UFC 195’s co-main event is a heavyweight contest between #3 ranked Stipe Miocic and #2 ranked Andrei “The Pit Bull” Arlovski. Miocic enters this matchup on the heels of the biggest win of his career, a technical knockout victory over the always game Mark Hunt this past May. Arlovski, meanwhile, has won four consecutive fights since returning to the UFC in 2014. Stipe Miocic (13-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC, -230 favorite) Stipe Miocic has been considered one of the top rising fighters in the heavyweight division for quite some time. While he has not broken through against the very top of the division, he has continued to show steady improvements inside the cage. The former Division One college baseball player got a late start in the fight game, as he did not take up the sport until his late twenties. However, he quickly adapted to mixed martial arts and he may be only one win away from a title shot. An impressive victory over Arlovski may allow him to leapfrog Alistair Overeem for a shot at the winner of Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velasquez, which takes place in early February. Since entering the UFC in 2011, Miocic has compiled a 7-2 record. He has recorded impressive wins over Mark Hunt, Roy Nelson, Gabriel Gonzaga, and Shane Del Rosario. The 33-year old is one of the most athletic heavyweights on the UFC roster. While attending Cleveland State University, he was a star baseball player and wrestler. Additionally, Miocic was also a Golden Gloves boxer in the Ohio area. As you might expect, his primary strengths are his boxing and wrestling. Fighting out of an orthodox stance, Miocic utilizes traditional techniques to overwhelm his opponents. A strong 1-2 combination, mixed with hard left hooks and kicks to the legs and body are the primary weapons in his arsenal. The straight right hand is far and away his best punch and is responsible for several knockouts. High output and good conditioning are essential to Miocic’s game, as he often breaks his opponents by pushing a fast pace and throwing a lot of strikes. The Ohio native has never given up on his wrestling, even after having success with his hands. That is a sign of an intelligent fighter that knows when to strike and when to grapple. Miocic possesses strong takedowns in open space, especially his traditional double and single-legs. He changes levels quickly and often gets in on his opponents legs before they are capable of sprawling. From top position Miocic focuses on maintaining position and landing steady ground and pound. If there is an opening to pass he will take it, but he does not force anything and does a nice job of staying patient. Miocic’s strong submission defense and awareness have kept him out of trouble when the action goes to the canvas. Andrei Arlovski (25-10 (1 NC) MMA, 14-4 UFC, +190 underdog) There are not many fans or pundits that thought Arlovski would become the #2 ranked heavyweight in the world in 2015. After all, this is the same guy that left the UFC in 2008 and by early 2011 had lost four straight fights, including three by brutal knockout. Everyone wrote him off as a fighter that had lost his chin and could no longer compete with the top fighters in the world. Well, it turned out that was not the case at all. Since that four fight losing streak, Arlovski has won ten out of eleven fights, with his only loss coming by decision to top light heavyweight Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. Additionally, his UFC run has seen him defeat one tough fighter after another. While the former UFC Heavyweight Champion may not have that many years left in the sport, he proved that we should be careful when writing somebody off. A win over Miocic on Saturday night would put Arlovski in an envious position because he would be on a longer winning streak than Overeem and he has already holds a win over current UFC Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum. A rematch between the two would be a sellable title fight, assuming Werdum beats Velasquez again, which is far from a sure thing. At 36 years old, Arlovski is among a handful of veteran heavyweights that have continued to succeed well into their mid-thirties. Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn have been credited with reviving the hulking Belarusian’s career since it hit bottom in 2011. Arlovski still possess a well-rounded skill-set, including a savvy striking attack and underrated submission skills. While on the feet he uses footwork, feints, and distance measuring techniques to set up power punches. Arlovski’s right hand is far and away his best weapon, which is both good and bad. He throws it nicely to both the head and body and will often double up on it to catch his opponent off guard. While his right hand is definitely lethal, he tends to rely on it far too much. This causes his opponent to predict what is coming and either block the strike or get out of the way of it. Arlovski has more success when he mixes in his left hand and kicks. While we have not seen Arlovski’s offensive submission skills in quite some time, his submission defense was on full display in his last fight against Frank Mir in September. While Mir was able to penetrate his takedown defense, he was not able to get anything going from top position and “The Pit Bull” was able to scramble back to his feet. Arlovski’s takedown defense is serviceable in most cases, but it is hardly infallible, especially when he starts to tire. That leads to his conditioning, which has been an issue for him in fights that last longer than a round. That is obviously concerning, especially in this matchup. Thoughts This is a fight that makes sense for both fighters when you consider the current landscape of the UFC’s heavyweight division. The heavyweight championship will be contested in five weeks and now is a great time to get fans talking about who they want to see get the next shot at the title. An impressive performance by either fighter could easily earn them the next shot. As far as the matchup goes, it is hard not to like Miocic. Miocic has great speed and athleticism for the division and he mixes up his attack well. Additionally, he pushes a fast pace that many fighters are not able to keep up with. Arlovski, on the other hand, has been up and down in recent fights. He came out flat against both Brendan Schaub and Mir and did not impress in either fight. He probably should have lost his fight against Schaub and the Mir fight was very close. Miocic can have success in this fight both on the feet and on the canvas, especially if he maintains a high pace and gets Arlovski to tire. Further, while Arlovski’s chin may not be completely shot like some people thought, it is still a real concern. Arlovski’s run has been a nice story, but I think it ends on Saturday night. Miocic wins this one by technical knockout after he floors Arlovski with a big right hand late in the second round and finished him off with ground strikes. The Prediction: Stipe Miocic defeats Andrei Arlovski by technical knockout (round 2)
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