It has been six long years since Andrei Arlovski last stepped foot inside the UFC Octagon. In that time, the UFC heavyweight title he once held has changed hands an astonishing eight times (that includes interim titles). But on June 14, at UFC 174, Arlovski will make his long-awaited return to UFC action when he takes on Brendan Schaub.

Arlovski left the UFC in 2008 riding a three-fight winning streak and proceeded to rack up back-to-back knockout wins over Ben Rothwell and Roy Nelson (Arlovski holds the distinction of being the only man to ever finish Nelson). With five consecutive wins under his belt, Arlovski then took on living legend Fedor Emelianenko. Arlovski was knocked out in the first round.

Following his loss to Emelianenko, Arlovski dropped three fights in a row, and it looked as if the game had passed him by. But MMA is just one of those sports where things seem to come together for a fighter just when it looks like his or her career is over. Since that four-fight losing streak, Arlovski has gone 6-1, with one no-contest, in his last eight. His lone loss in that stretch came at the hands of Anthony Johnson, a former welterweight who is now surging as a light heavyweight and made his own recent return to the UFC.

Although Arlovski has certainly not racked up wins against any world beaters, he has proved that he can still compete. He defeated the fighters that were put in front of him to earn this opportunity in the UFC.

The UFC isn’t giving Arlovski any time to get his bearings back in the Octagon, though. He will face one of the most athletically gifted fighters in the UFC heavyweight division in his return. Schaub’s blend of speed and power make him a dangerous match-up for anyone, but that especially hold true for Arlovski, who looked lost against the similarly gifted Johnson.

Further working against Arlovski is the fact that the Belarusian isn’t known for having an iron clad chin. Seven of his 10 career losses have come by way of knockout, and Schaub has the brutal punching power needed to add another tick in that column for Arlovski. The flip side of that, though, is that all three of Schaub’s career losses have come by way of knockout as well, and Arlovski is a knockout machine.

It’s hard to envision this fight going the distance. Both guys have vicious power and each man has been knocked out in the past, so expect to see a finish. If Arlovski can defeat Schaub, look for things to get very interesting in the UFC heavyweight division. Despite a strong champion and a few perennial top challengers, the division is seriously lacking in overall depth. Arlovski is a name fans know, and he would therefore provide the UFC with one more competitive player within the weight class.

By no means will Arlovski jump to the front of the pack in terms of getting a UFC title shot, but a win over an opponent like Schaub will make everyone in the division stop and take notice. When you consider the lack of depth in the UFC heavyweight division at present, it is not impossible to think that all Arlovski needs is two or three wins in the UFC to earn himself another shot at the belt.

Can Arlovski put together a winning streak in the UFC? His skill set would suggest as much. He is an accomplished sambo master and a deadly striker. The big question he has to answer now is whether he can compete in the modern heavyweight division.

The sport was very different when Arlovski was the UFC heavyweight champion. Fighters were not as well rounded as they are today, and most heavyweights were big lumbering strikers. Then, Tim Sylvia was Arlovski’s biggest rival. Nowadays, the Belarusian would have to contend with the likes of reigning champion Cain Velasquez and top contenders along the lines of Junior dos Santos and Fabricio Werdum. Arlovski is getting dropped into a whole other world, and a win over Schaub would be an excellent indicator as to whether or not he can hang with the best in the division.

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.