UFC 222: Andrei Arlovski vs. Stefan Struve Preview and Prediction
Two ranked European heavyweights, Andrei Arlovski and Stefan Struve, will meet on the main card of UFC 222 this Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Andrei Arlovski: A legend of the sport
Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski (26-15, 1 NC) has survived the trials of being a top heavyweight fighter for an impossibly long time. his first fight in the octagon took place at UFC 28 in 2000. At 39 years old, the Belarusian has definitely taken a lot of damage but he always finds a way to fight back. He has been a streaky fighter throughout his career with a four and five fight losing streak on his record. Arlovski actually only has two losses that were not proceeded by at least one more loss.
After a five fight losing streak that lasted for two years, the majority of the MMA community though that Arlovski’s career had run its course. He lost to killers during that span such as Stipe Miocic, Francis Ngannou, and Alistair Overeem but still did not look like the Arlovski of old. In what many considered a must-win for “The Pitbull,” Arlovski finally secured a win over Junior Albini in November in a unanimous decision. Arlovski looked quicker than he had in previous fights, bouncing in and out of striking range and landing combinations. He was also fast enough to avoid the bombs thrown by Albini and worked in some important leg kicks.
Arlovski will have to perform similarly to the fight he had with Albini to take out Struve. He will look to keep things on the feet and to stay out of the guard of Stefan Struve. While Arlovski is on the back end of his career, he still has devastating punching power and can sleep anyone with one shot. “The Pitbull” will use his movement to stay out of range of the punches of a slower Struve and try to win a boxing match.
Stefan Struve: The road back to contention
Stefan “The Skyscraper” Struve (28-9) get a lot of attention for being the tallest fighter on the roster at seven feet tall, but he would not be in the UFC if he was not an incredible fighter. The Dutch kickboxer is a UFC veteran as well and this will be his twentieth fight inside the octagon. He is the only man to ever finish current heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic but has come up just short against other top contenders, keeping him outside of the title conversation.
Struve’s last fight was a headlining fight against Alexander Volkov in Struve’s home country of the Netherlands. “The Skyscraper” was coming off two straight wins and looking to break into the top five in the rankings. Unfortunately, Struve was out-boxed and finished in the third round by Volkov. Arlovski is sure to bring expert level boxing and a lot of power so he cannot afford to gas out on the feet the way he did with Volkow.
If Struve can get this fight to the mat, he will have an advantage. He is dangerous off his back due to his extremely long legs. He has 17 submission victories on his record and has only been submitted once. Seven of those finishes came by triangle choke and another by triangle armbar so the guard of Struve is sure to play a factor.
The boxing of Arlovski will be especially dangerous in the opening round. If he can find the chin of Struve early, he will open him up to many more combinations and possibly get a knockout. We saw in the Volkov fight that if Struve can be out-boxed, he will tire and leave himself vulnerable to heavy shots. This opportunity will have to be taken early on since this is only a three round fight. Arlovski must come out aggressive and looking for a finish.
Stefan Struve is more likely to try to slow the fight down and look to take it to the ground. He will be content to stay in his guard if Arlovski does not punish him with ground and pound too much. Arlovski is not a threat to submit him so if Struve can get some takedowns, he will be ahead on the judges scorecards. If he ends up on his back, the long legs of “The Skyscraper” could find their way around the neck of Arlovski.
If Arlovski does not pour the pressure on early, Struve will slow the fight down and grind out a win. If this was a five round fight, things might be different but they might spend too much time on the ground for Arlovski to land a big enough shot to end the fight.
Struve by Decision