UFC 271: Andrei Arlovski vs Jared Vanderaa - Prediction - 02/12/22
Andrei Arlovski vs Jared Vanderaa
Andrei Arlovski 9.0 (32-20-0) is back as he has fully welcomed the gatekeeper role in the heavyweight division. Routinely turning away prospects like Chase Sherman, Tanner Boser, and Phillipe Lins. The man doesn’t really need a big introduction as even the most casual fan probably saw him in the cage at least once. He’s the former heavyweight champion and has had two different stints in the UFC. The first era was from 2000-2008 where a prime Arlovski would become champion. He then left the UFC to travel the regional circuits before a return in 2014 where he put together 4 straight wins. Four straight defeats by way of KO and submission is what would come next and many called for “Pitbull” (the nickname to spawn a million copycats) to retire with nothing left to really prove. But he hung in there and fought very regularly for the next 7 years putting together a 7-5-1 record since that bad stretch. Most recently, he defeated Carlos Felipe by decision back in October.
Jared Vanderaa (12-6) ground and pounded Harry Hansucker on the Contender Series in 2020 to lock up a UFC contract. “The Mountain” would get a taste of his own medicine as he got ground and pounded out in 2 of his next 3 UFC fights by Sergei Spivak and Alexander Romanov. In between those defeats he enjoyed his lone UFC victory, a decision win over Justin Tafa.
Vanderaa lives up to his nickname as he usually clocks in at the max 265 pound limit. He’ll enjoy an inch of height, 3 inches of reach, and about 20 pounds over the former champ.
How They Match Up
We are going to look at Vanderaa’s second last fight he had with Justin Tafa as our main evidence for analysis here. Simply because the last time out he got tossed all over the cage against Alexander Romanov and this route is certainly not available to Arlovski. Arlovski will be content to engage in a striking battle with Vanderaa and the Tafa/Vanderaa fight is a good benchmark as that was all striking/no grappling. Regarding that fight, Vanderaa was content to sit back for long stretches and sort of let Tafa lead. He does throw up decent head and body kicks during these stretches sporadically but he seemed to have the most success in the exchanges or when he got his opponent against the cage. Getting the better of Tafa in those scenarios locked up the decision.
In Arlovski’s last fight against Felipe, he committed to his evolved higher output + movement game to largely outstrike the smaller Felipe. The output and movement did gas him out pretty badly however which became noticeable half way through the second round. As the fight went later, Arlovski found himself on the outside more and more, with his blitzes and combinations coming less and less.
On one hand, Arlovski has defeated the Jared Vanderaa archetype (Herman, Boser, Lins, Rothwell, even Sakai which he technically lost but largely outstruck) half a dozen times over in the last few years. But on the other hand, how long is he going to be able to avoid getting chin checked again. Forty three years of age isn’t the death sentence in the heavyweight division that it would be in the smaller divisions but there’s a ton of miles on that clock at 52 pro fights.
I envision Arlovski having success throwing out leg kicks from range and avoiding Vanderaa’s telegraphed head kicks. He will most likely also have success with his latest “ducking head and winging hooks to get inside” strategy as I haven’t seen Vanderaa land any savage uppercuts. His blitzes forward that involve capping off a combination with a body kick should also score points. However, the more he stays against the cage the more he’s in danger. I have no doubt he’s smart enough to circle away often but that’s going to gas him out again. Vanderaa also has a decent jab and slipped a number of punches from Tafa, even late, last time out.
I’m torn on this one but I’m going to very slightly lean towards Vanderaa to get the win. Mainly because Arlovski can only really win by decision here and Vanderaa can certainly knock him out, or even get the judges nod if it’s close. There’s some very slight additional factors in Vanderaa’s favor in the form of a potential takedown and the slight reach advantage/better jab although these items aren’t too important. Nevertheless, this one is in split decision territory so we need to consider everything. I will be pulling for the heavyweight legend to get another win but I think his luck might run out.