Preview: Liddell-Ortiz II Main Card

Arlovski vs. Cruz

Dec 28, 2006
Andrei Arlovski (Pictures) vs. Marcio Cruz (Pictures)

It’s time for Arlovski to put the last 14 months behind him. Until “Cro Cop” is actually standing in the Octagon awaiting a ref’s signal to fight, Andrei is still the top contender for the heavyweight title. Meanwhile, Cruz gets the chance to show how far his striking game has come in the last eight months. The jiu-jitsu superstar presents an interesting challenge for Andrei on the mat, but this is still just his fourth pro MMA fight.

Belarusian Andrei Arlovski (Pictures) is a Sambo wrestler, kickboxer and International Master of Sport with a 9-5 record in MMA. The two-time World Sambo Champion, M-1 World Champion, European Championships veteran and European Cage Fighting veteran trains with sambo and Muay Thai fighter Dmitri Stepanov, kickboxer Andre Dudko and Rickson Gracie student Dino Costeas. Boxing trainer Arturo Salas and personal trainer Val Palanichka make up the rest of Arlovski’s team.

Andrei was brought up to be an athlete. He was a soccer goalie as a teenager and enrolled in the police academy at 18 where he began learning Russian Sambo. While earning the title “International Master of Sport”, Arlovski was exposed to boxing, sambo, wrestling, judo and a variety of military style training tactics. Andre began fighting MMA in the M-1 in Russia and competed in the European Cage Fighting Championships (put on by Frederico Lapenda) before fighting in the UFC.

At UFC 51 “The Pitbull” finally got his title shot, well interim title shot, against Miletich Fighting Systems athlete Tim Sylvia (Pictures). Arlovski dropped the giant with an overhand right and proceeded to ankle lock Sylvia less than a minute into the first round.

First-round stoppages of Justin Eilers (Pictures) and Paul Buentello (Pictures) in title defenses secured Andre’s position as UFC heavyweight champion. He would meet “The Maine-iac” in a rematch for the title with catastrophic results.

Early in the first round it looked as if Andrei would drop the giant to the mat with strikes again but Tim battled back and caught Arlovski with an uppercut that signaled the end of his reign. A rubber-match three months later resulted in a constrained five-round bore with Sylvia keeping the title.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu stylist Marcio Cruz (Pictures) fights as part of the Gracie Barra Combat Team and trains Flavio Luiz Moura (Pictures), Gustavo Machado (Pictures), Alexandre Dantas (Pictures) and Renato Sobral (Pictures). “Pe De Pano” has studied BJJ since 1996 and is a six-time World Jiu-Jitsu champion and an eight-time Pankration Jiu-Jitsu Champion. He is also the only Brazilian to ever win the 99-kg-plus Division of the Abu Dhabi Submission Fighting Championships.

Marcio just started fighting in October 2005 and is 2-1 in MMA. He made his MMA debut in the UFC, defeating Keigo Kunihara (Pictures) by rear-naked choke in the second round of their bout at UFC 55. The first round featured amateurish striking by both fighters and left viewers fearing there would be more of the same in subsequent rounds. However early in round two Cruz was able to seize Kunihara’s back and secure the win.

He dominated former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir (Pictures) at UFC 57, stopping an ill-prepared fighter with strikes in the first round. Marcio was a heavy underdog to the former champ but looked like the veteran. Cruz would meet heavyweight title contender Jeff Monson (Pictures) at UFC 59. The smaller Monson initially had problems with the larger and lankier Cruz, but he would eventually find his range and rack up points with takedowns and strikes. The bout went the distance but Monson stayed in control and was awarded the victory.

No disrespect to Cruz, especially given his grappling pedigree, but he appears out of his league with Arlovski. If Andrei was just a world-class striker, I’d still be concerned. But given the fact he is an International Master of Sport and a two-time World Sambo Champion, he can take the fight wherever Cruz wants to go and dominate him. This could be quick. Arlovski by TKO.
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