It had been an astounding six years since the former champion competed on the biggest stage in the game, and he was once something of a big deal.
Granted he was at the top of the heap when the best heavyweights in the world were fighting in Japan, and there were only so many times you could watch him fight Tim Sylvia, he still had a certain charm.
He was exciting. He was charismatic. He was just fun to have around.
Sure, he left the UFC to get paid, but when your career of choice is 15 years of exchanging traumatic head strikes with human giants, it's hard to blame a guy for being inspired by the bank a little.
Saturday night at UFC 174 though, it all came full circle. He was back where he belongs against Brendan Schaub, a weirdly perfect opponent for his return. Schaub is pretty good but not great, a reasonable threat standing but not wildly dangerous and alright on the ground though not a lock to get the fight there.
The ideal non-threatening threat.
If the UFC didn't know what they had when they brought Arlovski back, Schaub was a wonderful candidate to flesh it out. A mistake or two and he'd likely capitalize, no mistakes and Arlovski could easily end up a winner.
And no mistakes was essentially what you got.
In a fight most were expecting to end with someone chasing imaginary butterflies, Arlovski and Schaub entered into a glorified staring contest where one man would occasionally windmill his arms in an attempt to get the other to blink.
There was precisely one seriously notable strike in the fight, an uppercut from Schaub that landed flush and temporarily backed the Belarusian off.
The rest of the night was two guys fighting not to lose, showing excessive respect for one another's power and trying incredibly hard to make the judges decide who lost the least as opposed to who actually won.
In terms of scoring, the only clear round was the third. Schaub spent most of that stanza sitting in Arlovski's guard (which, for what it's worth, he couldn't pass) and wailing on him with punches that did just enough to prevent a standup.
In fact, in watching the exchanges from that position, there's an argument that Arlovski might have done more damage punching up from the bottom than Schaub did from the top.
Still, all things equal in this game, the guy on top usually curries favor with those scoring and this time was really no different.
The other two rounds though? They were pretty much a wash.
The first was a nothing round that you'd probably have to give to Arlovski based on his ability to control positioning and pacing of the fight.
The second was similar, save for that one major punch Schaub landed. Even that did no measurable damage, so it's hard to quantify its value.
What resulted was a mild controversy that everyone other than Schaub himself will have forgotten by Wednesday. The bout was forgettable in every way, something that will deservedly be little more than a Wikipedia footnote in the careers of both men.
At the end of the day though, this is no great shame of a decision. It came down to what a judge was looking for in scoring the fight, and two of the three decided they'd favor control and imposition of a game plan over a solid punch and a solid round.
Save your outrage, folks. If anything, MMA has shown us that there will be no shortage of bad decisions to go around.
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