Select Page


Brazilian heavyweight Junior Albini is ready to move on from a unanimous-decision loss to Andrei Arlovski, but he’s not above acknowledging the mistakes he made there.

Albini was off to a hell of a start in the UFC. Having fought mostly on the local circuit by then, the then-unbeaten heavyweight came into his UFC on FOX 25 meeting with Timothy Johnson an unknown, but a massive first-round knockout guaranteed he didn’t leave that way.

The attention was enough to grant the then-26-year-old a stab at a former UFC champion in Arlovski, who remained a big name despite the five-fight skid he was riding. Albini had always admired Arlovski, but, at the time, he told MMAjunkie that he was trying to see the veteran as if he was just any other opponent.

Now, as he prepares for a UFC 224 meeting with Aleksei Oleinik (55-11-1 MMA, 4-2 UFC), Albini (14-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC) admits he couldn’t quite ignore Arlovski’s name value going in.

“I think my approach and my gameplan to win the fight were a little off,” Albini told MMAjunkie. “I let myself get carried away. I wanted to knock out an ex-champ in Andrei Arlovski and make my name bigger in the promotion. I believe I should have fought more loose, instead of building my gameplan toward knocking him out – which, clearly, didn’t happen.”

The word Albini uses is “frustration.” Having finished all but one of his pro bouts up until that point, he came into UFC Fight Night 120 fully expecting to be able to dispatch Arlovski – who, in turn, had been finished in four of the five losses of the skid he ended that day.

“I ended up forcing the knockout, and wasting too much energy on that,” Albini recalled. “I held back, waiting to land the right blow.”

With that lesson learned, though, it’s on to the next one. And that is yet another experienced, battle-tested veteran in Oleinik, whom Albini meets this Saturday, at Rio de Janeiro’s Jeunesse Arena, in an FX-televised preliminary card bout.

Albini has a few reasons to be feeling good about that one. For starters, location: While some fighters claim to not really perceive the home factor as a considerable advantage, that isn’t the case with Albini. Before his two UFC outings, both of which were abroad, Albini had contested all but one of his professional MMA bouts in Brazil.

Although language doesn’t really seem to be a problem for the fighter, who’s given interviews in fluent English, he does see the perks of fighting close to home. There is, of course, the energetic Brazilian crowd. There’s the familiar food and timezone. And there’s the only having to cram his considerable heavyweight frame into a short, 70-minute flight – rather than a long, international one.

Regardless of outside conditions that might help him, though, Albini has made sure to help himself as well.

“This time, I had a lot of time to plan and to bring in the right people,”Albini said. “Despite Alexei’s unorthodox positions on the ground, it’s a little easier to get people that emulate his game. He’s more of a brawler on the feet, and Brazil has a lot of people who are good on the ground.

“My weight is relatively low, so that I don’t have problems with that like I did with Arlovski. Everything’s working toward a positive result.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to break down Oleinik’s main asset. If “The Boa Constrictor” nickname isn’t telling enough, just take a look at his extensive, submission-filled record. Albini, clearly, is aware of that. But, despite having presented proof of his knockout power, Albini isn’t looking at this as a clear-cut style vs. style matchup.

“In no way do I feel like this fight is going to come down to my going for the standup and him going to the ground,” Albini said. “I think he has the resources to trade with me on the feet. He’s a tough guy, who likes to fight. Of course, he has good ground, but I also believe in my ground game, and I also believe I can surprise him.

“I think it will come down to what happens there, to who’s able to better impose the game on the feet and in the grappling.”

We’ll see who comes out on top of that one. But here’s one thing Albini can predict with more accuracy: After accidentally putting together that iconic look that has sparked both nice and not-so-nice jokes, he’s parting ways with the diaper-shorts.

“On Wednesday, when we try things on, I will be sure to make it as comfortable as possible so that doesn’t happen again,” Albini said.

For more on UFC 224, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.