blaydes (UFC Fight Night 86), Anthony Hamilton (UFC Fight Night 102), Luis Henrique (UFC on FOX 17)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Ngannou is a pretty terrifying man. He’s nearly 260 pounds of what seems to be almost entirely muscle, and the Frenchman also packs an 83-inch reach. Aside from the fact that “The Predator” could probably knockout a horse, Ngannou has finished four of his foes via submission, including a recent kimura that began from the standing position pictured above.

At 30 years old, he’s practically a newborn by Heavyweight standards.

As mentioned, this is Ngannou’s first match up with a proven striker. While that could definitely reveal some weaknesses, Ngannou has shown a rather measured approach to kickboxing previously. He’s not solely in love with his power -- Ngannou sets his combinations up quite well. While patiently looking for opportunities to land a fight-ending blow would likely work out quite well for the prospect, Ngannou does have another option. If he were to jam Arlovski into the fence and dirty box, the Belarusian would likely slow down far quicker than the 30-year-old.

If Arlovski loses his explosiveness, it’s only a matter of time before Ngannou ends his night.

Bottom Line: There is a ton on the line for both men.

Arlovski cannot afford another loss. He may be losing to excellent competition, but he’s near the end of a very long career. At some point, UFC will stop giving him fights, and winning is the only way to stop that from happening. Otherwise, retirement looms.

Should Arlovski emerge victorious, it’s a hell of a way to return to the win column. Ngannou is one of the sport’s hottest prospects, so handing him a loss would definitely help Arlovski maintain his position on the roster.

Against the toughest opponent of his short career, Ngannou has an opportunity to insert himself into the title picture. That’s normally a big step, but Ngannou has been so impressive that it seems almost obvious.

On the other hand, a loss makes those expectations a bit more realistic. Ngannou could still rise through the ranks, but he may need more time to develop his skill set. Plus, with men this size, a single punch could always end a streak no matter how skilled the combatant.

At UFC on FOX 23, Andrei Arlovski and Francis Ngannou will go to war. Which fighter will remain standing when the dust settles?

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