UFC Fight Night 51 Recap: Arlovski Turns Back The Clock

On Saturday night in Brasilia, former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski looked as spry as he has in years, earning a first round knockout over Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva. The victory will go down as one of the bigger upsets in 2014, and moved Arlovski to a surprising 8-1, with 1 no contest over his past ten fights. Back in 2011, Arlovski had been completely written off following four consecutive losses, including three first round KOs. He started fighting heavyweight journeymen and putting on lackluster performances. The one solid fighter he faced, Anthony Johnson, he dropped a decision against but the general sentiment was that at least he didn’t get knocked out. Another pair of victories later and Arlovski got a call from the UFC to will out their ever-expanding roster. Even in his UFC debut he looked slow and plodding, as most felt he dropped a decision to Brendan Schaub. He got the judges nod back at UFC 174 however, and was awarded with this main event slot. Against ‘Bigfoot’, Arlovski looked faster than he had in years and his punches were clean and hard. Of course, it helped that Silva looked as slow and plodding as he ever has, but that’s what happens when a fighter with a history of performance enhancing drug usage is forced to clean up.

With the win, Arlovski has to move into the top 10 at heavyweight, which is just an astounding thing to say in 2014, nearly eight a half years after he dropped the UFC title to Tim Sylvia. Moving forward, it’s hard to see him actually moving back into title contention, but another win or two and he’ll be set to do just that. This coming weekend, Roy Nelson and Mark Hunt will fight in Japan, and the winner of that bout would provide another aging almost-contender to the heavyweight division. A bout with Arlovski and either Nelson or Hunt could provide a title challenger some time in 2015, as crazy as that sounds. In the co-main event, a fighter who goes back to Arlovski’s first tenure with the UFC, Gleison Tibau picked up his 15th victory inside the Octagon. In a fight that played out as many of those other UFC wins has, Tibau dominated the early portion of the bout, but gradually slowed, letting Piotr Hallmann back into the bout. Hallmann clearly earned the final round, but it was not enough as Tibau’s control of the striking and grappling exchanges across the first ten minutes was more than enough to earn him the victory. Tibau remains one of the best examples of a gatekeeper in the lightweight division, and should continue to occupy the role in the years to come. Ross Pearson recently beat a more highly ranked fighter in Gray Maynard, but I don’t think there’s much argument that Tibau would provide a stiffer test for him at this point. TUF Brazil 2 winner Leonardo Santos is undefeated in the UFC, but I don’t think the UFC is going to be lining him up for top contenders any time soon. The Nova Uniao lightweight struggled at times against the returning Efrain Escudero, which is not a good indicator of future success. Despite his long frame, Santos seems unable to improve his striking, and his cardio remains a major concern. His ground game has always been, and remains impressive, but his inability to close the distance and get takedowns from anything other than the clinch is worrisome. If they’re hoping to keep him in Brazil and bring fighters in to face him, perhaps Yui Chul Nam gives him the opportunity to pick up another win. Argentine Santiago Ponzinibbio rebounded from the defeat in his UFC debut to pick up an impressive first round knockout against Wendell Oliveira. It’s hard to give Ponzinibbio too much credit for the KO however, as both men seemed intent on inflicting violence on each other. Ponzinibbio just managed to land first, and flashed some very impressive power in a fight where most people expected him to have a grappling advantage if anything. A bout against Sergio Moraes would give him another opportunity to show off that striking, as he would likely want to avoid the grappling of jiu-jitsu ace. Iuri Alcantara continued to find success at bantamweight, as the 34-year-old moved to 4-1 with 1 no contest down at 135. That loss notably came to Urijah Faber, which is nothing to be ashamed of, but Alcantara is still yet to face another top 10 fighter. Following his unanimous decision victory against Russell Doane, he should get a shot at a top opponent, as his striking and grappling skills warrant the challenge. Alcantara will have to adjust tactically however, as he can extend himself too far and leave himself very vulnerable to takedowns as evidenced by the six he gave up to Doane. Most of the top 135ers are tied up at the moment, but Michael McDonald doesn’t have a fight coming up, and even though he’s coming off a loss that would be a very entertaining bout between two dynamic fighters. Opening up the main card, Jessica Andrade dominated UFC newcomer Larissa Pacheco using her strength and underrate grappling skills. In what was essentially a pick em bout, many thought Pacheco’s length and striking would be her keys to victory, but Andrade got inside very quickly and dragged the UFC’s youngest fighter to the ground. Once there she was able to pass guard repeatedly, and towards the end of the round framed up a guillotine from on top in half guard. After working to secure the submission and move into a better position Pacheco quickly tapped and that was that. Jessica Eye has been out of action for a while, and she would provide a stern test for Andrade, which would help move one towards the title picture at 135. The UFC heads from Brazil to Japan this week, as UFC Fight Night 52 is headlined by another heavyweight bout. Roy Nelson and Mark Hunt will throw leather in front of the crowd in Saitama, in a bout that is surprisingly relevant to the division. MMA OddsBreaker will have the betting odds for that entire card released early in the week, and plenty of analysis before Saturday.

Written by Brad Taschuk

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