Two fighters on different tracks meet this Saturday at "UFC 121: Lesnar vs. Velasquez" when former world title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga meets "The Ultimate Fighter 10" finalist Brendan Schaub in a heavyweight clash. Here is MMA For Real's preview of the fight:
Record: 11-5-0 overall, 7-4 UFC
Key wins: Mirko Filipovic (UFC 70)
Key losses: Fabricio Werdum (Jungle Fight 1, UFC 80), Randy Couture (UFC 74), Shane Carwin (UFC 96), Junior dos Santos (UFC on Versus 1)
How he got here: After getting out to a 4-0 start in the UFC and stunning the MMA world with a head kick KO of Mirko Cro Cop, Gabriel Gonzaga has fizzled since. Gonzaga was unable to capitalize on that momentum, losing back-to-back fights to Randy Couture (heavyweight title fight) and Fabricio Werdum. Gonzaga picked up wins against Justin McCully and Josh Hendricks before losing to Shane Carwin in a minute. He rebounded with a TKO win against Chris Tuchscherer but was knocked out by Junior dos Santos in March. To this point, Gonzaga has been the ultimate heavyweight gatekeeper and has lost to all the top-flight competition he's faced.
How he gets it done: Gonzaga has never been to a decision in his 16-fight career win or lose and has multi-faceted skills winning six fights by submission and five fights by KO or TKO. All five of Gonzaga's losses have come by TKO. Gonzaga has nasty leg kicks that can soften up opponents. He has tremendous power in both his hands (ask Kevin Jordan and Josh Hendricks) and feet (ask Cro Cop and Couture) but his problem has been the mental game. Still, he brings skills that have to be respected by any fighter.
X-Factor: The old cliché says "you can't teach an old dog new tricks." For Gonzaga to be anything more than a gatekeeper in the heavyweight division, he is going to have to shore up his mental game. One of the sport's biggest front-runners, Gonzaga has tended to fold at the first sign of adversity. He will be hit by Schaub, no doubt about it. Can he stay focused and not fold? Another factor here will be Gonzaga's weight. He has generally functioned better in the 248 range. If he comes in at more than 255 pounds, it will severely hamper is ability to be competitive with the quick Schaub.
Record: 6-1 overall, 2-1 UFC
Key wins: Chris Tuchscherer (UFC 116)
Key losses: Roy Nelson (TUF10 Finale)
How he got here: Entering the UFC via "The Ultimate Fighter 10," Brendan Schaub has made a name for himself after suffering a first-round knockout loss to Roy Nelson in the show's tournament final. Schaub has destroyed both Chase Gormley and Chris Tuchscherer in a combined 1:54 with strikes, leading many to wonder what type of potential he has in the heavyweight division. This is a big fight for Schaub, as Gonzaga is no pushover and has challenged for the world title in the past.
How he gets it done: Like Gonzaga, Schaub has never been to a decision, winning all six of his fights by TKO. Schaub is a quick-moving striker who has what could turn out to be a lethal combination of speed and power for the heavyweight division. His ground game, however, is woefully untested. It will be interesting to see how Schaub responds should Gonzaga take the fight to the mat.
X-Factor: How has Schaub's ground game progressed? That is a great unknown in this fight. Gonzaga has very good skills on the mat, ones Schaub likely will have trouble with. Can he keep the fight standing? Will he even need to? Many questions will be answered.
Bottom line: Logic would dictate Gonzaga would want to take this one to the floor. Then again, logic and Gabriel Gonzaga don't always go together. If Gonzaga stands and trades with Schaub, the fight favors Schaub. If the fight goes to the ground, it greatly and significantly favors Gonzaga. Gonzaga will have an interesting decision to make. He badly needs a win. I have serious issues picking Gonzaga here, but the disparity in the ground game combined with a big experience edge leave me picking Gonzaga by first-round submission. I likely will come to regret this pick. It should be noted that of Gonzaga's seven UFC wins, only two have come out of the first round and those were his first two fights at UFC 56 and UFC 60.
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