One of the stranger sports stories of the past is that of Rick Ankiel. Ankiel became a vital cog in the starting rotation of the 2000 St. Louis Cardinals and as a lefthanded pitcher possessing both velocity (his fastball was in the 95-97 MPH range) and wicked breaking stuff his upside was unlimited. During the Cards run to the 2000 division title Ankiel allowed only 7.05 hits and struck out 9.98 strikeouts per nine innings. As the playoffs began, injuries had decimated the Cards starting rotation forcing Tony LaRussa to use Ankiel as the game 1 starter against the Atlanta Braves and their ace, Greg Maddux. Despite Ankiels youth, however, his stellar regular season performance gave the team cause for optimism. In the course of an inning, it all fell apart for Rick Ankiel’s career as a starting pitcher. In the third inning of game one, working with a 6-0 lead, Ankiel allowed 2 hits, 4 walks and 5 wild pitches before being pulled with two outs. Initially, he wrote it off as a bad outing until history quickly repeated itself in game 2 of the NLCS against the NY Mets. He threw only 20 pitches in that game, 5 of which went past catcher Eli Marrero. For the next several years he tried to fix the control problems that suddenly manifest themselves on baseballs biggest stage but was unable to do so. Compounding the frustration of Ankiel and his team was the fact that his control problems werent physical or mechanical, but strictly psychological.
Andrei Arlovski has experienced the opposite problem”after starting his career as the Belarusian wildman who devastated opponents with his aggressive, free swinging style and KO power he suddenly gained too *much* control. After trading victories with Tim Sylvia and two short, explosive and exciting bouts, a rubber match was scheduled for UFC 61 and during the fight disaster struck: Arlovski all of a sudden became a tentative and boring fighter. The real losers were the fans, and Sylvia/Arlovski 3 is quick to be mentioned when talk turns toward the worst championship bouts in the history of MMA.
Initially, Arlovskis listless performance was blamed on a leg injury suffered during the 2nd round which left him unable to kick or shoot for takedowns. After a layoff of nearly 6th months, Arlovski returned to the octagon and scored a first round KO of overmatched Marcio Cruz. Even with this early stoppage, Arlovski continued to look extremely tentative and nothing like the vampire fang wearing beast that burst onto the MMA scene in the early part of the decade. Another snoozefest ensued at UFC 70, where he decisioned Fabrico Werdum. Arlovskis contract with the UFC was up about this time and Zuffa management quickly made clear that they had no interest in resigning him. Ironically, his last UFC bout”held on the untelevised preliminary portion of UFC 82″may have been his best post Sylvia performance.
During the past few years many questions have been raised about Arlovskis desire to continue his fighting career and several retirement rumors have made the rounds. The premise underpinning this talk goes like this: Arlovski is more interested in enjoying his newfound fame and wealth after his difficult youth and adolescence in Eastern Europe. Hes got more money than hes ever dreamed of and a nice life in his adopted hometown of Chicago. While it would be difficult to blame Arlovski for enjoying the life hes made for himself, this lack of hunger isnt a good mindset for a professional prizefighter.
Arlovski insists that hes anxious to continue his career and has enlisted the services of one of boxings best trainers, Freddy Roach. Roach has been charged with trying to find a middle ground with Arlovski, somewhere between the wildly reckless style of his early career and the tentative, plodding style of his recent fights. Theres even been talk of Arlovski pursuing a career as a heavyweight boxer which makes a good deal of sense. Arlovskis more tactical striking game would serve him well in the sweet science and the wide open heavyweight division means that he could quickly put himself in a position of a contender.
Baseball fans know that the Rick Ankiel saga has taken a positive turn of late. After giving up his pitching career in 2005, Ankiel transitioned to the outfield and has reached the major leagues *again* at his new position. Maybe this is the type of change that Arlovski needs and one that boxing would afford him. Despite a solid fundamental groundfighting base (Sambo, wrestling and BJJ) Arlovski has never shown much of a desire to take the action to the mat. It could also be the case that MMA has passed him by”dont forget that he entered the sport along with one dimensional fighters like Ricco Rodriguez, Wesley Cabbage Correira and Vladmir Matyushenko. While on paper Arlovski has a well rounded game, for all practical purposes hes a standup specialist. Unlike some of the other fighters that the rapidly changing sport has left behind, Arlovski has the youth and the skill set to transition into boxing where his standup skills would serve him well. It could be that Arlovski still has the heart and desire to fight, but needs to change sports to get back to a championship level of competition.
Ross Everett is a widely published freelance sports writer and respected authority on Uk marriage visa World Cup betting. His writing has appeared on a variety of sports sites including sports news and Uk marriage visa sportsbook directory sites. He lives in Las Vegas with three Jack Russell Terriers and an emu. He is currently working on an autobiography of former interior secretary James Watt.
categories: UFC,Ultimate Fighting Championships,MMA,mixed martial arts,fight sports