Though Andrei Arlovski’s return engagement to Strikeforce on Saturday didn’t bring him a victory, the 31-year-old Belarusian fighter won’t have to worry about where his next fight will come from.
Arlovski failed to make a dent in Brazilian behemoth Antonio Silva and lost a unanimous decision at Strikeforce “Heavy Artillery” at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo., notching his third straight loss in 16 months.
Still, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker made it abundantly clear that the Chicago-based fighter has a home with the promotion. Arlovski has three fights remaining on a four-fight contract he signed with the San Jose-based promotion earlier this year.
“I thought he fought a great fight,” said Coker. “We look forward to having him back and this is just the beginning for Andrei and Strikeforce.”
Coker told Sherdog.com that the promotion is already considering a rematch between Arlovski and Brett Rogers, who fell to heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem’s first-round punches in the evening’s main event. The heavy-handed Rogers barreled past Arlovski’s defenses with a barrage of punches in their June 2009 bout, dropping him on the fence in a scant 22 seconds before he had a chance to respond.
Arlovski had lost to the world’s No. 1 heavyweight, Fedor Emelianenko, five months prior to the Rogers bout. The stoic Russian clipped Arlovski with a pinpoint accurate overhand right as he charged in with a flying knee in the second round.
Though disappointed with his defeat on Saturday, it was apparent that Arlovski felt he’d scored a minor victory during his numerous exchanges with Silva.
“It was better than my fights with (Fedor) Emelianenko and (Brett) Rogers, but obviously, I didn’t do enough tonight,” said Arlovski. “I did OK. I took his couple (of) shots straight on my chin. He hit me with a good couple of right hands and I took them.”
Arlovski said he was surprised that Silva, known more for his ground-and-pound handiwork, opted to keep the bout on its feet as much as he did.
“My boxing wasn’t great tonight because I waited too much. I didn’t move to my right how I used to do,” said Arlovski. “But, I guess, I (stuck) a little bit more than my last two fights with my game plan.”
Arlovski’s strategy had been well-crafted by both his Team Pitbull coaches in Chicago and noted trainer Greg Jackson. Arlovski spent two weeks with the New Mexico coaching guru and another two weeks with the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., before completing his camp back in Chicago.
“(The) game plan was very simple: straight, hard punches and move to my right,” said Arlovski. “Obviously, I didn’t do it enough and I could have used more combinations of three, four, five punches.”
In addition to Silva’s improved striking and footwork, Arlovski had to contend with the Brazilian’s clinches, which came after nearly every trade.
“I felt pretty comfortable (in the clinch),” said Arlovski. “What we worried about, usually from the clinch he likes to use his right hook. You know? I was able to control that.”
Arlovski said he made one attempt to body-lock and take Silva down, but the Brazilian fighter wouldn’t budge. Silva also scored a key takedown on Arlovski in the first round, but the fighter said he turned up his defense in the second and third rounds to deflect additional attempts from Silva to put him on his back. Silva still managed to ground Arlovski once in each round, but the fighter climbed to his feet both times.
“I have a lot to work on,” said Arlovski. “It wasn’t my night.”
Arlovski said he’d continue to postpone his pro boxing aspirations until he rebounds his record in MMA. Coker seemed keen on giving the fighter the opportunity to do just that.
“When we started talking about opponents with Leo (Arlovski’s manager) about two or three months ago and we said, ‘Giant Silva,’ to be off 11 months and to have that thrown in your lap as your first fight back, I think that’s a big task,” said Coker. “Andrei could have easily said no, but he stepped up to the task. We’re happy to have him and he’s going to move forward and we’re going to move forward with him and put him back in the mix sooner than later.”