Saturday Sept. 5, at UFC 191, former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski will look to continue the upbeat narrative of his impressive comeback tale with a victory over another fellow heavyweight with a comeback story of his own, Frank Mir. With both men having tasted gold in the past, in their mid-30s, and having been previously written off as over the hill, it’s one of the most unlikeliest pairings of recent memory, especially when you factor in that a title shot could lay in the balance.

Yet here they are, both coming off impressive finishes, although Arlovski has perhaps the more impressive return to form at this point: he is undefeated since returning to the UFC last year, on a five fight win streak overall, with three having come within the big promotion: Brendan Schaub, Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, and most recently, Travis Browne.

The Browne fight was as improbable as it was extraordinary, and having dispatched a fighter who was and still is in the top five of the UFC’s official fight rankings, many expected Arlovski to get the nod for the next title shot. Instead, the promotion went down the path well traveled and booked Cain Velasquez in a rematch, because, well, that’s frankly a question for another day. In absence of a title shot, Arlovski, ranked fourth overall (let that settle in for a moment, why don’t you — Arlovski is a top five heavyweight in 2015) gets Mir, who rounds out the top ten at tenth, and who is coming off a stand and bang knockout of Todd Duffee.

Mir’s no slouch, and his striking has unquestionably improved over the years, to help shore up his fantastic submission arsenal.

What must Arlovski do to win? Let’s look at his keys to victory.

Keep The Fight Standing

It goes without saying that Mir is the more dangerous fighter on the mat, so Arlovksi will clearly want to make every effort to make this a stand-up bout. What does he need to do that? Well, employ his stellar takedown defense, which ranks at the top of the UFC heavyweight division, coming in just under 90%, higher than even former champion Cain Velasquez.

This effort may be bolstered by the fact that Mir seems comfortable of late keeping things standing.

Avoid Brawling, Fight Smart

Mir threw everything but the kitchen sink at Todd Duffee in their brawl in July, throwing out his game plan in the process. He was happy to swing for the fences, and came out of it with the win. Arlovski needs to avoid taking a similar approach, as Mir will only be too happy to comply, and at that point, the fight is a crapshoot. Arlovski got the upper hand against Travis Browne at UFC 187 in similar fashion, but that’s not exactly fighting smart.

Fighting smart would entail using a strong jab, dangerous kicks, and his full arsenal of skills to keep Mir on the outside, and only swarm when his opponent is stunned or drops his guard. Using that approach, The Pitbull has a much clearer path to victory.

Do Not Let Mir Find His Rhythm

From 2012 to 2014, Mir went on a four fight losing streak with not a single win in the UFC. It wasn’t until 2015 that he shook the monkey off his back. Andrei Arlovski has been there, done that, with a four fight losing streak of his own between 2009 and 2011. So he knows all too well the spot Mir was recently in, only with more time to reflect on it. One thing he can take advantage of is the psychological edge. Come out with a smart, strong gameplan and execute it. Sap Mir’s confidence early. Get him frustrated, rather than letting him find his rhythm.

Arlovski has the tools, and a possible title shot awaits. We’ll know soon enough if The Pitbull can get the win, and continue one of the greatest comeback stories in MMA history.

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.