Since his epic knockout of Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga Nogueira has faced very stiff competition, winning only three of his last six fights, and Junior dos Santos (10-1) will be no exception to this trend come UFC Live: Vera vs. Jones.
On Sunday, Gonzaga, 30, will have the chance to once again put himself atop the heavyweight division with a win over dos Santos in a fight that no one expects to go to a decision. The fight is scheduled as the co-main event of the evening at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colo.
Gonzaga is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Wander Braga, and holds championships in ADCC, CBJJO, Mundials and World Jiu-Jitsu Championship tournaments. In addition to being an accomplished grappler, Gonzaga is an elite muay thai practitioner: making him a very versatile fighter.
Currently holding a professional MMA record of 11-4, Gonzaga has won five fights by knockout or TKO, and the remaining six by way of submission. He has never had a bout reach a decision in his MMA career.
Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Gonzaga developed his MMA skills training at the Chute Boxe Academy and Macaco Gold Team. He now trains under Marco Alvan at Team Link in Ludlow, Mass. Formerly Macro Alvan BJJ, Team Link changed its name with the addition of Gonzaga in 2006.
In the co-main event of UFC 96, Shane Carwin (11-0) handed Gonzaga the first knockout defeat of his career. Gonzaga started the fight out strong, landing an overhand right and two right crosses that rocked Carwin, breaking his nose and forcing him to clinch. Gonzaga quickly took down Carwin and landed some ground and pound.
Carwin got back to his feet in about 20 seconds and quickly landed a jab-cross combo that left Gonzaga out cold at just 1:09 into the first round. The knockout loss, although his first, revealed a weakness in the chin and standup game of Gonzaga. This factor could come into play in his next fight, especially considering that eight of dos Santos’ 10 fights have ended by knockout or TKO, including all four of his fights in UFC competition.
In his next fight, on the undercard of UFC 102, Gonzaga made quick work of UFC newcomer Chris Tuchscherer (18-2). After a stoppage due to a low kick to Tuchscherer, Gonzaga quickly landed a head kick, which dropped his opponent. He swarmed the downed fighter with ground-and-pound until the referee called for a TKO stoppage at 2:27 into the first round.
Gonzaga’s devastating kicks proved pivotal in his last fight, as they have in the past, and this technical advantage from the standup could prove extremely effective in his fight with dos Santos. However, dos Santos’ heavy hands are just as much of a threat if not greater from the standup. Dos Santos has also never been to a decision in his MMA career.
Dos Santos, a brown belt in BJJ, has yet to be tested on the ground in his UFC career. Gonzaga, the more experienced grappler, should have a clear advantage in the ground game should the fight turn into a grappling match. Gonzaga will likely force the fight to the ground if he gets rocked early on.
UFC Live: Vera vs. Jones will air live on Versus at 9 p.m. EST