The best MMA card in a long time comes next weekend with the much anticipated tilt between Georges St. Pierre and B.J. Penn at UFC 94. Before we get to that one though, we have the second offering from Affliction this evening. Like the first time, this is a heavyweight friendly card, and it features perhaps the biggest name and most feared fighter in MMA – Fedor Emelianenko. Here’s a quick look at the two biggest fights on the card:
Fedor Emelianenko (-400) vs. Andrei Arlovski (+300) – Emelianenko is a scary, scary man. Either he or Anderson Silva is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and my vote goes to Emelianenko. He has just one loss to his long record, and that came back in 2000. Even that wasn’t much of a loss – he was cut over the eye with an illegal elbow and the doctor stopped the fight. With the obvious and frustrating example of Randy Couture, Emelianenko has fought and beaten most of the top heavyweights out there. At the last Affliction event he thoroughly demolished Tim Sylvia.
Arlovski is a tough fighter in a tough spot. He hasn’t lost in more than two and a half years, and he has five wins notched in that time. He’s almost certainly the best boxer among active MMA heavyweights. That gives him a bit of an edge if he can keep this fight on the feet. Unfortunately, the edge isn’t that significant because Emelianenko can hold his own standing up. Arlovski is strong, hard to take down, effective at getting a submission, very fast, and generally dangerous. Unfortunately for him, Emelianenko is stronger, faster, tougher, better on the takedown, better at earning submissions. In short, he’s just plain better.
I don’t want to give the impression that I’m not giving Arlovski any credit. I think that he is perhaps the biggest test that Emelianenko has faced, and certainly the biggest in quite a while. Until Emelianenko loses, though, I don’t really see how I can pick against him here. The price isn’t great, but it could be worse. I’m not sure I’d bet at that price, but I certainly won’t bet against him.
Josh Barnett (-600) vs. Gilbert Yvel (+400) – The stakes here are big ones – the winner likely will get a shot at the winner of the main event, and there will probably be a belt on the line. Barnett was on his way to being a megastar in the UFC after beating Randy Couture in 2002, but he tested positive for steroids in that match and hasn’t fought in the big leagues since. He’s been in Japan, and he has been at times brilliant – he has won his last three, but he lost two of three before that. If Yvel wins it is almost always by knockout – he has 30 in 35 wins. He has won his last seven straight, but this is a big jump up in class, and I am not at all convinced that he is ready for it. I hate the price, but I don’t see this going any other way than to Barnett.