Andrei Arlovski won the UFC Heavyweight title 10 years ago, but he's a big underdog later this month at UFC 187 when he takes on Travis Browne at the MGM Grand.
It might seem like Andrei Arlovski has been fighting since the beginning of time. But don't let the vampire teeth fool you; the former UFC Heavyweight champion is still just 36 years old, and he's won both his matches since returning to the Octagon last summer. So why is Arlovski a +300 underdog at press time for his next bout at UFC 187 against Travis Browne?
It isn't just about age. Browne is only three years younger than Arlovski, but he's four inches taller at 6-foot-7, and 15 pounds heavier at 255 – just 10 pounds under the maximum for the heavyweight division. Browne has also won Knockout of the Night honors four times and Submission of the Night once since making his UFC debut in 2010. He's no cupcake. Still, we wonder if these UFC odds are selling Arlovski short.
Belarus Has Bite
It wouldn't be the first time. Arlovski was a +140 dog against Brendan Schaub when he made his return at UFC 174 in Vancouver. It wasn't a very good fight, and Arlovski was probably lucky to walk away with a split decision. Then the “Pit Bull” was pegged at +380 in his rematch against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva at Fight Night 51; this time, Arlovski left no doubt as he pummeled Silva into unconsciousness in the first round, avenging his 2010 loss in Strikeforce.
Impressive. But there's no question Arlovski (23-10, 1 NC lifetime) isn't the same fighter he was in 2005, when the Sambo specialist made Tim Sylvia tap in the opening minute of their match for the Interim UFC Heavyweight strap. Arlovski lost the title back to Sylvia one year later, then left the UFC and bounced around the top levels of the indie circuit, putting together a record of 9-5 with one no-contest before re-appearing in the Octagon. He's older, he's slower, and his chin is suspect after getting knocked out three times, most recently by Sergei Kharitonov (–127) in 2011.
Left Turn at Albuquerque
Browne (17-2-1 lifetime) will have no issues targeting Arlovski's weaknesses. Each of his last four wins was by knockout, via an array of punches, elbows and kicks. The former high school basketball star practiced boxing as well as Brazilian jiu-jitsu before joining the UFC, and like Arlovski, Browne is a member of Greg Jackson's highly-respected training camp in Albuquerque. The two fighters are said to be quite close; Arlovski even told FOX Sports back in March that he didn't really want to face his teammate in the Octagon – but business is business.
As good a striker as Browne may be, he tends to take more punishment than he gives out. The advanced stats at FightMetric show Browne landing 2.91 significant strikes per minute and eating 3.51 strikes. Arlovski (2.96 thrown, 2.30 absorbed per 15 minutes) has been able to defend 63 percent of his opponent's strikes to 43 percent for Browne. And while Browne has risen to No. 3 in the Heavyweight rankings at Sherdog, his rise to the top has been slowed by upset losses to Silva (+180) and Fabricio Werdum (+215).
Given that history, we're more than happy to add the No. 7-ranked Arlovski to our UFC picks at this bargain price. Would we predict that the former champ will win this fight? Highly unlikely, but then again, that's not our job. Browne still has plenty to prove when these two men meet at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Will his conditioning be better? Will he be able to land any takedowns against one of the best defenders the sport has ever produced? Browne might not need to if he can make Arlovski eat enough power punches, but at these MMA odds, we'll go with the wily veteran.
Free UFC Pick: Take Arlovski at 5Dimes