Andrei Arlovski (13-5 MMA) vs. Roy Nelson (13-2 MMA)
In an attempt to pull the ripcord on their financial free fall, EliteXC made a deal with the sponsorship-devil and allowed Affliction to again promote their clothing as well as their fighters under the Elite XC banner. Andrei Arlovski vs. Roy Nelson is the first attempt at a joint product, as both fighters are under the Affliction promotional contract. This adds hardcore credibility to a show that was stacked heavily towards mainstream attractiveness.
Andrei Arlovski is a former Police officer from Belarus and a 2 time World Russian Sambo Champion. Sambo is a Russian self defense system similar to Judo, and Arlovski excelled in it. He used his success in Sambo to launch a professional MMA career. It was not a stellar success right out of the gate with a knockout loss to Viacheslav Datsik. But with good old-fashioned Russian persistence, he won the heavyweight tournament in M1 with two wins in the same night. That was enough for the UFC, and they signed the 20 year old to fight in America. Arlovski started strong in the UFC with a 4-2 mark and his impressive skills and intimidating physical appearance built him a dedicated fan base.
They say one person’s misfortune is another person’s gain, and case in point is Frank Mir and Andrei Arlovski. Frank Mir was the reigning Heavyweight Champion in the UFC when tragedy struck in the form of a motor bike accident that almost cost Mir his leg. As a result of his serious injuries, the UFC had to create an Interim Heavyweight title. Arlovski found himself up against Tim Sylvia for the title. One quick leg lock submission later and Arlovski was the new heavyweight Champion. He defended two more times in the next year and when it was decided that Mir would not make it back from his injuries Arlovski was made undisputed heavyweight champion. He then re-matched and lost his title back to Tim Sylvia. The grudge match was a 5 round affair where Arlovski lost an uninspired decision to Sylvia. Shortly after Andrei started to enter contract extension talks with the UFC and as a result was shelved in a move to “change’ the Belarusian’s mind about his demands. When it was obvious that Arlovski was not going to be a UFC fighter anymore, they allowed him to fight his contract out and sign with Affliction. In the first fight on his deal he looked re-invigorated in a third round TKO of top-ten ranked Ben Rothwell.
Arlovski is a supremely gifted athlete with a phenomenal work ethic to go along with it. This is the picture of a top tier athlete fulfilling his potential, and it is a beautiful thing to watch. Arlovski’s standup is second to none in the heavyweight division, as he is being trained by the preeminent boxing coach in the US in Freddie Roach. Arlovski has pro level boxing skills, with footwork and head movement better than most professional boxers at his weight. Arlovski is more than just boxing skills though as his kicks and knees are all explosive with perfect technique. As with most Sambo experts, he is an above average grappler with fantastic leg locks and a full arsenal of submissions. Arlovski’s own worst enemy is himself, as his tendancy to push for the exciting finish or the big knockout will sometimes get himself into positions that will cost him a fight. If Arlovski is smart and plays to his strengths against an opponent, he is one of the toughest heavyweights in the world to beat.
Roy Nelson is one of the best submission grapplers in the Heavyweight division that no one knows about. He is a blackbelt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and has won several North American titles in grappling. As a Las Vegas native he has helped train some of the best fighters in the world. Nelson saw sparring and training with other fighters as more of a job than one fighter helping out another, and decided to make himself some money instead of making other fighters better. Nelson kicked off his professional fighting career with a six fight win streak, four of which were by submission. Nelson’s stand up continually improved by working with well-known boxing coach Skipper Kelp through most of his career. He lost a close split decision to top-ten ranked Ben Rothwell in the IFL, but in that loss showed everyone that he was a force at heavyweight and someone to watch out for in the future. He went on to win 5 fights in a row in the IFL, including the IFL world heavyweight championship belt. Now that the IFL has closed its doors, Nelson is out to find the respect one can get from defeating a top ten opponent. Arlovski may be his road to legitimacy.
Nelson is a world class submission grappler with speed and agility that belie his size. He does not have many peers on the floor in the heavyweight division. During his stay in the IFL he has also developed quite the ground and pound skills. He can pack an impressive punch from the guard and is more than capable of knocking his opponent out. His stand up has also vastly improved during his IFL stay, as he has shown flashes of knockout power in his punches as well as the skill to outmaneuver and strategically deal with much larger opponents in Rothwell and Brad Imes. The one area most people point to as an area of weakness is his conditioning. Although he looks like he is hiding a medicine ball under his t-shirt, he is quite capable of fighting a full 3 or 5 rounds and winning decisions. He truly is a freak of nature in that respect.
This is an interesting fight in a few different ways. At first glance you would think Arlovski has a big edge in this bout, and by all accounts he does. His stand up is cleaner and crisper, and his ground game is defensive enough to stay out of trouble long enough to get it back to the feet where he holds the decisive edge. Nelson has shown a penchant to surprise when he is considered the underdog, and he is fully capable of doing that here. Arlovski has shown a tendancy to get bored with lesser opponents and loss interest. If he does that against Nelson, he could easily lose this fight. But I cannot see this happening. With the pressure of national television and the rather large payday ahead of him with a win, I think the Arlovski of old comes out and puts a striking clinic on Nelson and either ends it in a third round TKO or a unanimous decision win for Arlovski.