I recently spoke with Andrei Arlovski and Antonio "Big Foot" Silva before their upcoming Strikeforce match on May 15th, 2010. Both men are excited to get back into the cage, and neither fighter feels he is at a disadvantage by any means.
To start off, it should be noted both fighters were very appreciative of having the opportunity to both fight in Strikeforce and be interviewed before their upcoming match. They also offered a lot of respect to each other.
Arlovski was clear in saying that more than anything, he is taking his upcoming fight with "Big Foot" a lot more seriously than his two previous fights, which he lost. Arlovski conveyed that he had those losses on his mind during the entire duration of his training for Silva.
In regard to his recent loss to Rogers, Arlovski said, "I lost my fight against Brett Rogers because…I didn't follow my game plan. [However,] I am more disciplined now."
He continued, saying, "Those two [losses] were very, very dramatic for me, and now I intend to stick with my game plan. My upcoming fight with Antonio [Silva] is very important to me."
"At AKA , everyone was friendly," Arlovski said. "They tried to help me. I had the chance to work with Cain Velasquez and Mike [Swick] and Kyle [Kingsbury ]. They pushed me all the time. It was a great experience with them."
I asked Arlovski if he thought he would have any trouble keeping the fight off of the ground with Silva. He replied, "Definitely. [Silva is] very dangerous on the ground. That's why I spent a lot of time training a lot on the ground.
"He's a well-rounded fighter," Arlovski said. "He has long arms, [and] that's a little dangerous. I have to be prepared for this fight. I have paid attention to this fight."
I then asked Arlovski, "If you win, who would you like to fight next?" He once again reflected on his last two losses, saying, "Before I fought Rogers, my mind was on Emelianenko. When I fought Rogers, I didn't take him seriously; now it's one step at the time."
"'Big Foot' is tough and he’s dangerous, so now it's [ultimately] up to Strikeforce," Arlovski said. "I'm just focusing on preparing for that fight."
Wanting to get a feel for who he considered to be the toughest competition in Strikeforce's current heavyweight division, I asked who he thought was the best. He respectfully said, "[Alistair] Overeem is tough. He's number one, and for that he is the toughest."
My conversation with Antonio "Big Foot" Silva was similar to speaking with Arlovski in that Silva was respectful of Arlovski's skill, yet confident in that he had properly trained for him.
Silva was also very candid about his recent loss to Fabricio Werdum. After being asked about his recent loss, he said, "I had the opportunity to win, but I didn't."
"I fractured my hand, and I'm not going to let something like this happen again," he said. "I broke my hand at the beginning of the second round [against Werdum] after [throwing] a left hook, but that's all in the past now, and I'm looking forward to a very good fight."
I asked Silva how he felt he would handle Arlovski's speed and how he has trained for it. Silva said, "I fought his kind of speed before. My weight will be to my advantage. I'm coming very well prepared, and I'm very confident."
"I train with people that are very fast, so I feel very comfortable with his speed," he continued.
I asked Silva where he felt the fight would mainly take place, standing, in the clinch or on the ground. He said, "I am hoping that it stays standing. Arlovski's coming off of two knockouts. I intend to explore that opening."
Both fighters seem to have learned a lot from the losses on their records. However, such retrospection often makes for a better fighter, and if both men are performing at their peak come fight night, we should see a patient, strategic Arlovski going against a powerful, focused Silva.
It was surprising to hear Silva plans to stand with Arlovski, but it is understandable he would be willing to at least experiment with the free movement phase. The ending to Arlovski's last two fights came as a shock to everyone.
Arlovski was unexpectedly knocked out by Emelianenko; and in his match with Rogers, had John McCarthy not stepped in to make it a TKO, Arlovski would have been flat knocked out by Roger's quick flurry of punches.
However, Arlovski currently seems to have a mental calm about him that very well may be the determining factor in his upcoming fight against Silva.
Arlovski admitted that in his past two fights, he either didn't follow his game plan or underestimated his opponent. But he shows he's processed these losses and has since turned what was once weak discipline into strong focus.
Silva seems determined to stand with Arlovski, or at least test the waters. Will he be powerful enough to compensate for Arlovski's speedy leg kicks and punches?
The weight advantage that Silva spoke of may make his strikes a bit too powerful for Arlovski to effectively parry, and he might not be able to quickly slip the punches as he could end up being worried about the takedown.
Will Arlovski outmaneuver "Big Foot," or will he get a big fist in his face? Be sure to watch Strikeforce on May 15th and find out. It will certainly be an interesting fight.