Ever since washing out of the UFC the first time Gabriel Gonzaga seems to be on a bit of a roll. After a rebound win on the regional circuit, Gonzaga stepped in to take on Junior Dos Santos’s training partner (Ednaldo Oliveira) and delivered what he earns from every famous fighter’s training partner making their debut in the UFC: a stoppage victory. Now, after finishing Ben Rothwell, Gonzaga is riding a three fight win streak and is taking on a prospect that’s had some luster taken off his shine in Travis Browne.
Fight Breakdown: This is a heavyweight tilt that probably won’t go two rounds … but they’ll be two AWESOME rounds, most likely.
Gonzaga’s game is well established right now. He’s got the best BJJ in the heavyweight division and might be the best in the sport; on the ground is not a place you want to be with Gonzaga. He’s got a ton of accolades in sport BJJ and if this was a pure grappling match Browne would be an insanely high underdog. Gonzaga’s power is well known to boot; he’s got some deadly hands to compliment a ridiculously good ground game.
Gonzaga’s comfortable wherever the fight is and has shown in his return to the UFC that he’s willing to use his ground game, and not just roll the dice in a kickboxing match. He was willing to drag Rothwell to the ground, something he hadn’t shown in his first stint in the UFC towards the end. And that’ll probably be his game plan going in; Gonzaga has a decided advantage on a ground game and that’s where he’ll win.
Standing it’s much more even than you’d think. Gonzaga has a good technical base with some fight ending power whereas Browne is more applied brute force than technical prowess. He throws a lot of straight punches and that’s where he can finish the fight. Browne needs one opening and he can put Gonzaga down. He’ll need to use his height and reach to keep him at a distance, setting him up for a big kill shot.
If the fight gets to the ground Browne is capable of holding his own but he can’t turn this into a NAGA match, either. He can’t let Gonzaga do anything more than suffocate on the ground; he has to get (and keep) top position, can’t let Gonzaga work anything substantial off his back and has to grind him on the ground at all times. Browne’s sheer size on top of Gonzaga will do more damage than any punch he can throw; if he can tire Gonzaga out by making him carry his weight he’ll do more damage than anything he can do in top position.
Why it matters: Both guys are in nearly the same spot: right on the cusp of being back in the mix.
Browne was considered a potential title challenger sooner than later after running off a substantial undefeated streak. The loss to Bigfoot Silva isn’t as damaging as it could be in retrospect; Bigfoot stopped Alistair Overeem in dramatic fashion as well and is now fighting for the title. Getting knocked out by a title challenger in the same year he challenges for a title doesn’t look as bad. Browne, with a big win here, could get right back to where he was before the Silva fight. He’s a prospect who’s not quite graduated to contender status yet; he’s running out of time to make that leap and it starts with a win here.
For Gonzaga this is an improbable final run towards one more title shot. He’s been in the game for a long time and if he ever wants a crack at the title again, after a dominant loss to Randy Couture in his first shot, he has to win here to keep the dream alive. A win here puts him at 3-0, potentially with three straight finishes, and he could get the winner of JDS/Mark Hunt in a title eliminator due to the shallowness of the heavyweight division or even a title shot depending on what happens between now and UFC 160. The key thing is that he has to win, nothing more.
Tags: Gabriel Gonzaga, Mixed Martial Arts, The Ultimate Fighter Season 17 Finale, Travis Browne