If even just two years ago you suggested that some day, Andrei Arlovski would be back in the UFC, you probably would have been ridiculed. The going consensus among fight fans was that he was done. His chin was bust. Of course, that’s probably why you shouldn’t necessarily put too much credence into the whole “so and so is washed up” type of comments you find online, but the reality is, even few so-called “experts” expected to see Arlovski make another run to the top.

The Pitbull, of course, held UFC heavyweight gold back in 2005, and though only a decade ago, in MMA terms, it’s a lifetime. Or a career at least. And frankly, the UFC heavyweight division of 2005 paled in comparison to even the thin division it has to offer today. After all, the best heavyweights at the time were in Pride.

Still, Arlovski defended the title twice during his reign before losing it in his second bout with Tim Sylvia (who just happened to be the man he won it from in the first place), leaving him tied for most title defenses in UFC history to this day. What happened after that is well documented: another loss to Sylvia, then a trio of UFC wins, including one over current title contender Fabricio Werdum, before Arlovski opted to leave the UFC seeking greener pastures.

A calculated financial move, greener pastures turned out to be anything but: after a pair of solid wins over Ben Rothwell and Roy Nelson in Affliction and Elite XC, respectively, Arlovski would go on a four fight downward spiral that included losses to Fedor Emelianenko in Afflication and Brett Rogers, Bigfoot Silva, and Sergei Kharitonov in Strikeforce. All but one was a stoppage loss from strikes. Just like that, Arlovski became a punchline to many MMA fans.

Should he have been one? No. It’s the heavyweight division. Anyone can be caught. Still, four losses is a lot to bounce back from, and few would have believed that some day, say in 2014-15, Arlovski would be in the top ten of the heavyweight division, fighting again for the UFC. Yet that’s where he sits, winner of all but one fight since November 2012, on a four fight win streak currently, with two coming in the UFC.

Even fewer would have guessed that Arlovski would be in striking distance of a title shot, yet that’s where he finds himself in the UFC’s flagging heavyweight division, a group that reads something along the lines of “Velasquez, Dos Santos, then everybody else.” With quite a gap between the champion and former champ Dos Santos.

Mind you, all that could change with a Fabricio Werdum win this Summer at UFC 188 for the heavyweight title, assuming oft-injured champion Cain Velasquez makes it to the fight, but should he show up healthy and dispatch Werdum, a win over Travis Browne at UFC 187 could actually put Arlovski, as unlikely as it seems, in position for a crack at the title. Why?

Junior Dos Santos has lost twice to Velasquez. Stipe Miocic is coming off a win over Mark Hunt, but prior to that fell to the aforementioned Dos Santos. Travis Browne lost a title eliminator in 2014 to Werdum, and though a win against Arlovski could put him back in the title picture, he’s almost certainly out of it should Werdum, the current interim champ, unify the titles. Alistair Overeem is finally on a two fight win streak in the UFC, but he hasn’t exactly been inspiring in his time in the promotion, and frankly, a three fight win streak, recognizable name, and status as ex-champion could give Arlovski an edge, assuming he walks out of UFC 187 victorious.

What must he do to ensure that?

Nullify Browne’s Striking

For a big man, Travis Browne is a fairly solid striker, at least until he meets someone on the level of Fabricio Werdum, who put on a clinic against him last year. That said, the likes of Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett have been on the losing end of Browne’s kicks and, most importantly, elbows. To defeat Browne, Arlovski will need to nullify them. Luckily, he has the skill set to do it.

Since being at the top of the UFC a decade ago, Arlovski’s game has become much more well-rounded. Though he still has all the same basic tools, he should be able to keep Browne on the outside, at a distance. The only question is, as the men were once training partners, what effect will that have on the fight, and each man’s game plan?

Set The Pace

It’s odd to think that there is only four years in age between Travis Browne and Andrei Arlovski. Arlovski, who is just 36, has been through a lot of wars, and feels like the old warhorse in the division (at least discounting Cro Cop). For this fight, however, Arlovski is going to have to fight like the younger man. He’s going to need to be active. Counter striking and sitting back just won’t cut it against Browne, who has just two career losses since turning pro in 2009.

Fight Smart

Travis Browne has heavy, heavy hands. Thirteen of his seventeen wins have come by way of knockout. He has the power advantage in this fight. Andrei Arlovski must absolutely be wary of that power, and circle away from the big punches, without being to predictable and allowing Browne to adjust.

To a lot of fans, this bout looks like a mismatch. It isn’t. Arlovski has the tools, it’s whether or not he fights the right fight that will dictate how he exits UFC 187.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.