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UFC 191: Johnson vs. Dodson 2 - Toe to Toe Preview: Andrei Arlovski vs. Frank Mir

Phil and David take time out of their busy schedules to break down Andrei Arlovski vs. Frank Mir in great detail, weaving as many Terminator, and Godzilla analogies as possible to make sense of the UFC 191 bout.

The too cool for school Phil McKenzie

Andrei Arlovski vs. Frank Mir

Andrei Arlovki fights Frank Mir at heavyweight for the co-main event of UFC 191 on September 5th, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada

One sentence summary:

Phil: Take another trip in the heavyweight time machine back to 2005, where Frank Mir and Andrei Arlovski compete for the belt which will almost certainly be claimed by uber-prospect Brandon Vera at some point


David: Two resurrection stories hope to derail each other's happy ending train.


Andrei "The Pitbull" Arlovski
Record: 24-10-1
Odds: -150

Frank Mir
Record: 18-9
Odds: +140

Introduction / History of the Fighters

David: Arlovski's presence continues to defy all logic and reason. Just when I thought his MMA career was restricted to getting his head cut half off with a baseball bat swung by a super soldier, he goes on knocks out Antonio Silva and Travis Browne. And totally redeems himself!

I mean, what else is there to say? After the Sergei Kharitonov loss, the guy was practically a cautionary tale with a half-written obituary.

Phil: As Mir has pointed out, both of these dudes have been discounted before... but not without significant justification. Arlovski's comeback has been the much more clearly defined path- rocketing to the UFC heavyweight championship, losing twice to Silvia, and that long Strikeforce nadir which had many calling for his retirement when he got knocked out four times in a row.

He slowly built up momentum and confidence against some relatively questionable competition, and as he's made his way back into the UFC his offensive capabilities have slowly reasserted themselves and he's picked up better and more high-quality wins.

David: I like to imagine that Frank Mir heard some rumor that Todd Duffee was an internet troll, and that that's why Mir suddenly found the power to laminate Todd's body in canvas. For such an interesting fight voice, Mir is easily distracted and discouraged. I can only devote so many words to his comment about "keyboard warriors" I guess, but it's just to so bizarre.

Mir is another guy, like Arlovski, who is miraculously relevant.

Phil: If Arlovski's career is the big loop, Mir seems to be the sine wave which goes up, then down, then up. The first major fall was the infamous motorcycle crash which many thought would end his career and lost him the title (a title which would be claimed by one Andrei Arlovski). Some really, really bad losses seemed to mark the end of Mir as a competitor, but then he had the Lesnar win and the run to UFC 100. Afterwards there were at least two more resurgences and apparent declines, and here we are. The real difference with Mir is that I think we've conditioned ourselves not to get too excited about him by this point.

What's at stake?

Phil: As ridiculous as this sounds in the year of our lord 2015... title shot. Probably. I know Velasquez is nominally fighting Werdum again at some point, but I think we can take a minute to reiterate how horrible that matchmaking is. It puts its own special spin on heavyweight- the division which now manages to combine arbitrary chaos and explosions with puzzling monotony, in a manner reminiscent of the 1999 Godzilla movie. Neat trick, Joe Silva.

David: Even thinking about the 1999 Godzilla is like imagining a world where each season of True Detective stars Vince Vaughn speaking through a Thomas Ligotti microphone. Stop, dude.

Your artwork, and the obvious narrative for this fight hearkens back to the Terminator sequels, culminating in the nadir that was the last one (Genisys). Where new models flash innovative weaponry that are inferior to the guns, germs, and five ounce baby gloves that do nothing but cover the knuckles of the older ones.

Where do they want it?

Phil: These two are not subtle in their approaches. Arlovski is almost exclusively a right-handed fighter, even more so than he was in his early career- take a look at his knockout over Travis Browne where instead of following up a right with a left hand, he hit the Hawaiian with a windshield-wiper backfist. He has a laser-quick straight which he'll throw as a counter or in lever punching combinations. Although power isn't a commodity in short supply at heavyweight, Arlovski hits notably hard.

Aside from this, there isn't really much to be said. Arlovski once had a characteristic Sambist sprint grappling submission game, but we haven't seen it in years, and when he was taken down by Brendan Schaub he mostly just got stuck on the bottom throwing hammerfists. His takedown defense oscillates between stellar and decent. He should avoid throwing flying knees, but he has a nice high kick when he chooses to use it.

David: I'm glad you're referencing Arlvoski's backhand because I felt like no one was talking about it. That strike blew my mind when it happened.

The difference between Arlovski in his prime, and Arlovski now is essentially zilch. He's not like Robbie Lawler, weaving subtle improvements into his specialist brand of pugilism. He has improved, but it's important to remember that Arlovski hit a rough patch because he hit a string of matchups involving guys with Hulkbuster strength. Arlovski still has a better chin than given credit for. His problem is that he has head movement and general defense that is every bit as stationary and flaccid as he's given credit for. At a certain point, the phrase "bad chin" more or less implies all of this, but it's nonetheless worth distinguishing.

