Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight hitters Junior Albini and Andrei Arlovski faced off last night (Nov. 11, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 120 inside the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Virginia.
Little was known about Albini ahead of his UFC debut. He was a sizable underdog against the division’s No. 11-ranked contender, but the Brazilian made quick work of his foe in the form of a first-round knockout. On the other hand, Arlovski’s career resurgence ran into a wall. His recent losses have come to a respectable group of names — top Heavyweight athletes all — but that didn’t alleviate the fact that the Belarusian desperately needed a victory.
Albini showed the former champion absolutely zero respect in the first minute of this contest. The Brazilian kept his hands high, but otherwise he simply walked towards Arlovski, thoroughly unconcerned with the famously heavy hands of his foe. It worked well, as a few punches from Albini slipped through and wobbled his opponent’s knees.
Arlovski looked to find holes in his foes guard with right over hands and uppercuts, but Albini’s defense held up. Additionally, Albini repeatedly covered and waited, firing a left hook on the counter. In between the action, there were long periods of inactivity as Albini jammed his foe into the fence, landing the occasional knee.
Either way, it was a strong start from the young fighter.
Albini continued his pressure-and-counter approach into the second, but some of the pep in his step was gone. Arlovski, meanwhile, began to stop hunting for the knockout, which seemed quite unlikely. Instead, he began to kick more, which allowed him to score points without being countered. Furthermore, Arlovski did a great job of targeting the body, which was a particularly large target considering his opponent.
Albini landed a few sneaky elbows and some cage control, but his volume and effectiveness dropped in a big way. It was a clear round for the Belarusian, meaning the fight was decided in the third.
Despite obvious fatigue himself, Arlovski kept the pace in the third round. Albini was very flat-footed, whereas Arlovski was jogging around the cage and shooting out long range strikes as his foe approached. He still wasn’t managing to hurt Albini — which says impressive things about the Brazilian’s chin — but he did tattoo his face badly.
Albini never stopped pressuring, but he threw a lot less. Without the threat of his power punches, Albini looked far less dangerous, and his only real success came in clinch control.
It wasn’t enough to overcome Arlovski’s effective volume punching.
I’ll be the first to say this one going to a decision really surprised me. Ahead of the fight, I expected Albini to find his foe’s chin early, which did happen to some extent. However, Arlovski never ate any massive shot too cleanly, and that allowed his superior boxing and ring craft to reign supreme late in the bout.
Like the Assuncao-Lopez bout before it, this one all came down to experience. Arlovski was tired too, but he stuck to his strategy. The repeated body shots and kicks served to wear his opponent down, and ultimately Arlovski was able to score the decision simply by outlasting his foe.
It wasn’t flashy, but it was smart.
With this win, Arlovski staved off the demands of retirement. Heavyweight is a shallow division, and even this deep in his career, the Belarusian is still capable of teaching young guns a few things.
Albini looked sharp early, but cardio is rarely a friend of Heavyweight prospects. This is a fight to learn from, as Albini is exceptionally young by his division’s standards. He does have plenty of time to grow, and Albini showed some sharp combinations, tricky counters, and a sturdy chin
Given a couple years, Albini can still develop into a top contender.
Last night, Andrei Arlovski picked apart a game opponent to return to the win column. What’s next for the former champion?
For complete UFC Fight Night 120 “Pettis vs. Poirier” results and play-by-play, click HERE!