Preview – UFC 53: Heavy Hitters

Andrei Arlovski vs. Justin Eilers

May 31, 2005
ARLOVSKI: Belarusian Andrei Arlovski is a Sambo wrestler, kickboxer and International Master of Sport with a 10-3 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 also 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. Andrei 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.

His Octagon debut was in UFC 28 against Aaron Brink, where he leg-locked him in under a minute. Arlovski returned eight months later at UFC 32 to face former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez and was taken out with strikes early in the third round.

He showed new life and gave a gutsy performance at UFC 36 against Pedro Rizzo. He impressed many in defeat and was dropped by the heavy-handed Brazilian midway through the third round.

Back-to-back stoppages of UFC veterans Ian Freeman and Vladimir Matyushenko were awarded with a title shot for the UFC interim heavyweight title against former champion Tim Sylvia. While Tim was unable to compete due problems outside the cage Arlovski faced a game Wesley Correira on short notice in a non-title bout. “Cabbage” hung tough but could not defend against Arlovski’s darting movements and crisp striking and fell to strikes in the second round.

Then at UFC 51, “The Pit Bull” finally got his title shot — well interim title shot — against Miletich Fighting Systems’ Sylvia. Could “The Maine-iac” handle the Belarusian nightmare? The answer was swift: no. Arlovski dropped the giant with an overhand right and preceded to ankle-lock the former champion less than a minute in the first round. Mir is still rehabbing so Eilers awaits.

EILERS: Justin Eilers is a former Iowa State University middle linebacker with a 10-4-1 record in MMA. He has trained at Miletich Fighting Systems with Tim Sylvia, Jeremy Horn, Matt Hughes, Pat Miletich and the rest of the Miletich Fighting Systems team, but for this particular fight he chose to leave the camp and train only with Horn in Utah.

A one time NFL hopeful, Eilers missed the combines and went un-drafted. He called old friend Jens Pulver to pursue fighting and began competing in local shows. His first professional bout was a decision loss to UFC triple-crown winner Dan Severn at the Victory Fighting Championships. He went on to beat recognizable names including Jonathan Ivey in the Iowa Challenge, Rocky Batastini in the IFC and Vince Lucero in Superbrawl.

Eilers battled UFC veteran Wesley Correira at Superbrawl 30 and came up short in a split decision that favored the hometown boy. He fought Russian striker Mikhail Bogdanov in an impressive performance at the inaugural Euphoria MFC show last March.

Eilers was tossed through the ropes by the Russian and landed on top of some of the event staff, but he came back and punished the Red Devil fighter. Bogdanov ate some fists and knees to the body until the end of the round. The damage done by Eilers coupled with an injury to his right knee forced Bogdanov to pull out after the first round. In his Octagon debut at UFC 49, Eilers dropped childhood friend Mike Kyle with punches in the first round. Then at UFC 51, Justin was KO’d midway through the first round by Paul Buentello.

Arlovski. However, I do give Eilers more than the typical “puncher’s chance” in this one. I also know Eilers takes criticism to heart. He felt he wasn’t getting what he needed in Iowa so he went to Utah with Horn. If the camp wasn’t supporting him with quality sparring partners in preparation for the biggest fight of his life then he needed to make that move.

By his own admission he hasn’t officially left the camp. He also knows Arlovski hasn’t been tested on the ground in some time. Not since Ricco Rodriguez (Arlovski’s first loss in the UFC) to be exact. Eilers knows his wrestling will play a big part in him staying alive in this one. In my opinion, it is the only way Justin can win. If he can get Andrei on his back and pound him out the way Ricco did, he may be able to avoid a beating on the feet.

However, I don’t think he’ll get a lot of opportunity to show his wrestling prowess. Andrei comes out ala Wanderlei Silva with nothing more on his mind than watching his opponent’s body drop and slump in the corner. Eilers knows this so he will likely go for the takedown early. No matter how successful he is, Andrei still gets to stand up at the five-minute mark and he probably won’t give Justin another chance. Besides, do you really want to spend a serious amount of time on the mat with a leg-locking International Master of Sport? No. I feel it will be Arlovski by KO in the round two.
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