Arlovski vs Barnett : Not done yet
On September 3rd Josh ‘Warmaster’ Barnett goes up against Andrei ‘The Pitbull’ Arlovski in UFC’s Fight Night 93. A fight night is a smaller, more compact version of the mega-event that is a Pay Per View. Fight nights are often used to showcase the up and coming fighters, but this wouldn’t have been the case 10 years ago.
10 years ago, Arlovski vs Barnett would have been the main event of some major PPV with a lot of marketing behind it. Today both are veterans in their late 30s with over 80 official bouts between them. Both ranked #6 and #9 respectively in the UFC heavyweight rankings makes this fight night feels almost like it doesn’t matter. Don’t be fooled, though, there is a lot at stake.
Barnett, for few glorious moments, was the youngest UFC heavyweight champion of the world until he was stripped of his belt after testing positive for an anabolic steroid following his title-winning victory over Randy Couture at UFC 36 in 2002. He then moved to Japan to fight in PRIDE where he was a crowd favourite, sometimes using the taunts from the popular anime ‘Fist of the North Star’ and making a case for himself to be one of the top heavyweights in the world by going toe to toe against the likes of Cro-Cop and the Emelianenko brothers.
He stayed at PRIDE until its acquisition by the UFC in 2007. By choosing not to go to the UFC, Barnett instead had stints in several other promotions till he finally decided to come back to the UFC in August 2013, where he has lost 3 of his last 6 fights.
Arlovksi like Barnett was once a very young UFC heavyweight champion in 2005 and a perennial contender in the mid to late 2000s, and like Barnett, he also fought in several different promotions around the world. A streak of four straight losses in 2011 led to questions regarding the durability of his chin and his future in MMA.
A change in gyms and training methods brought about a Lazarus-like revival of his career, with his next 12 fights (which now includes his second stint in the UFC) having only one loss, his story seemed like it was building towards a second championship run until his matches against Overeem and Miocic earlier this year derailed it quite a bit.
As far as the fight is considered, it depends a lot on how much more damage both of them can take. With over 30 years of combined professional fighting experience between them, it is going to come down to who has got more left in the tank after all these years, and how much more can either of them take. Barnett is arguably the better grappler with his background in catch wrestling, and while he can more than hold his own on his feet, Arlovski is the better striker with more avenues and options in his arsenal for attack.
Barnett will look to swarm him to take advantage of his superior clinches and grappling while Arlovski would look to keep his distance. (Personal prediction would be Barnett swarms him against the cage and elbows Arlovski to win by TKO) Arlovski is the underdog at +130 and Barnett comes in at -160.
This fight doesn't have the same hype it would have had 10 years ago, a time when Arlovski was the UFC heavyweight champion and when Barnett was tearing it up in Japan.There is something else both men are fighting desperately against; a closing window of opportunity for one last run towards the gold.
The loser of this fight would to face the calls to retire. If Arlovski loses it would be his third loss in a row. After two especially punishing knock out losses in 2016 to the heavy weight championship title contenders Miocic and Overeem, a third knock out loss would definitely raise more than a few questions about the already maligned chin of his and whether or not he should continue.
If Barnett loses, it would be his first set of consecutive losses since 2005 with almost no chance of another UFC contract and a title run out of reach. A win for either of them would be silencing statement to the doubters,extending their careers and protecting their legacies a bit further.