When Gabriel Gonzaga comes to mind, many of us picture a hair Brazilian beast knocking out Mirko Cro Cop with a head kick despite the many blemishes on his resume. Gonzaga is one of the most experienced heavyweights in the UFC, and has a lot to offer the division. But is the time running out for “Napao”? The opportunity that Gabriel Gonzaga will receive against Travis Browne this Saturday could be his last one that puts his name within the top 5 of the division. It’s time to nut up or shut up for Gabe.
Gonzaga’s career started out extremely promising; scoring four straight victories in the UFC (including the KO over Mirko Cro Cop), Gonzaga found himself with a title shit against Randy Couture. Gonzaga would fall short and be finished in the 3rd round by The Natural and would then enter the rollercoaster part of his career. Gonzaga would then go 3-4 in his next seven bouts, until finally he was forced out of the promotion in 2010 and wouldn’t fight for a full year. Gonzaga fought once outside of the UFC, and was invited back in. This return to the Octagon would begin Gonzaga’s most recent streak, consisting of submission victories over Ednaldo Oliviera, and Ben Rothwell. Now, he’s taking on former rising contender Travis Browne for a shot to put his name back in the mix.
This is a very dangerous fight for Gonzaga, as it is for Browne. Gonzaga has lost 5 times in is career to strikes, and it just so happens his opponent is an unorthodox striker who packs a major punch. Stylistically, it’s dangerous for Gonzaga. However, you have to look at what Gonzaga has been doing recently. In the past, Gabe had what many fans call “K-1 Striking Syndrome”, where a fighter scores an impressive knockout on the feet, then continues to repeat the same thing attempting to prove their improved striking game. It didn’t do too well for Gonzaga as he was knocked out by Shane Carwin, and Junior dos Santos on the feet. Recently, Gonzaga has appeared to have gone back to his roots and try out-grappling opponents rather than out-striking. This new method/mind set could potentially bring Gonzaga to the top, perhaps where he should’ve been all along if he hadn’t of filled himself with false confidence in the striking department.
This fight Saturday will tell the MMA world just how much the heavyweight division needs to worry about Gabriel Gonzaga. He is a former title challenger, a BJJ blackbelt, and a very dangerous hairy Brazilian with some mad skills in the cage. Unfortunately, age is not on his side; at 33 years old, and 8 years of fighting experience in the UFC, Gonzaga is not getting any younger. Fighters are estimated to hit their “prime” around the age of 30 years old; if Gonzaga hasn’t hit his prime by now, he won’t ever. This could potentially be Gonzaga’s final charge at the spotlight, so we’ll have to pay attention and see if the MMA Gods will be good to him.