Who wins the Stipe Miocic vs. Andrei Arlovski co-main event at UFC 195, and how? Is the winner in line for a title fight yet?
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
My heart says Arlovski, but my head says Miocic. But then my heart says “Shut up head, you keep picking against Arlovski and being wrong.” Arlovski’s rise to prominence again in the UFC heavyweight division is one of the more unlikely stories in MMA recently. The former titleholder looked washed up about five years ago, suffering four consecutive defeats, three by way of first round knockout. While his striking game still seemed serviceable, his jaw looked anything but. Fast forward to the end of 2015, and Arlovski has won six straight heavyweight fights, including four in his UFC return. He’s also managed not to get knocked out, including when his jaw was broken in a loss to Anthony Johnson, the only loss he’s had in twelve fights dating back to August of 2011. In a division bereft of talent and depth, it’s not surprising that the once seemingly washed-up Pit Bull is in the conversation for a title shot.
For a guy that hasn’t done a lot, Miocic certainly gets a fair amount of talk for a title shot. While he has won four out of his last five fights over the past two years, his signature win is a TKO victory over a 41 year old Mark Hunt, a guy who was barely sporting a .500 record. Ironically, most of his title buzz comes from his most recent loss, a unanimous decision dropped to Junior dos Santos. Miocic showed he undoubtedly was in the same league as the former champ, but that may not be as impressive as it once was with how dos Santos has looked recently.
Which raises the question, how good is Miocic really? He’s still right around his athletic prime, sports a crisp boxing game, and great athleticism for a heavyweight. His accomplishments on the other hand, don’t really scream elite contender. It’s more a matter of “there’s no one else as this division sucks and he looked good against dos Santos.” Sadly, that’s one of the better arguments to receive a match for a belt in a division devoid of many interesting matchups and talented fighters.
A move to the Jackson-Winklejohn camp has played a large part in Arlovski’s resurgence. Miocic is the younger, more athletic fighter, but expect the best game planners in the business to construct a strategy that will maximize the Belarusian’s chances to win. Arlovski is going to have to avoid the power shot, something he’s been mostly successful at in his UFC return, as his fight against Travis Browne showed he can still be dropped to the canvas if he gets punched in the face. Miocic should win, but I’m counting on (hoping) there’s just a little more magic left in Arlovski’s run, and that the game plan constructed by his camp will give him the victory. In a pick I wouldn’t put any money on, Arlovski by TKO in the second.
Arlovski absolutely deserves a title shot if he wins. There are not many heavyweights who can put together a win streak like this one, and his slugfest victory against Travis Browne took out a highly ranked contender. I felt he should have got the title shot after that win, and despite how uninspiring his victory was against Frank Mir, he definitely shouldn’t have had to take another fight to earn a fight for the belt. The unnecessary rematch of Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velasquez really kind of screwed him over, and bypassed a more timely contender with a solid revenge story to boot.
Miocic on the other hand probably will not get the next shot with a win here. Alistair Overeem knocked out the guy that beat him, and Overeem’s got enough name recognition that he’s a more intriguing match against Werdum or Velasquez. If Miocic wins, he’ll either have to wait or take another bout to finally fight for a championship. Overeem’s contract is up, and his negotiations could actually screw Arlovski out of the next title shot, even if he were to win. If Overeem has enough leverage to get that match by signing a new deal, it may not matter who wins this fight as far as the next to take a shot at the champ is concerned. The UFC has been avoiding putting Arlovski into the title picture for some unknown reason, so I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if he’s bypassed again, even if he wins.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I’m going with Arlovski by TKO in the first round. I think there’s a decent chance that this fight turns into a stinker, but I’ll stay positive and think we get an exciting affair. An Arlovski win likely gives him the next title shot, but it depends on if the UFC wants to let him sit for so long. Plus, there’s also Alistair Overeem lurking. I know his contract situation is up in the air, but I don’t think there’s a way in the world that the UFC lets him walk. So, there’s a chance that Overeem could get the next shot, but I think a win by Arlovski sets up a #1 contenders fight between Arlovski and Overeem.
CASH NORMAN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Everyone talks about the career resurgence Andrei Arlovski is having, but I still have a hard time fully getting on board with it. When I review his record, I still see opponents he should have beat, some he was lucky he beat, and others where the MMA gods and judges gave him a favorable nod. Yet Arlovski is still winning and fans are excited.
While Arlovski has a chance to win, if the Year of Upsets 2015 has taught us anything, it’s that anyone can walk out victorious. I think Stipe Miocic has the tools that can beat Arlovski.
If Miocic can constantly pressure Arlovski and threaten takedowns, even if he doesn’t score any, and keep Arlovski on his back foot he can win. Miocic cannot allow Arlovski to move around in open space, striking at will and gain confidence. Stipe will need to press Andrei along the fence, dirty box, force him to grapple thereby tiring him out.
Unfortunately, I don’t see either of them getting the next shot at the winner of Fabricio Werdum vs Cain Valesquez. Since Alistair Overeem has finally positioned himself in a spot to fight for the title after the failed drug test, multiple knockouts and lackluster performances with a huge win over Junior Dos Santos, I think he gets the nod. However, this depends on Overeem successfully negotiating another contract with the UFC which I’d assume gives him the next title shot.
BRAD WALKER, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
I really want to see Arlovski win this fight, but Miocic is so game for a scrap, and we haven’t often seen him hurt during a fight. I’m taking Miocic by decision after a great fight that sees both men get bonuses.
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I’m sure many are looking at this as an underwhelming co-main event in the wake of the whirlwind month that December was, but I’m stoked for this fight. It’s evenly matched with both having the ability to put the other out cold without this fight degenerating into a slugfest. Not that it would be a bad thing for that to happen, but these are two of the better technical strikers at heavyweight. Arlovski hasn’t been KOd in quite a while, and even survived a broken jaw at the hands of Anthony Johnson when both fought in WSOF, but I still have issues trusting his chin. I like both fighters, but will silently be rooting for Arlovski as his story provides so much intrigue… but I expect Miocic will score a finish before the full 15 minutes is up.
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