HeavyweightsAndrei Arlovski (25-14) vs. Marcin Tybura (15-2)
THE MATCHUP: What a brutal game this is. Two years ago, Arlovski was staging a remarkable career comeback, riding a six-fight win streak dotted with meaningful names. Flash forward to 2017, and the former heavyweight champion has lost four straight, three by knockout and another by submission. It is clear that Arlovski still has some fight in him. He gave Alistair Overeem problems before making a bedtime snack out of his foot and went blow-for-blow with Josh Barnett before tapping out in the third round. Against the young elites -- the fighters with aggression and power and confidence aplenty -- Arlovski has not fared well at all. Both Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou put him away around a minute into the first round. The question in this matchup is whether Tybura is dynamic enough to crush Arlovski early or tough and crafty enough to beat him down the stretch. If not, Arlovski may get a chance to reassert himself as a gatekeeper to the elite.
Tybura certainly has the makings of a real contender. Though he fell short in his UFC debut, he has made the right improvements since and has spent his last two fights showing them off. Against Luis Henrique Barbosa de Oliveira and Viktor Pesta, Tybura showed more comfort in the pocket, more consistent aggression and improved takedown defense. Tybura is less content to grapple off of his back and more frequently in position on the feet to land a tricky counter or devastating head kick.
Though a more aggressive striking approach could be exactly what Tybura needs to test Arlovski’s shaky chin, it will also be quite risky. Despite his years, Arlovski is still explosive by heavyweight standards, and the authority with which he delivers a counter right hand is something to be feared. Tybura has yet to show much in the way of nuanced defense, and his habit of leaning and ducking erratically to avoid punishment means Arlovski will have chances to catch him out of position. If Arlovski survives the first few minutes and does not get the knockout, then Tybura will likely have his remarkable chin to thank.
Tybura may look for the takedown in this fight, and with six submission wins on his ledger, it would not be surprising to see him try to work over Arlovski from top position. Arlovski moves well, however, making it difficult for slower fighters to tie him up, and in the UFC, he has defended 82 percent of the takedowns attempted against him. Expect most of this fight to play out on the feet.
THE ODDS: Tybura (-260), Arlovski (+215)
THE PICK: Arlovski is still exceedingly dangerous, but Tybura has the advantage of youth. He has always taken punishment well, and he can push a decent pace. Tybura has never taken a right hand like Arlovski’s, but the Belarusian seems less and less capable of taking the kind of shots Tybura dishes out; and with his awkward agility, it seems likely that the former M-1 Global champion will find Arlovski’s jaw eventually. Expect a measured start before Tybura starts snaking shots through the openings in Arlovski’s defense. Tybura by second-round TKO is the pick.
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