He has worn many hats during his stellar 18-year career: blue-chip prospect, top-flight contender, undisputed champion, shopworn journeyman and resurgent veteran. Andrei Arlovski has remained a factor at the highest levels of the sport for the better part of two decades, his run reaching its pinnacle in 2005, when he captured the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight crown. Wins over Roy Nelson, Vladimir Matyushenko, Ben Rothwell, Antonio Silva, Fabricio Werdum and Frank Mir highlight a resume that includes 20 finishes, 13 of them inside one round. Arlovski will attempt to halt a four-fight losing streak at UFC Fight Night “Holm vs. Correia” on Saturday, when he faces former M-1 Global champion Marcin Tybura at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore.
In a career brimming with defining moments, here are five that stand out:
1. Opportunity Knocks
A motorcycle accident in September 2004 left Mir with a broken femur and torn knee ligaments, forcing him to vacate the UFC heavyweight championship. The move made room for Arlovski and Tim Sylvia, as they squared off for the interim title at UFC 51 on Feb. 5, 2005 inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Sylvia was 17-1 at the time, a pillar of the star-studded Miletich Fighting Systems camp. Arlovski was not impressed. He kept the massive 6-foot-8 Ellsworth, Maine, native off-balance with a series of sharp inside leg kicks before flooring him with an overhand right 30 seconds into the match. The Belarusian threatened briefly with ground-and-pound before lassoing Sylvia’s right foot and cinching an Achilles’ lock. After a fruitless struggle from “The Maine-iac,” Arlovski prompted the tapout 47 seconds into Round 1. He went on to defend the title four months later against Justin Eilers and was promoted to undisputed champion soon after.
2. Head Hunting
Paul Buentello had won 10 of 11 bouts entering his only Ultimate Fighting Championship title fight, with all 10 of those victories coming by knockout or submission. He rode a six-fight winning streak into his UFC 55 showdown with Arlovski on Oct. 7, 2005 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, but he had not beaten any elite-level opponents along the way. While most expected Arlovski to retain his heavyweight crown, the combination of Buentello’s raw punching power and the Belarusian’s sketchy chin made the possibility of an upset seem real. “The Headhunter” tried to exchange with Arlovski but failed to land any punches before a sizzling right hand to the chin dropped him face first on the canvas. Referee John McCarthy intervened 15 seconds into Round 1, and while the finish was decisive, it was also anti-climactic because few people actually saw the punch land live. Replays were needed to fill in the blanks. Buentello rose on unsteady legs and stumbled backwards while trying to protest the stoppage.
3. A Rival’s Revenge
Sylvia was intimately familiar with “The Pit Bull” when they faced off in the UFC 59 main event on April 15, 2006 at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California, as he had submitted to an Achilles’ lock from the Belarusian sambo practitioner a little more than a year earlier. The rematch told a different story. Working behind his quick, powerful hands, Arlovski found early success while probing for weaknesses in the challenger’s defenses. Midway through the first round, he uncorked an overhand right that cut down the 6-foot-8 Sylvia and had him scrambling to protect himself. In his haste to finish, Arlovski left himself open for a counterattack. A rattled but lucid Sylvia returned to his feet, floored the champion with a short but devastating right uppercut and then prompted the stoppage with a volley of unanswered right hands 2:43 into the first round. The victory made Sylvia the undisputed heavyweight champion for a second time.
4. Frozen in Time
Fedor Emelianenko was as frightening as ever at Affliction “Day of Reckoning” on Jan. 24, 2009, a seemingly invincible heavyweight who tore many of his contemporaries to shreds. With the demise of Pride Fighting Championships and with the Ultimate Fighting Championship failing to reach an agreement with the Russian’s management team, he was left to compete in second-tier organizations like Bodog Fight, M-1 Global and Affliction. Arlovski stood across from “The Last Emperor” at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, a crowd of 13,255 in attendance. He kept Emelianenko at bay for some three minutes, peppering him with punches and kicks. Eventually, Arlovski backed the former Pride champion to the corner with a textbook push kick. What happened next will live forever in the memories of those who witnessed it. Arlovski became overzealous and decided to attempt an ill-advised flying knee. However, the Belarusian tried the maneuver from too far out and telegraphed it; and when Arlovski lowered his arms to leap, Emelianenko unloaded with a perfect overhand right just as his counterpart went airborne. The punch immediately separated “The Pit Bull” from consciousness, as Arlovski nosedived into the canvas. Emelianenko walked away, his fallen foe on the mat 3:19 into the first round.
5. Round for the Ages
Arlovski and Travis Browne exceeded all reasonable expectations when they collided under the UFC 187 banner on May 23, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. There, the onetime Jackson-Wink MMA teammates threw caution to the wind. Arlovski set the Hawaiian on skates multiple times with right hands and pursued the finish with patience and persistence. Browne somehow survived but never fully recovered. Arlovski later dropped him with a backfist to the face and followed him to the cage, meeting him with another barrage. A counter right hook from Browne, thrown in desperation, found its mark and folded the Belarusian where he stood, briefly turning the tide. The Glendale Fighting Club export pounced on the fallen Arlovski, but the cobwebs had not sufficiently cleared. The two heavyweights then returned to their feet, where Arlovski tore into Browne with a right uppercut and straight right that had him ducking for cover and forced referee Mark Smith to act 4:41 into the first round. It was later voted the 2015 Sherdog.com “Round of the Year.”