Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight veterans Andrei Arlovski and Stefan Struve will duel this Saturday (March 3, 2018) at UFC 222 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Arlovski’s UFC career is impossibly long. It’s hard to believe that we’re still seeing him compete inside the Octagon in 2018, let alone as a Top 15-ranked Heavyweight currently sitting in the win column. Many thought that Arlovski’s five-fight losing streak would see him ejected from UFC or simply retired, but “Pitbull” roared back to pick apart a talented prospect last time out. As for Struve, the Heavyweight division's longest prospect (in more ways than one) continues pushing forward as well. He recently had a chance to finally assert himself into title contention, but sadly the now 30-year-old combatant was unable to capitalize and must rebuild once more.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each athlete:
Record: 27-15 (1)
Key Wins: Travis Browne (UFC 187), Junior Albini (UFC Fight Night 120), Frank Mir (UFC 191), Antonio Silva (UFC Fight Night 51), Fabricio Werdum (UFC 70)
Key Losses: Stipe Miocic (UFC 195), Alistair Overeem (UFC Fight Night 87), Francis Ngannou (UFC on FOX 23), Marcin Tybura (UFC Fight Night 111)
Keys to Victory: Over the course of his nearly 20-year professional career, Arlovski has squared off with some of the baddest Heavyweights to ever compete, winning and losing his fair shake of fights. The former champion has mostly been losing to the elite lately, but he still showed off his quick hands and veteran smarts last time out.
That will very possibly be enough to defeat Struve, too.
Struve struggles with getting backed into the fence and bombed on, so walking straight into Struve and trying to crush him is an option. That said, Struve has gotten better recently about tagging foes on the way in, and it’s hard to say if Arlovski would survive a hard shot from the giant Dutchman if he’s pressuring heavily. Instead, a more measured approach may be best. Struve was pretty soundly worn down by Volkov’s boxing fundamentals, and Arlovski has the combination of patience and boxing technique to attempt a similar performance. If a massive right hand happens to slip through and crumble Struve before the fight really gets going, all the better.
Key Wins: Stipe Miocic (UFC on FUEL TV 5), Daniel Omielanczuk (UFC 204), Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (UFC 190), Antonio Silva (UFC Fight Night 87)
Key Losses: Alexander Volkov (UFC Fight Night 115), Jared Rosholt (UFC 193), Alistair Overeem (UFC on FOX 13), Mark Hunt (UFC on Fuel TV 8), Travis Browne (UFC 130)
Keys to Victory: Struve is better now, but largely the same fighter he’s been since his debut in 2009. “Skyscraper” is dangerous but hittable on the feet, although he’s able to make full use of his range in grappling exchanges on the mat.
In this bout, Struve should look to attack Arlovski’s body and legs. When Struve digs a low kick or jams a teep up the middle, his massive legs do more damage than it first meets the eye. Arlovski is tough, but 20 years of combat will wear down the body, making him more vulnerable to shots that break him down. Not only will Arlovski have a difficult time closing the distance on such strikes, but they will limit his explosiveness. Arlovski’s ability to suddenly flash in behind the killer right hand is a staple of his game, and limiting that lunge will go a long way in making the fight easier for Struve.
Bottom Line: It’s a battle between fighters struggling to remain in the upper echelon of the division.
At this point, it’s abundantly clear that neither fighter will go on a title run without massive development to their game. That’s at least possible for Struve considering his youth, unlikely as it may seem considering how deep into his professional career he is. Regardless, the winner of this bout is not really in title contention, but he’s still in the Top 10 coming off a win. At Heavyweight, that could be enough for a title eliminator depending on how the division shakes up.
Alternatively, the losing party is another step back from that end goal. Again, Struve needs to revamp his game before trying to challenge the Top 5 anyway, so that’s not a huge deal for him. In Arlovski’s case, he’d still really like to put some more ground between himself and that five-fight losing streak, as six defeats out of seven still doesn’t sound all that good in dissuading retirement arguments.
At UFC 222, Andrei Arlovski and Stefan Struve will trade blows. Which fighter will remain standing when the dust settles?