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Andrei Arlovski is strong enough to drag two eras together

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

There isn’t any real explanation for what Andrei Arlovski is doing different now as a contender at 36 that he wasn’t doing as a has-been at 32. There’s no doubt that his coaches Greg Jackson, Brandon Gibson and Mike Winkeljohn have all been feeding him relevant advice ("avoid big blows, dude…"), but nobody on Earth could have predicted that Arlovski would turn things around after Sergei Kharitonov left him for dead in the swamps of New Jersey back in 2011.


And yet here he is a couple of days removed from taking down the colossus Travis Browne in a fight that might shake out as his chef d’oeuvre. Not only is he not chinny, as was the accusation back in ’11, but he’s actually…and I can’t believe I’m going to write this…durable? Again? Suddenly he’s won five fights in a row, and three in the UFC since returning on the fumes of his name for UFC 174. That fight with Brendan Schaub left a lot to the imagination. He won it (on the scorecards), but not a single eyebrow got raised (except for those belonging to Schaub himself).

Then he blew up Antonio Silva in Brazil, and flashed his trademark fangs. That was the Arlovski from the previous era, the Mesozoic, the one from back when he and Tim Sylvia were the heavyweight attractions in the UFC.

Yet all that the "Bigfoot" victory did was get him into a reality check fight with Browne at UFC 187, a fight in which he was supposed to get busted up into a pile of molecules. Instead, as a 3-to-1 underdog and nursing a calf injury that nearly kept him out, he tagged Browne early, put him on skates…blasted him from inside, then from outside, on the fence and in the middle, uppercuts, body shots, and love-me-nots...rocked him again, and went for the finish…got lit up himself in the process with a big shot from the zombie Browne that seemingly changed the very course of destiny…yet dug his heals in at the first twinkling of the dead lights as he fell…and then finished Browne moments later in one of the craziest sequences on record.

Turns out Arlovski’s resurrection story isn’t a fluke. Joe Rogan was practically speaking in tongues on the call.

(And afterwards it was fun to think of how Arlovski’s performance might have affected Rogan’s next pilgrimage through his own purple cosmos. Remember it was Rogan that told Schaub during a podcast that he was never going to beat Browne days after Browne chopped down Schaub, only to see Arlovski, whom Schaub thought he beat, light up Browne like Times Square. Elite is a word that has a new definition every six months or so.). 

The truth is, Arlovski is his own mind-altering substance.

Not all that long ago, on his "final" fight with Zuffa back at UFC 82, he fought Jake O’Brien on the undercard. It was an intentional slap on the face as he made his way out. From there he cashed in big on the EliteXC and Affliction stages, back when people were splurging large on MMA, and got clobbered out of mid-air by Fedor Emelianenko. That set up a four-fight losing streak in which he was disturbingly knocked out in three.

You see, that was the end of Arlovski. Everybody was teeing off on him. People were burning their Macs up with eulogies. The fears of lasting head trauma had plenty of people saying enough is enough. Arlovski was a name of the past, one of MMA’s many casualties that the game had caught up to.

Then he wasn’t. He went to Albuquerque. Somehow he came roaring back -- first into relevance, then to the UFC, and now into title contendership. The only man to defeat him in his last 11 fights is the other resurrection story, Anthony Johnson. Otherwise, Arlovski has turned things around in the feast or famine heavyweight division. It’s possible he will fight the winner of Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velasquez, who will unify the belts at UFC 188 in June. Stipe Miocic may have a say, but Arlovski carries a lot of marketing trump cards in his pocket. If he wants a title shot, he can probably get it.

To have been a champion, to have fallen and been forgotten, only to rise again. It almost sounds like a tall tale. But it’s not. It’s Arlovski’s story in 2015. And it’s one hell of a story.

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