UFC 121 Preview Part 1: Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Brendan Schaub

For the history buffs out there Gabriel Gonzaga (11-5; 5KOs, 6SUBs) will always be the man who obliterated Mirko Cro Cop’s dreams of becoming heavyweight champion with a head kick that is still considered one of the greatest knockouts ever. From there he went on to challenge Randy Couture for the heavyweight title at UFC 74. He won Fight of the Night honors but lost the actual bout via third round TKO. Since then he has not been able to work his way back up to main event status. Granted Joe Silva and the UFC booking team have done him no favors as he has had to take on the likes of Shane Carwin and Junior Dos Santos but, especially as of late, he looks like a man who is fighting a losing battle against Father Time. That was most apparent during his most recent setback at UFC on Versus 1 when he looked tired and uninterested allowing Dos Santos to catch him with some heavy hands and knock him out in the opening frame. Now he has been matched against another up and comer, the Ultimate Fighter 10 runner up Brendan Schaub (6-1; 6KOs), in a fight that the oddsmakers are expecting him to win.

If it weren’t for that gigantic right hook thrown by Roy Nelson at the Ultimate Finale 10 Schaub would possess an unblemished record. As it stands today however he holds a 6-1 professional record which includes two lightning fast wins within the Octagon. At UFC on Versus 1 he polished Chase Gormley off in just 47 seconds, and then on the Spike TV prelims for UFC 116 he plowed through Chris Tuchscherer in 67 seconds (winning the ire from angry bloggers who charged him with excessive celebration). Now he has a golden opportunity to earn himself a spot in the upper echelon of the heavyweight division and all he has to do is defeat the older, slower Gonzaga.

Of course nothing would benefit Schaub more than if he were able to hit another violent knockout. That would send the message to the fans and, more importantly, Dana White that he is not somebody to be trifled with. The problem for him lies in getting past Gonzaga’s thick defense which has been honed and perfected throughout his 11 UFC fights. Gonzaga will almost certainly aim to land the match on the mat where he can work his Brazilian jiu-jitsu and submission game. Schaub is no scrub in those departments himself but if the majority of the fight takes place on the ground look for Gonzaga to win over the judges. I see the fight going another way, as I expect Schaub to use his conditioning (which he is very proud of) to run circles around Gonzaga, landing strikes when he can and exploiting Gonzaga’s most obvious weakness. Landing the golden punch is not out of the question but a more likely outcome is a decisive decision victory for the former Colorado Buffalo.

Pick: Brendan Schaub via decision

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