Former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski will welcome fellow UFC castaway Anthony Johnson to the heavyweight division on March 23rd, when the two headline World Series of Fighting 2.
Johnson, who burst onto the scene in 2007 with a startling 13-second knockout of Chad Reiner at UFC Fight Night 10, has endured some extreme weight issues.
His promotional debut occurred at 170 pounds. Weight problems eventually forced a climb to 185 pounds. However, middleweight seemed to leave “Rumble” drained as well, and he recently opted to move to light heavyweight, where he’s rattled off a series of impressive victories, recently capped off by a violent knockout of D.J. Linderman at World Series of Fighting 1.
Apparently 205 pounds isn’t going to cut it (pun intended) for Johnson either. In just over one month, he’ll test his talents at heavyweight, where he’s not likely to be quite the behemoth he’s been thus far,
Whether Johnson is capable of overwhelming Arlovski or not remains to be seen. The two men are at completely different career junctions, but Johnson presents a complete mystery, having never tangled with the sport’s largest competitors.
Who looks to have the edge in this one, you ask? Let’s take a look.
Anthony Johnson is an explosive striker. He’s got power in both fists, extremely quick high-kicks, some powerful low-kicks and the ability to explode in unexpected flurries. Technically, he’s a pretty solid striker.
The problem is that he’s battling Andrei Arlovski, who happens to be an extremely polished kick-boxer with fantastic lateral movement and crippling power. His time with famed boxing coach Freddie Roach helped his hands to evolve at an admirable rate, and he’s become a fighter who knows how to properly engage from distance or inside the pocket.
Arlovski is just a bit too seasoned to consider him the inferior striker. He’s got the power advantage; he’s got the precision advantage; and he likely moves a bit better than Johnson as well.
Both of these men are very capable wrestlers. However, the two take an opposite approach when it comes to combat.
Johnson is an offensive wrestler. If he’s not handily winning the striking exchanges, he has no problems shooting a power double leg. And, while he’s shown some positional weaknesses in the past, he seems to have applied the proper adjustments: He’s a dangerous blanket from the top position these days.
Arlovski, in contrast, is highly proficient when it comes to defensive wrestling. He’s got fantastic takedown defense that typically enables him to dictate where the fight takes place.
However, if Johnson can rush Arlovski and land something hard enough to get the attention of the “The Pit Bull,” it’s probable that he can secure the big takedown. As large and powerful as Arlovski is, he doesn’t want Johnson on top of him
Here are the facts: Johnson has never shown a wonderful understanding of the submission game. He’s improved over the years, but he’s got a long hike ahead of him if he hopes to achieve greatness in this realm.
Arlovski has some sleeper submission skills. He’s actually got a very fluent armbar, and an arsenal of lower extremity submission tricks tucked away. Curiously enough, he rarely, rarely uses them.
Advantage: Arlovski, although he won’t be putting them to use in this fight.
Andrei Arlvoski is strong as an ox, and he doesn’t fade. He’s an intelligent enough fighter to know how to pace himself properly, and he’s proven that in fighting five rounds in the past.
Johnson may be a powerful guy, but his conditioning remains a question mark. We’ve seen him slow in the later minutes of fights in the past. Perhaps that was a side effect of dangerous weight cuts, perhaps it’s an actual hole in the game of “Rumble.”
This is a tough call, having never seen Johnson compete at heavyweight, but I’m going with the history books.
There’s no need to write you a novel for this slide.
Johnson’s had 18 professional fights, and he’s tangled with some tough guys, including Josh Koscheck, Vitor Belfort and Dan Hardy.
Arlovski’s got 29 fights on his ledger; he’s held a championship and battled the likes of Fedor Emelianenko, Tim Sylvia, Sergei Kharitonov, Antonio Silva, Roy Nelson and Fabricio Werdum.
This one is a no-brainer.
An X-factor slide absolutely must be included in this breakdown. There are simply too many mysteries surrounding the fight.
Johnson has never competed at heavyweight, and he’s battling a former champion with crisp boxing.
Arlovski’s ability to absorb heavy punches has rightfully been called into question: The man has been knocked unconscious seven times.
Johnson’s marquee victories are limited. Can he yank down a respectable win in a foreign weight class?
Will Arlovski fight smart, should he find himself in danger during fistic exchanges?
Advantage: There is no advantage, only question marks.
This has to be one of the more challenging predictions I’ve made in months. Everything about this fight feels like a coin flip decision in the making.
I think if Arlovski can keep this fight in his range, he’ll systematically pick Johnson apart en route to a late technical knockout stoppage.
However, if Johnson can explode early and catch Arlovski cold, he can unquestionably render him unconscious.
Johnson has to throw caution to the wind here in order to win, and I think he’ll do so. Look for an early blitz from Johnson that features a flashy kick and some fast hands. Arlovski gets hurt against the fence, and ultimately crumbles before “Rumble.”
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