Waiting around for the second coming of just about anything can feel like, well, waiting for the second coming, frankly. And in MMA, career resurgences are few and far between. Yet every rule has its exception, and when it comes to late career resurgences in the sport, look no further than Andrei Arlovski, who quite frankly lit up Travis Browne at UFC 187 Saturday night.

Make no mistake: this Fight of the Night winner, which has a shot at fight of the year, was arguably the biggest fight for Arlovski since he faced Fedor Emelianenko in Affliction back in 2009. Had he lost his return fight in the UFC to Brendan Schaub last year, few would have been surprised, and he still would have been given another fight or two. Yet by winning against Browne in the biggest upset of the night (Browne was ranked third, while Arlovski himself had somehow slipped to eighth), he has put himself in a position few thought possible: on a three fight UFC win streak and in contention for a title shot.

In the tumultuous ranks of the heavyweight division, a three fight win streak is not something to take likely. When those wins come over three recognizable names, it’s even more impressive. True, Schaub and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva are not the fighters they once were, but that’s not to be held against Arlovski. Browne, meanwhile, was coming off a TKO win over Schaub, and had lost only to current interim title holder Fabricio Werdum since 2012. In short, he is (or perhaps was, after this loss) a legit top five heavyweight in the UFC.

Come UFC 188, either Cain Velasquez or Fabricio Werdum will unify the heavyweight title, clearing up the title picture that has been stuck in limbo due to Velasquez frequently being injured. Barring any immediate rematch between the two, a new challenger will be needed, and The Pitbull could very well get the nod after UFC 187.

And he should.

Lets face it: something that really helped build up the mystique of Jon Jones was his tendency to beat — soundly — any number of former champions. For Cain Velasquez, who has fought only two men (Junior Dos Santos and Bigfoot) in his past five fights, should he come out victorious, he’ll need to at long last start defending the belt with a greater frequency and against a more varied cast of characters. What better option is there than put to him against a former champ? It’s a marketable fight that would have a lot of fans rooting for Arlovski thanks to the nostalgia factor, and could be the first step in making Velasquez into the complete package as champ. And should The Pitbill win? You still have a popular, exciting champ. For the promotion, it’s win-win.

It’s also the most logical option, as in the division’s top five, no one else is on such a roll. Josh Barnett hasn’t fought in over a year and is coming off a loss, Stipe Miocic has just one win since losing to Dos Santos, who himself has just one win, over Miocic, since losing to Velasquez for the second time. A Werdum win might shake things up a little, as Dos Santos has a win over him already, but the only man in the top ten with a three fight win streak is Arlovski. A case could be made for seventh ranked Alistair Overeem, who has won two straight — but he should preferably see one more bout before getting a shot, and a bout against Dos Santos at this point probably makes the most sense.

Which makes Arlovski the front runner. Rankings, of course, don’t always get factored into title shots. Nor do win streaks. They are, however, a key indicator. And if fan reaction is taken into account — well, though he’d be a massive underdog yet again, Arlovski being granted a title shot would be a rather popular move.

It’s also the right move. Assuming no long layoffs are in order for the winner of Velasquez vs. Werdum, this is the fight the UFC should make. If Arlovski fails in a title challenge, he still has plenty of compelling match ups left in the division to take him through the end of his career. Should he succeed — it would cap the biggest comeback in the MMA world in years.

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.