Arvloski is able to hide his lack of defense better against fighters with less raw power. His lightbulb moment is in the way he's able to hide it against heavy hitters in long enough intervals to survive, and land his own crushing right hand.

Phil: Many older fighters make claims of how they're better than they've ever been, but I think both Mir and Arlovski can make that statement with a degree of honesty. Mir in particular. Like Arlovski used to be, Mir is a prototypical sprint grappler when the fight hits the mat, throwing up quick and incredibly vicious submissions. However, if he's not given a submission opportunity relatively quickly, it's possible to control him from the top. He's a technical clinch fighter, but not a powerful one, evinced against Barnett and Carwin.

The real improvements have been in Mir's stand-up. The first major change came in his fight against Big Nog, where he showed the uppercut, straight left and one-two which would become his bread and butter. Mir also showed the bolt-upright head position which would make him an easy target for fighters like Junior Dos Santos. That's something which is finally changing, as Mir appears to be pulling his head off the centerline and starting to eschew the somewhat risky uppercut for a more reliable hook. He's also started to stance-switch more. It's not Dillashaw footwork, but he's shown a propensity to fight out of orthodox more in recent fights.

David: I love Mir's striking. It's like watching a Michael Haneke film; the structure is on such obvious display, it's practically a live action thesis. Mir plays funny(looking) games on the feet, but it's still all business. It's not a development you would have expected going back to his waste of time of a bout against Tank Abbott.

He's such a big guy, his power is functionally accidental. Which is what made the Nog, and Duffee fights so fun. His grappling is still top notch. He doesn't get to use as much because his wrestling is still so rudimentary and plodding, but he's as good a heavyweight grappler as there is, and seems to relish his pedigree.

Insight from past fights?

Phil: I was going to mention Arlovski against Rumble and Schaub, and how Andrei demonstrated dramatically different levels of takedown defense in both those fights, but I think I'll take a different tack.

Instead, I'd reiterate a point which we made (which was subsequently borne out) in Gonzaga-Cro Cop: as they get older and smarter, fighters get better at avoiding damage, and they typically spend more and more time in the clinch. I know we love these guys, but they're had some all-time stinkers in terms of sweaty inactivity (Mir-Cro Cop and Arlovski-Fulton were two which were "saved" at the last second by sudden finishes). Anyone convinced that this will be two glass cannons throwing down and that a finish is guaranteed, just temper your enthusiasm and remember that a truly putrid fight is not an indistinct possibility.

David: Hell even Arlovski's KO win over Jake O'Brien inside of two rounds was a total snoozer. AA and Mir are both fragile fighters; heavyweight fighters with non-heavyweight qualities. I go back to Arlovski's win over Marcio Cruz if just to remind people that he functionally knocked Cruz out with a punch from his back. It's a great looking right hand too. Between that and his backhand against Browne, it's amazing how much power Arlovski can pack into innocuous strikes. Just to stereotype for a second, Sambo specialists rarely seem as efficient defensively as they do offensively, so no matter how much experience AA has, I don't see him wanting to compete with Mir on the ground.


Phil: Training situation? I know Mir has been training out of Jackson/Winkeljohn for a while. Therefore, much like Browne, Guillard and Evans before him, he's going up against the camp which is infamous for gameplanning having trained underneath them for a significant amount of time. There's no real significance to it, but it's fun to point out- Travis, Melvin and Rashad didn't win those fights. There will never be any mercy for traitors who attempt to carry away the secrets of the Jackson's Dojo.

David: Because this fight feels like it belongs on a different timeline, I worry more about a Timecop scenario where the first punch creates a CGI Ron Silver blob because the same matter can't occupy the same space.


Phil: Two fighters who are offensively dangerous but defensively flawed, who are fighting in a division where the randomness of potential outcomes would cause Anton Chigurh to throw his hands up in despair. It's close. However, even back in 2005 Mir admitted something which is true to this day - Arlovski is a better athlete than him. He's bigger, faster, and stronger and unlike Todd Duffee has the experience to back it up. While Mir is the overperformer and Arlovski is historically the underperformer, I think Frank's methods to victory are less likely than Andrei's. It'll be uglier than people think, but Andrei Arlovski by unanimous decision.

David: I hate betting against Mir. He's on such a magnificent roll of violence too. If his victims are intended to be a Seven-esque living portrait, Arlovski could end up finding his own head in a brown box. I also seriously think the wild west brawling against Duffee would be a decent strategy against AA. It's important to remember that Browne had Arlovski out at one point. Frank Mir has shown the ability to win attrition battles with good fighters, which Arlovski has rarely shown (the Werdum fight barely involved punching). Frank Mir by TKO, round 3.

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