DISCLAIMER - THIS IS GOING TO BE VERY LONG! (but hopefully interesting.)
While I was watching the fight I think, like most people, I was a bit surprised at how Fedor was handling the first couple of minutes. After rewatching it, rewatching previous fights from both fighters, and reading different opinions of what happened I started to think differently for a few reasons.
First take a look at Andrei's career. Notice that all but one loss are by KO, and several of them are genuine KOs where he is completely unconscious. I wouldn't say that he has a glass chin but history has shown us that a hard shot on the chin will put him away almost guaranteed. Then take a closer look at his fights... He has a history of fighting fairly defensively until he can get an opening, and then when he feels he is in control, he starts swinging wild and leaving himself wide open. It happened in his first fight against Viacheslav Datsik, against Tim Sylvia in the second fight, and again against Fedor. It also happens in several fights that he wins. The rothwell fight, the Nelson fight, it's just that these people turtle up and take the punishment instead of throwing straight down the pipe to capitalize on the openings he leaves.
If he isn't entirely confident though he uses crisp boxing, long reach and incredible speed to keep people at bay as he did against werdum, rizzo, and the vast majority of his fights until he smells blood. Andrei's problem seems to be that when he smells victory he gets over excited, goes into kill mode, and forgets completely about defending himself. Jackelope also pointed out in another thread that he has thrown a couple of flying knees when he gets people backed into the corner of a ring. We didn't see it in an octagon because it's much harder to trap someone in a corner.
All that being said it seems like a trend that Arlovski fights tactically for a period of time, almost always outpointing his opponents, and when he senses victory may be close he tends to let go of his defense completely.
Then let's look at Fedor. One of the things that is unique about Fedor is his ability to come in with a completely different gameplan for each fighter he faces. It seems clear that he studies his opponents and comes up with a specific gameplan for each one. Against Crocop he pushed the action on the feet to prevent him from getting his footing and rhythm, preventing him from being able to use his most powerful weapons. Against Nogueira he completely controlled the fight on the ground, shrugged off all submission attempts and pounded his way to a win both times.
Two things I notice about this:
1. he understands his opponents strengths and weaknesses very well.
2. they are unexpected strategies.
I'm sure that like the rest of us, crocop came into the fight expecting to get taken down. He probably practiced sprawl and brawl tactics to try to catch Fedor on the way out after stuffing takedowns. But those takedowns never came and Crocop didn't know what to do. Similarly Nogueira most likely thought he would want to keep it on the feet and that he would try to get top position by playing it safe and trying to take him down off of a missed strike. Instead Fedor took the initiative and put Nog on his back where his only real option is to repeatedly throw triangles and armbars or work for a sweep. Fedor put himself in a position where he knew exactly what to expect, and so as opposed to trying to avoid nog's ground game he stifled it.
He and his trainers seem to have a far better understanding of strategy than most people realize. They think 3 steps ahead instead of just 1. Why do what your opponent expects you to do when you can take away their main tools in a manner they never considered? If he simply tried to take cropcop down, tried to stand with nog, he is playing to his strengths but doing it in a very predictable fashion. He isn't just outstrategizing people he's doing it by putting them into a situation they never prepared for. He doesn't avoid his opponent's strength, he takes it away from them.
Also take a look at his ring control. Fedor has fought almost all of his fights inside of a ring, and how often do we see him moving towards a corner instead of circling away from them? He spends the whole fight backing into the same corner against Arlovski repeatedly and leading up to the KO instead of using lateral movement to get out of the corner he waits for Andrei to charge him and does this:Fedor Arlovski
Look at how much time and space he has to circle out of the corner. Instead he puts his hands up and shuffles forward in preparation to throw a punch. Like cmill said in another thread, this is classic rope-a-dope... Andrei gets overconfident and throws the exact same knee he threw against rothwell when he backed him into a corner in the only other fight he has fought in a ring instead of a cage.
Seems like a big pile of coincidences to me. Either Fedor is ridiculously lucky with 30 wins or he is meticulously planning each of his fights not only to exploit his opponent's weaknesses, but to do so in a manner they would never expect. Not to avoid his opponent's strengths but to TAKE their strengths away from them.
I really think Fedor was just allowing Arlovski to get overconfident because he knows that that's when he leaves himself completely wide open. I also believe he knew that if he continued standing in the corner Andrei would try to throw another flying knee. If it were any other fighter I would say that he took advantage of an opening when it presented itself, but at 30 wins with most fights ending in the first round and no legitimate defeats, plus a history of in-depth gameplanning... It really seems like this entire fight went exactly according to Fedor and his trainers' plan. Andrei's biggest strength is his clean combos, speed and reach. All of that went straight out the window when he got overconfident and charged head on with a flying knee, it seems like Andrei walked straight into a trap to me. It really looks like Andrei was being fed rope specifically to take his strengths away from him.