By the time Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski met for the third time at UFC 61, theirs had become one of the most notable feuds in the heavyweight division. Their first meeting, at UFC 51, had ended in humiliation for Sylvia, as the Belarusian had dropped him with a punch, then slapped on an Achilles lock for a stunning, 47-second victory. When they rematched 14 months later at UFC 59, Sylvia had returned the favor: Arlovski had knocked Sylvia down early in the first round and things were looking very much like a repeat of the first fight, when Sylvia recovered and short-circuited Arlovski with a short right hand, then pounded him out for the TKO win. At 2 minutes, 43 seconds of the first round, “The Maine-iac” was 1-1 against his nemesis and, more importantly, once again the owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight belt.
The UFC wasted little time in making a trilogy fight, and the two were booked in the main event of UFC 61, on July 8, 2006. In keeping with Sylvia’s status as the most disrespected heavyweight great in MMA history, he entered the Octagon as a nearly 3-to-1 underdog in spite of having knocked Arlovski out just 10 weeks before. Whether that was fair or not was up for debate, but most observers seemed to agree that, considering their first two fights had passed the heavyweight belt back and forth like a hot potato in less than four minutes of total cage time, the third should deliver fireworks.
The fight started off looking likely to deliver on that promise, as the first and second rounds featured aggressive offense on the feet from both men, and each experienced moments of peril. The fireworks were not to last, however, as they action slowed abruptly to a crawl in the third round and remained that way until the end. After the lackluster fifth round, the judges turned in unanimous scorecards in favor of Sylvia; the trilogy—and the belt—belonged to the giant from Down East.
Sylvia would defend the belt once more, keeping Jeff Monson at bay for five rounds at UFC 65, before being dethroned by Randy Couture. However, both he and Arlovski jumped from the UFC to upstart promotion Affliction in early 2008. Arlovski ended up with the last laugh, historically speaking, as he has undergone several career renaissances and remains a viable heavyweight and fringe contender at age 41.