HeavyweightsStipe Miocic (13-2) vs Andrei Arlovski (25-10)
THE MATCHUP: Arlovski is a rare bird. A good five years after the four-fight losing streak that seemed to presage the end of his career, the Belarusian banger has returned to elite status in the division that he briefly ruled a decade ago. Even more remarkably, Arlovski does not seem to have slowed down since those days, a fortunate turn of events for a fighter whose best weapon has always been his speed -- and the power that comes with it.
Arlovski has adjusted his style under the tutelage of Greg Jackson, adapting a more patient, counterpunching style that leaves him less susceptible to the kind of flash KOs that once plagued him. Despite this overall improvement, Arlovski retains some of the limitations that have always troubled him, most notably his inability to punch equally with both hands. Arlovski is absurdly right-hand dependent, even eschewing the left hook in favor of an awkward but functional backfist in his fight with Travis Browne.
Miocic is nowhere near as fast or as powerful as Arlovski, but his is a much more conventional boxing game, with a steady jab, a sneaky straight right hand and, yes, a left hook. Miocic is not a fantastic defensive fighter, but he is capable of using some truly excellent footwork when the mood strikes him, allowing him to fight smoothly off of the back foot. Miocic is a much better wrestler than Arlovski, and his top game is punishing, as well. Miocic had no trouble holding down and mauling Mark Hunt for five rounds en route to a late stoppage, suggesting good things about his cardio and his grappling.
THE ODDS: Miocic (-225), Arlovski (+190)
THE PICK: It would be fantastic to watch Arlovski ride his comeback to a 2016 title shot, but Miocic is far and away the toughest opponent since he returned to the UFC. Not only is Miocic a skilled boxer, capable of countering Arlovski and scoring points at range, but he possesses better wrestling chops than any of Arlovski’s opponents since Fedor Emelianenko back in 2009. Arlovski is a much improved fighter, but Miocic’s skill set does not favor him. Miocic wins a unanimous decision.
Next Fight » Larkin vs. Tumenov