Sergio Non at USA Today has outdone himself with one of the most thoughtful and perceptive fight breakdowns I’ve read in a while.
First he discusses Fedor’s most comparable fight, his legendary 2005 bout with Mirko “Cro Cop” Filopovic. Starting with a reminder of just how fearsome Cro Cop was back in the day, Non describes the point in the match when Mirko reached his high water mark:
Yet there was moment that should give Arlovski backers pause. About four-and-a-half minutes into that 2005 showdown, Filipovic connected with a straight left and Emelianenko’s legs wobbled for a millisecond; the challenger landed two more lefts to the face that had the Russian backpedaling. It was the opening that so rarely appears against Emelianenko — and the champion immediately shut it with a looping overhand right that missed, but forced Filipovic to duck so quickly that he almost fell down.
And that was it for the chance of an upset. Emelianenko maintained the pressure on Filipovic for the rest of the fight, both on the feet and on the mat.
That’s the thing that has really made Fedor a legend — his resilience. The recovery against Mirko was only one of several epic bouncebacks by Fedor: Kevin Randleman suplexing him onto his neck only to be kimura’d seconds later; Kazuyuki Fujita wobbling Fedor with a huge punch only to eat a KO barrage; Mark Hunt keylocking Fedor beyond the point of pain and almost to injury before tapping out to a kimura himself.
Of course Arlovski is not Cro Cop 2005, he’s actually better. Non points that out as well:
The parallel has its limits, because Arlovski aggressively wields a more complete stand-up game than the one-dimensional, counterpunching Filipovic. The Belarusian fights extremely well inside — just ask his July 19 victim, Ben Rothwell — and at range, he attacks using punch combinations with power from varied angles, as opposed to Filipovic’s predictable approach of down-the-middle counterpunching and a left kick.
Emelianenko’s power punches work against MMA’s raw strikers, but Arlovski’s blend of explosive athleticism and refined technique should allow him to take advantage when Emelianenko lunges forward. The Russian’s lack of head movement will also make it easier for Arlovski to tee off on him from a distance.
But in the end it comes down to one thing, Fedor’s freakish athletic gifts, conditioning and explosiveness:
Arlovski’s athleticism gives him a chance to knock out Emelianenko early, but it goes both ways — the challenger has never had to deal with an opponent with Emelianenko’s ability to erupt at any moment. It’s a trait that has bailed out the Russian champion out whenever his technique has failed him…
Emelianenko’s unorthodox tactics will catch up with him as his muscles slow with age, but until it actually happens, it’s hard to find reasons to doubt it. Arlovski offers a credible test — and Emelianenko should be able to pass it convincingly.
To supplement Non’s take, Josh Gross at Sports Illustrated offers a couple of good insights:
Though Emelianenko says he hasn’t drawn up a specific game plan for Arlovski, who at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds is one of the more physically dynamic fighters in the division, styles suggest a return to the thunderous ground-and-pound game that led most pundits to regard him as the best ground-based striker in the sport. Imagine a fly fisherman casting a rod. Energy starts from Emelianenko’s shoulder and snaps at the point of contact like a lion tamer employing an angry whip. That is how Emelianenko creates unreal force without the leverage invented via legs and hips.
If required to fight from his back, Arlovski’s chances of winning take a big hit. Against Rothwell, and then Roy Nelson in October, “The Pitbull” absorbed his fair share of shots from the top. He cannot do that against the WAMMA champion.
…Questions over the stoutness of Arlovski’s chin linger, and that could be the bait that lures Fedor into a stand-up war.
After all, Emelianenko doesn’t simply defeat challengers: he tends to stop them where they are most dangerous.
In two victories over Nogueira, Emelianenko was content to work from the only place the Brazilian had a chance — the guard — and it wasn’t close. Versus Mirko “Cro Cop,” Filipovic, a world-class kickboxer who figured out how to stay on his feet and punt people in the head, the Russian stalked and turned the fight into a standing war.
Of course, this is MMA and if we knew for 100% certain that Fedor would win, or how he would win, there would be no point in watching. Let’s not forget that Andrei Arlovski is a VERY dangerous man, a former UFC champion, with tremendous speed, KO power and some submission skills of his own.
I for one am very excited to see this fight and grateful to Affliction for putting it on as a gift to the fans. God knows they won’t make any money putting on this card.
[UPDATE] by Nick Thomas – Arlovski 360: On the Road to Reckoning – Episode 6
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