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Andrei Arlovski staved off retirement with a unanimous nod over Junior Albini at UFC Fight Night 120 on Saturday in Norfolk, Va.

This fight really was make or break for Arlovski, who entered the bout having lost five consecutive times. Facing a top up-and-comer like Albini, who was on a 10-fight winning streak, was an ultimatum for the former UFC heavyweight champion.

Albini and Arlovski couldn’t have been starker in contrast as heavyweights. Arlovski tipped the scale at the weigh-ins at 244 pounds, while Albini was a full 20 pounds heavier, and that was with him barely making weight.

The same held true of their fighting styles. Arlovski was lighter on his feet, showing a lot of movement, working combinations to the body and head. Albini, meanwhile, stood flat footed and plodded forward, launching powerful punches and elbows, and using his massive size to press Arlovski to the cage.

Arlovski used his size, or lack thereof, to his advantage by remaining light on his feet and constantly moving, all the while peppering Albini with punch combinations to the body and the head, deftly avoiding most of Albini’s power, especially early in the fight.

As Albini tired, Arlovski continued to move, and even stepped up his pace a little bit in the final round. He never really threatened to finish Albini, but the Brazilian didn’t ever have Arlovski in much danger either. His power flared on occasion, but he didn’t have the steam to follow up and do much real damage to the former champion, who was a constant ball of motion.

When the judges scorecards were read, Arlovski walked away with a unanimous decision victory and his career intact. Arlovski admitted that he was on the verge of retirement had he not been successful.

“I was feeling the pressure, especially after five straight losses. I said if I’m gonna lose tonight, I’m probably done,” he said in his post-fight interview in the Octagon.

“Hard work paid off tonight.”

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