Analysis, Picks, Betting Tip – UFC Fight Night: Barnett vs. Arlovski

joshbarnett

It’s onward to mainland Europe for the seemingly never ending UFC circus this weekend as the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany plays host to the 93rd UFC Fight Night card.

On paper, this one doesn’t actually line-up that badly with some recognisable names and fun fights littered throughout.

The main event of the evening fits both parts of that criteria as veterans Josh Barnett and Andrei Arlovski face off in a meeting of top-10 ranked heavyweights.

Having made his MMA debut at UFCF 1 in 1997 Josh Barnett, a former UFC heavyweight champion, is one of the longest serving and active MMA practitioners in the world today. The man formally known as “The Warmaster” has fought in Affliction, PRIDE, Strikeforce and more, outside of UFC days.

Wins over the likes of Randy Couture, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mark Hunt were the highlights of his early years while a return to the UFC after eleven years outside of it as a 35 year-old in 2013 has seen Barnett show he still has something left in the tank.

A win against Frank Mir marked his comeback to the UFC while another victory over Roy Nelson was sandwiched in between losses to in-form Travis Browne and, most recently, Ben Rothwell.

Andrei Arlovski, his opponent on Saturday night, has taken somewhat of a similar path. After debuting in MMA in 1999, Arlovski fought in the UFC for the first time just a year later. An interim title, which later became undisputed, came a few years later with a win over Tim Slyvia at UFC 51 before two title defences quickly followed. But a loss to Sylvia in the rematch and another one in the rubber match saw him out of the title picture as quickly as he had gotten into it. Two fights later and Arlovski’s contract expired as he left the UFC to have what began to look like somewhat of journeyman career in promotions like Strikeforce and Affliction.

Having been basically written off as an elite competitor, Arlovski had a fantastic career resurgence after signing for WSOF in 2012 and was back in the UFC 2 years later. Since returning to the Octagon “The Pit Bull” won four on the bounce against Brendan Schaub, Antonio Silva, Travis Browne and Frank Mir before losing badly in his last two to current champion Stipe Miocic and current #1 contender Alistair Overeem.

That has this one shaping up as a battle of heavyweights of a similar vintage who are both clinging on to the upper echelon of MMA with everything they have. In reality, both men are shadows of their former athletic selves but have the guile and experience which makes this one hard to call.

Barnett, as he always has been, is a gritty, in-your-face type of competitor. He’ll move forward most of the time, jab you from distance, thump you with an overhand and shove you against the cage. Then, more pressure comes. He has some very good moves from the clinch whether that comes from strikes, takedowns or control. On the ground he is one of the craftiest players at heavyweight and is always good for a submission attempt or two.

Andrei Arlovski

Against Andrei Arlovski, though, attempts are all they might be. In 38 fights Arlovski has never lost by submission which would lead one to believe he has a tremendous ground game, which he likely has, but we never really get to see it due, in large, to his great takedown defence stemming from his sambo base.

Over the years that has lead to him largely being a boxing based practitioner which has brought him much success and plenty of failure too. With his hands he can both be deadly and awful. One day, he will jab well, throw power shots and thumping back hands, and the next he will do nothing but feint and get hit hard on what has long been a very average chin.

Throw that all together and what you have here is your stereotypical UFC heavyweight fight. Two old dudes who aren’t what they used to be in a fight which will either end with a heavy early KO or turn into a slopfest from about minute four. After that, you’re guess is as good as mine.

In all likelihood, neither man will want this fight going on too long. Barnett will probably be more weary of the power early and look to tie up while Arlovski will want to use his superior speed to stay elusive on the outside before landing the right hand. That makes for a very intriguing opening few minutes in this one. My pick here, based mostly on durability, is going to be Josh Barnett. I feel both men are likely to land early and either could get knocked out cold. But one might not if he gets hit, and one definitely will. That, will Barnett’s willingness to make it a dogfight just edges him ahead for me.

gus

In the co-main event it’s the return of former light-heavyweight contender Alexander Gustsfsson who is lined up against Jan Blachowicz in a what really amounts to, with all due respect to his opponent, a tune-up fight for the Swede.

Gustsfsson is obviously one of the best 205 lbs fighters on the planet but having lost three of his last four to Anthony Johnson, Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, he played around with the idea of retirement. Thankfully for fans of the sport, and that dreadful division, he decided to come back for a fight which should be an interesting view of where his game current is.

Also in the light-heavyweight division, Ryan Bader meets fan favourite Ilir Latifi on Saturday in a match-up of two very similar beasts. Both men are built like fire hydrants, wrestle very well and hit like trucks. That makes for an interesting night. Logically, I have to favour Bader here but sometimes he has been know to have off nights while Latifi often rises to the occasion. So maybe don’t call this one a cert.

Ilir Latifi

Jack Hermansson vs. Scott Askham and Peter Sobatta vs. Nicolas Dalby should also be good while the debut of 38-fight British veteran Judo Jim Wallhead against Jessin Ayari is the real feel good story of the card.

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma