UFC Fight Night 51: Bigfoot Silva vs. Andrei Arlovski Preview
For the second time in a row, a rematch of a fight that originally took place outside the UFC will headline a Fight Night event. Last week, Ronald “Jacare” Souza got his revenge on Gegard Mousasi. This Saturday, Andrei Arlovski attempts to even the score with Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva – and he’ll have to do it in Silva’s hometown of Brasilia, Brazil.
BACK TO A TIME WHEN THINGS WERE SIMPLER
Silva and Arlovski first met in St. Louis in May of 2010. Silva had just dropped a decision to Fabricio Werdum, which was his first loss in nearly three years. Arlovski was coming off two consecutive KO losses. The first was the instantly infamous jumping-knee-into-overhand-right against Fedor Emelianenko. The second was the holy-shit-that-was-only-twenty-two-seconds knockout at the hands of Brett Rogers.
Both guys needed a rebound win, but Arlovski seemed to prioritize not being knocked out over winning. He didn’t look bad, per se, but he never threatened Silva at any point. Silva, to the surprise of the broadcast team,* controlled the standup, and he, to the surprise of no one, controlled Arlovski physically whenever the two came into close quarters.
* – Can we talk about the Showtime broadcast team for a second? Of course, we can, it’s my column. And I can talk about it for more than a second if I so choose. Anyway, the team calling Silva-Arlovski I consisted of Gus Johnson, Mauro Ranallo, and Frank Shamrock. It’s a strange set up because Johnson and Ranallo are both play-by-play guys, and it’s clear watching the fight that it’s a poor formula. Johnson’s ostensibly the lead PBP man, though that’s more in a sense of a big free agent signing continuing to start despite a younger, more capable player backup sitting on the bench. And Ranallo sort of plays in a color role, but more in the sense of Joe Rogan having to play a hybrid role with Mike Goldberg. And Shamrock’s Shamrock, explaining sambo as “sort of like jiu-jitsu” in that it also focuses on submissions. We shouldn’t give Showtime a hard time for the Gus Johnson experiment, because it was an inspired idea, but it failed miserably. And the careers of Johnson and Ranallo since prove the point further: fans currently deride Johnson’s work for Fox Sports calling soccer while Ranallo’s been praised for his “promotion” to Showtime’s Championship Boxing.
Silva and Arlovski find themselves in very different situations in 2014. Silva would go on to give Fedor Emelianenko his second loss in as many fights, and would assimilate into the UFC when Strikeforce dissipated. He dropped his first UFC fight to Cain Velasquez, defeated Travis Browne and Alistair Overeem, and then lost to Cain Velasquez again, this time in a title fight where he entered as a de facto challenger. He rebounded with a wild, fight-of-the-year-contender with Mark Hunt that saw him win a $50,000 bonus. The UFC popped him for elevated levels of testosterone, forfeiting his win and fight of the night bonuses to Hunt and receiving a nine-month suspension.
Arlovksi returned to the UFC after a six-year absence, winning a decision against Brendan Schaub. It was a decision he didn’t really earn and one that he looked awful throughout. Arlovski blamed it on Octagon jitters (I guess they’re a thing even when you’re just making a return!), though it’s more likely that he’s an over-the-hill 35 year old fighter with a history of chin problems.
Nothing’s really changed for Silva, who’s only a year younger than Arlovski and with three-fourths the amount of fights. Arlovski’s even further from his 2008 peak, and it’s hard to see how the Arlovski we’ve seen over the last few years can beat Silva.
MICHAEL, IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY; HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MICHAEL!
So, Saturday’s my birthday! I’m 30! That means I can compete in the 30+ division at jiu-jitsu tournaments. Hey, I’m doing that on Saturday, too! Pretty sweet!
It’s also a time to look back. I started writing about MMA at 24. I was living at Vegas, working a dead-end job, and had a lot of free time to kill. Now, I’m on the cusp of 30, working a variety of gigs, and have very little free time in my life. Combine that with a UFC schedule that has ramped up in recent years, and it’s hard to believe I can keep up with the sport at all. I don’t have the same sense of wonder and unbridled curiosity with the sport that I used to have, but there’s still very little things that can compare to a big-time prize fight.
Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter.