With the UFC taking the week off to recover from its latest pay-per-view event, the attention this week shifts to the second effort from World Series of Fighting. In the main event, former UFC stars Andrei Arlovski and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson locks horns at the Revel Resort & Casino, Atlantic City, N.J.

If there’s one thing that won’t be cause for concern at the event on March 23, it’s whether Anthony “Rumble” Johnson made weight.

Why, you ask?

The former welterweight is moving up to heavyweight, yes, heavyweight, to compete against the former UFC title holder, Arlovski. If you have followed the career of “Rumble,” the move likely isn’t a surprise. He’s struggled to hit his mark at both welterweight and middleweight and has recently competed at light heavyweight.

Both fighters are looking for a signature win that will garner the attention of UFC brass once more. Johnson was dropped after missing weight and being submitted at UFC 142 early last year, but has reeled off four straight on the regional circuit. Meanwhile, Arlovski went 0-3 under the Strikeforce banner, but has rebounded to go 4-0 with one no-contest since.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills matchup against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Arlovski – 9, Johnson – 10

Johnson (R) watches his unconscious opponent fall to the canvas (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

In terms of technical striking, there’s no question that Arlovski is the better fighter. He possesses crisp boxing and solid footwork. He even has professional boxing experience, albeit brief. The Belarusian has heavy hands, as evidenced by the 14 stoppages in 19 career wins. But what has hurt the 34-year-old fighter is a weak chin. Sure, he competes at heavyweight, where every opponent hits like a truck, but with seven of his nine defeats coming by way of knockout, it’s hard to trust him in any match-up.

While competing at welterweight, Johnson destroyed numerous opponents purely based on his size and power advantage. At 6-foot-2 and with a 78-inch reach—one-inch longer than Arlovski—the American is massive for almost any division. Like Arlovski, the majority of his wins, 10 out of 14, have come via strikes. He does not have the technical prowess of his opponent, but mixes in more kicks. And unlike the soft-chinned Belarusian, Johnson has never been knocked out.

Ground Game: Arlovski – 10, Johnson – 9

Arlovski celebrates (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

This fight will get very interesting if it finds its way to the mat. Arlovski is an International Master of Sports in sambo, as well as a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Although most of his fights have played out on the feet, he does have the ability to finish fights on the ground. In fact, it was an Achilles lock of Tim Sylvia that earned him the UFC belt. However, that fight was more than seven years ago, and his faith in his stand-up has led him to largely abandon his submissions.

If there’s one area of the fight game that is a chink in Johnson’s armor, it’s his submission defense. Three of his four career losses have come via rear-naked choke—including his UFC 142 loss to Vitor Belfort. Like many wrestlers, Johnson panics when on his back or when his opponent takes his back. And what may play a factor in this fight is that he’s not larger and stronger than his opponent like he has been in the past. He may have escaped some perilous spots in the past with pure strength, but if Arlovski gets a dominant position, he’ll be in a world of trouble.

Wrestling: Arlovski – 9, Johnson – 10

Arlovski walks away from a fallen opponent (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Arlovski’s takedown defense has never been out of this world, but it’s been adequate for the most part. He’s found himself on his back against the likes of Roy Nelson, but his grappling base has helped him avoid getting smothered.

Johnson hasn’t forgotten his wrestling base in the same way that Arlovski has his BJJ game, but he has shown a propensity to strike with his opponents unless he’s desperate. Outside of the Dan Hardy fight, where he employed a takedown-heavy, safe attack, Johnson comes to “Rumble.” The former National Junior College All-American has the skills to take this fight to the ground, but unless Arlovski is really taking it to him on the feet, don’t expect it.

X-Factor

Moving up in weight class in not always the best decision, but in the case of Johnson, his frame was never meant for welterweight. He looked healthy and strong in his appearances in the Titan cage and in his WSOF debut. But will fighting at heavyweight affect his cardio? Will his usual size and strength advantage be a thing of the past? During a 14-month layoff due to a knee injury, Johnson ballooned in weight and hopefully he won’t do the same in his move to heavyweight.

Total: Arlovski – 28, Johnson – 29

Verdict: Unless Johnson’s explosiveness is somehow hindered by moving up in weight, Arlovski is in for a rough night. His “beard” has failed him over and over against power punchers, and he’s facing one in Johnson. “Rumble” by first-round knockout.

Top Photo: Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (L) (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

  • Chris

    This fight is really intriguing to me. AJ has looked really good at LHW (still blows me away that he used to try and cut down to 170), but how quick will he be at HW? And can Arlovski, who’s had knockout issues in the past, survive AJ’s striking?

    Really good, fun fight, can’t wait to see it.