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Skeptics have buried Andrei Arlovski multiple times during a remarkable career that now spans nearly 22 years. Whenever he does decide to hang up the gloves, he will do so as one of the most accomplished heavyweights in MMA history.
Mere weeks after celebrating his 42nd birthday, Arlovski returns to the Octagon to face the surging Tom Aspinall in a featured UFC Fight Night 185 attraction this Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The former heavyweight champion enters his latest assignment on the strength of back-to-back decision wins over Philipe Lins and Tanner Boser. Now part of the well-oiled American Top Team machine in Coconut Creek, Florida, Arlovski ranks first on the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s all-time list among heavyweights in appearances (33), wins (19) and total fight time (5:03:42), second in finishes (11), knockdowns (10) and significant strikes landed (1,064), third in total strikes landed (1,331) and fourth in knockouts (nine).
As Arlovski prepares for his confrontation with the highly regarded Aspinall, a look at five moments that have come to define him:
1. Foot Race
The introductions lasted longer than the bout itself. Arlovski laid claim to the interim heavyweight championship at UFC 51, where he submitted Tim Sylvia with a first-round Achilles lock on Feb. 5, 2005 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Sylvia conceded defeat 47 seconds into Round 1, the unwitting victim in the third-fastest submission in the history of the UFC heavyweight division. Arlovski chipped away with kicks to the inside of the lead leg, met the 6-foot-8 Pat Miletich disciple on the counter and floored him with an overhand right. After a brief burst of ground-and-pound, the Belarusian focused his attention elsewhere, leaned back on an Achilles lock and prompted the tapout. It remains one of only three submission wins in Arlovski’s 51-fight career.
2. A Crown in Peril
Sylvia was intimately familiar with Arlovski, having submitted to an Achilles lock from the Belarusian in the first of their four head-to-head meetings at UFC 51. When they faced one another again a little more than a year later in the UFC 59 headliner on April 15, 2006, it was a different story. Working behind his quick, powerful hands, Arlovski enjoyed 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 before a crowd of 13,814 at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California. However, Arlovski left himself open for a counterattack in his haste to finish. 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 to reclaim the undisputed heavyweight championship 2:43 into Round 1.
3. Country Clubbed
Arlovski continued to steam toward his ill-fated big-money bout with Fedor Emelianenko, as he knocked out Roy Nelson with a blistering second-round combination in an EliteXC “Heat” prelim on Oct. 4, 2008 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. Nelson met his end 3:14 into Round 2, when “The Pit Bull” bounced the former International Fight League champion off the cage and onto his face with a right uppercut followed by a straight right. “Big Country” rose to his feet soon afterward, flung his mouthpiece skyward and protested the stoppage, about which there was little controversy. Arlovski weathered the Renzo Gracie protégé’s efforts to stifle the early standup action. Nelson effectively clinched in the first round and made his way into top position. However, he failed to score with any real purpose, and referee Jorge Ortiz eventually brought the heavyweights back to their feet due to perceived inaction. Arlovski provided a taste of what was to come late in the round, where he landed a powerful low kick-left hook combination that got Nelson’s attention and poured life into the crowd.
4. Caught in the Crosshairs
The incomparable Emelianenko was as terrifying as ever when he squared off with Arlovski in the Affliction “Day of Reckoning” main event on Jan. 24, 2009 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. After the fall of Pride Fighting Championships and Emelianenko’s subsequent failure to reach an agreement with an Ultimate Fighting Championship, the Russian icon was left to compete in second-tier organizations as something of a hired gun. Arlovski had his moments in their hotly anticipated encounter. He kept Emelianenko at bay for some three minutes, peppering him with punches and kicks. Eventually, Arlovski backed the former Pride champion into the corner with a textbook push kick. What happened next will live forever in the memories of those who witnessed it. Arlovski grew overzealous and decided to try an ill-advised flying knee. However, the Belarusian attempted the maneuver from too far away 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 his senses, as Arlovski nosedived into the canvas. Emelianenko walked away, leaving his fallen counterpart motionless on the mat and staring into the abyss 3:19 into the first round.
5. Renaissance Man
Arlovski in the middle of a late-career renaissance stopped Travis Browne with punches in the first round of a brief but memorable heavyweight showcase at UFC 187 on May 23, 2015. Browne succumbed to an accumulation of heavy blows 4:41 into Round 1 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. In what was later designated as Sherdog’s “Round of the Year,” the onetime Jackson-Wink MMA teammates threw caution—and everything else—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 out of sheer 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.
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