What a difference 2 years makes in MMA. Mark Hominick and Matt Brown are the biggest examples of how this can work both ways. But perhaps no person better personifies how quick MMA history can change than Andrei Arlovski. February 2011 he was clocked cold by Russian Sergei Kharitonov and his career was left for dead. Many called for his retirement with this being the 7th time Andrei has tasted the canvas. These were no ordinary knockouts either, every time Andrei fell it seemed the life faded from his eyes. Even Andrei’s old teammates and coaches pleaded with ‘The Pitbull’ to hang ‘em up.
However Andrei would not listen, instead moving to the Greg Jackson camp and fighting 3-6 pro boxer and middling fighter Ray Lopez at ProElite 1. Arlovski put in a rusty performance but one good enough to TKO Lopez in the 3rd. Another uninspiring performance against Travis Fulton at ProElite 2 however ended with a bang as Arlovski KO’d ‘The Ironman’ cold with a headkick at 14:59. This seemed to be the spark he needed as he looked to reignite the feud he held with Tim Sylvia. For those who haven’t know the background for the BE feature “How’s Taste My Tweet Tweet”, it is a line from Andrei where he says “How Taste My Pee Pee” referring to Tim dating his former girlfriend. Arlovski absorbed some hard blows from Sylvia but held tough to drop the big man in the second round. An unusual rule led to a no contest but the decision didn’t matter. The Pitbull was back. Two more fights and two more W’s lead Andrei to the place he is today. 4-0-0-1 in his last 5 with 3 legal knockouts and 1 illegal one to boot.
He is fighting someone who very recently was the butt of many jokes for a different reason. While the knock against Andrei was that he would be knocked cold out by the wafting smell of a fresh apple pie (happy Pi day by the way), it would be Anthony Johnson eating the whole delicacy in a single bite. Often touted for his inability to make weight or preform on the biggest stage, Johnson too has seen a bit of a career renaissance of late. Since beating crafty veteran Dave Branch by decision, Rumble has wheeled off three knockouts in row over Esteves Jones, Jake Rosholt and DJ Linderman. All of this makes this matchup highly intriguing, because frankly between the two of them they are 8-0-0-1 in their last 9 with 6 knockouts. Two years ago if I would have told you this you would have laughed at me (also Johnson was a WELTERWEIGHT for Christ sakes).
But suddenly nobody is laughing anymore, this matchup is big business and holds big consequences. For Arlovski, his legacy as a 3 time heavyweight champion has already been made. But if he wants to be relevant in 2013 and beyond he needs to make a statement by taking out one of the biggest young guns in the game today. For Johnson however, he is entering his seventh year of fighting and is treading the line of contender and bust. At 28, all hope is not lost with a loss, but the label of underperformer in the spotlight will grow brighter with every chance he squanders. Both fighters have big motivation to push them towards the top, and neither was expected to be here in Atlantic City next Saturday for very different reasons. Which makes this match so interesting, a must see, and for both these guys a must win.