Andrei Arlovski vs. Josh Barnett: A Head-to-Toe Breakdown
September is all about the heavyweights in the UFC, and it gets started on Saturday, when Andrei Arlovski (25-12, 1 NC) meets Josh Barnett (34-8) at UFC Fight Night 93.
The Hamburg, Germany, event is headlined by the heavyweight clash, and both men are looking to get back in the win column.
Arlovski will try to avoid a third straight loss. His prior two, to now-champion Stipe Miocic and current title challenger Alistair Overeem, were both knockout losses. A loss to Barnett would be detrimental to Arlovski's fading title hopes.
Barnett was upended by Ben Rothwell in January. He has not lost back-to-back fights since dropping two in a row to Mirko Cro Cop in 2004 and 2005.
The pair of former UFC champions are seeing their window of opportunity slowly close. Saturday's main event will be a pivotal bout, but who has the edge? Bleacher Report breaks down the matchup from head to toe in the preview of UFC Fight Night 93's main event.
Take a peek at the heavyweight tilt coming your way this weekend.
Arlovski and Barnett both have big power, but it's the Belarusian who has the more polished technique.
Barnett is certainly no slouch on the feet, but he won't be throwing the variety of strikes that his counterpart will. The American will do most of his work against the cage and with his fists. Arlovski will want to stay at a distance and may utilize kicks.
Arlovski's chin has been criticized in the past, but his losses by knockout can be deceiving. He went without suffering a knockout loss for over four years before Miocic and Overeem got him earlier in 2016. Both of them are elite heavyweights. He got tagged and recovered well against the likes of Travis Browne to show he can take clean shots and survive.
Both men have seen their fair share of wars through their storied careers. It's a question of how much more either man can take.
The Pit Bull has more tools to employ, which gives him the edge.
Barnett makes his money in the grappling department.
He is a decent wrestler with a great top game, but perhaps more important in this matchup is his work from the clinch.
Barnett positions himself nicely against the cage, where he can control his opponent, score with dirty boxing and find ways to put his opponents on their backs. In a five-round fight, Barnett's clinch grappling may be important in sapping Arlovski's gas tank early.
Arlovski is not known for his grappling other than his defensive abilities. He's got excellent balance and digs for the underhooks well.
In a battle of former champions, Arlovski will want to avoid close encounters that allow Barnett to get his arms around him. The Warmaster will win those battles more often than not.
Spoiler: Barnett gets the edge here, but continue on because it won't be a runaway.
Arlovski is a credible submission artist in his own right, and he has some of the best footlocks in the division. If Barnett is successful with a takedown, he may be too busy defending submissions to look for his own.
That's a possibility, but not a likelihood. Barnett has a smothering top game that keeps his opponents constantly trying to keep him from advancing position.
Barnett has a variety of options from the top to explore, while Arlovski's submission skills are primarily based on leglocks. That tips the overall scale heavily in Barnett's favor.
The X-factor in this fight for both men is their overall career mileage. They have both been in taxing battles throughout their careers. Absorbing that kind of damage catches up with all fighters.
Barnett has been a pro since 1997, and Arlovski's been fighting at the top level since 1999. Their recent fights have also seen them get hammered with punishment, especially Arlovski's 2016 fights.
How much more can they take? That's the ultimate key for heavyweights.
If either man takes a short, glancing blow that sits them down, the questions will immediately follow of if they should even continue fighting. And the questions will be just. Barnett and Arlovski are certainly on the downside of their careers, but just how steep that drop is is yet to be known.
A win will give either Arlovski or Barnett a chance for one last run. A loss almost certainly puts a title run out of reach once and for all.
I have routinely picked against Arlovski during his second UFC stint due to the questions surrounding his chin. In this matchup, I was more apt to give him credit until I recalled that both his recent defeats happened in this calendar year.
Arlovski got ousted by Miocic and Overeem emphatically. Returning from two knockouts in less than four months does not lend itself to confidence he can take another blow and survive.
Barnett has heavy hands. Arlovski is going to eat one at some point, and he'll go down. He may not get knocked out cleanly, but he will hit the canvas where Barnett can swarm for a TKO finish. Barnett simply has to fight smart.
Arlovski getting a third straight knockout loss in 2016 before we even hit fall has got to sound some alarms.
Barnett picks up the win, turns his attention toward a final run and remains a threat in the heavyweight division.
Prediction: Barnett defeats Arlovski by TKO in the first round