Taking place in the wake of a record breaking 202 and an epic fight night in Vancouver, plus the addition of being caught in the shadow of the upcoming Heavyweight Championship card in Cleveland, today’s Fight Night event in Hamburg has become a relative ‘Jan Brady’ event – I suppose a main card airing at 3pm Eastern Time on the opening Saturday of College Football doesn’t help anything either. However, and in the words of College Game Day’s Host, Lee Corso, “Not So Fast My Friend!” – the top 2 fights on the main card have the potential to be legit slobber knockers!
The co-main event features Alexander Gustafsson and Jan Blachowicz. Unless you’ve been living under an MMA rock you know Gustafsson as the biggest challenge Jon Jones has faced to date. He ate a rocket propelled, Jonny Bones patented back elbow to the dome that would’ve left most peoples brain in the front row in the fourth round of a war that most folks, myself included, had him winning. It changed the momentum of the fight and he lost a decision that 2-3 judges scored with only a one round advantage for Bones. Since, he has went on to lose a decision to Cormier and get mauled by Anthony Johnson (the champion and current #1 contender). He holds a KO/Performance of The Night win over Jimi Manuwa who holds a decision win over Blachowicz.
Jan is a Polish fighter with a record of 19-5. However, he’s lost 2 of his last 4 and eked out 6 of his last 8 wins by decision. With over a third of his wins coming by way of submission – and fighting a guy who is a forward motion, face remover – we can expect for him to look for the take down early and often.
If this fight makes it past the second round I would be surprised. Prediction: Gustafsson via TKO to get himself back into title contention in the top heavy Light Heavyweight Division.
The main event of Arlovski vs Barnett is a Fanboy’s Dream; two guys that have been around for a cumulative 37 years and have combined for 79 pro MMA fights. Josh “The Warmaster” Barnett is a guy with an extremely unconventional, ‘Catch Wrestling’ style who has subbed 20 of the 34 fighters he’s beaten. He also holds a KO win over Randy Couture.
Andrei Arlovski, a personal favorite of mine, was once one of the scariest guys in the game – a label punctuated by his vampire fang mouth piece. The Pit Bull always seemed a bit ahead of his time and overly athletic for his size, and for the time. His ability to move on his toes, beautiful kickboxing and background in Sambo made him uniquely dangerous. To the contrary his inability to see a right hand coming has left him belly napping more than once in the Octagon. Arlovski went on a four fight skid kicked off by Fedor (longest belly nap to date) which left a lot of his fans in doubt. However, he went on to rebound to the tune of going 10-1-1 in his next 12 including a KO of Travis Browne (a common opponent who holds a win over Barnett). His last two fights have ended with him on the wrong end of a stoppage. They came though to the two fighters competing for the Heavyweight Championship next week, Stipe Miocic and Alistair Overeem.
Both fighters are coming off a stoppage loss, are big, dangerous athletes and are looking to make a statement. My partially fanboy biased prediction: Andrei Arlovski via 1st round KO.
Honorable mention on this card goes to the third from the top fight between TUF Champ, Ryan Bader and Ilir Latifi. Latifi is 12-4 and has finished 9 of his 12 wins. He has rebounded from his KO loss to co-main eventer Jan Blachowicz having won his last 3 (2 by KO). Ryan Bader is a wrestling machine who has won 20 of his 25 pro fights. His 5 losses are literally to the who’s who of the Light Heavyweight Division. These guys are both obviously great fighters and athletes but I don’t see either of them competing in the upper echelon of their weight class. Also, given Latifi’s recent KO success I look for “Darth” Bader to look for the take down early and often – this one could be snoozer. Prediction: Bader via dry hump.