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It's now or never for Andrei Arlovski

Andrei Arlovski has seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows during his MMA career.

The highs include his UFC heavyweight title reign and being one of the promotion’s biggest stars at the beginning of its rise to the top of the mixed martial arts world.

The lows for Arlovski been losses in most of the biggest bouts of his career and attempted suicide.

Over the last three years, Arlovski has embarked on an MMA comeback that will now include his return to UFC and the octagon tomorrow night when he fights Brendan Schaub at UFC 174: Johnson vs. Bagautinov.

Returning to the promotion where his greatest triumphs took place in is a fitting step in Arlovski’s comeback. It also could mark the end of his road back because, let’s face it, what else could Arlovski’s ultimate goal have been other than a UFC return?

It is worth noting that promoters saw enough still remaining in Arlovski’s name and its ties to UFC that they could use him prominently as their promotion was starting up.

In the last three years, Arlovski has fought on the first two ProElite cards, three of the first five World Series of Fighting cards and an early One Fighting Championship card.

Arlovski’s work in Strikeforce combined with the level of opponent he has been given since leaving the UFC/Strikeforce umbrella around three years ago still leaves a lot to be desired, but had their great moments.

For example, when Arlovski faced the most credible opponent of his current comeback, Anthony Johnson, he lost by decision in a bout that saw Arlovski do enough to win a round on the judge’s scorecards, but still get decently beaten up.

During this road back to UFC, Arlovski got to exorcise a past demon somewhat when he fought Tim Sylvia for the fourth time.

On a One FC card in 2012, Arlovski was on his way to a TKO victory over Sylvia when a peculiar rule (since eliminated) about hitting a downed opponent caused the bout to be ruled a no contest when Sylvia couldn’t continue.

In my opinion, Sylvia couldn’t continue more due to the beating Arlovski was in the process of giving him than any specific strike that was on the borderline of being legal or illegal.

Despite Arlovski being 6-1 with one no contest over the last three years, it’s easy to brush it all off by noting that Arlovski wasn’t in UFC for those bouts and they were against lesser competition than he’ll get when he returns to UFC.

Fair enough.

But any who think that way have to remember that any MMA promotion, especially one that is just starting up, has to work within their financial means when it comes to roster. In other words, holding any promotion to the standard that UFC is held to when it comes to the quality and names on their roster, it’s unfair to everyone else.

What Schaub will represent is that the UFC heavyweight division has gone up a level or two all the way up and down its roster since Arlovski last fought in it.

Without a doubt, Arlovski will be walking into a different world than the one he remembers when he last fought for UFC.

Those were the days when The Ultimate Fighter was still something new, when UFC was with Spike TV and were still amassing their unbelievable fortunes.

Now, UFC is the only power remaining in the sport and firmly established as the proverbial gatekeepers to the top of the sport.

But will Arlovski’s punches still have the desired power on them? Is his chin still up to the challenge? Can he still compete against a higher level of fighters? These are the questions that have surrounded Arlovski over the last three years whenever his name is mentioned or whenever he steps into the cage, and are ones that will be answered tomorrow night.

At UFC 174, one fighter’s comeback could begin to become one of the great comeback stories in MMA history or it could be unceremoniously stopped dead in its tracks.

Tags: Andrei Arlovski Mma UFC.

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