Gabriel Gonzaga rarely goes the distance. | Photo: D. Mandel/Sherdog.com
HeavyweightsStipe Miocic (10-1, 4-1 UFC) vs. Gabriel Gonzaga (16-7, 11-6 UFC)
The Matchup: Miocic disappointed a lot of fans when he cruised to a unanimous decision over cult hero Roy Nelson at UFC 161. With a win, Nelson would have had bargaining power and a top 10 ranking; instead, it was the superior speed, footwork and conditioning of Miocic that won the day.
The Strong Style Fight Team representative is at a point where it still remains unclear how far he can go in the heavyweight division. His athleticism, mixed with an amateur boxing and wrestling background, makes him as well-rounded as any heavyweight out there. However, despite winning four of his five Octagon appearances, memories of his second-round TKO loss to Stefan Struve still linger. Miocic looked quite hittable in that bout, although he rarely, if ever, is going to encounter a foe with the reach of Struve.
On a given night, most any heavyweight can knock out any other heavyweight. The 6-foot-4 Miocic looks to have the skill set to avoid such catastrophic endings more often than not, even though Gonzaga certainly has the power to put the Ohioan to sleep. In his last outing, the Brazilian knocked out Shawn Jordan with a counter right hook while moving backward. Before that, he stopped Dave Herman in 17 seconds with another big counter right. “Napao” has never been known for his hands, but his timing on punches is clearly improving from earlier in his UFC career.
Facing an opponent with a four-inch reach advantage, Gonzaga would be better served by trying to force clinches and drag Miocic to the mat, where he can put his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt to work. Other than trying to slow Miocic with his powerful leg kicks, Gonzaga needs to avoid trading shots with the American on the feet. Miocic throws crisp, straight punching combinations, works the head and body well and is quicker than Gonzaga.
In five UFC bouts, only three takedowns have been attempted against Miocic. It is Gonzaga’s job to close the distance and wear down his man against the fence. It will not be easy, as Miocic is capable of unleashing short elbows in the clinch, as he did against Nelson. Miocic can also be versatile on the feet, ending his punching combinations with leg kicks or knees; these are far less likely to be countered than a standalone leg kick.
The Pick: Win or lose, rarely does a Gonzaga bout go the distance -- once in 23 career fights, to be exact. Miocic wears down the Brazilian with punching combinations and movement, winning via TKO in round two or three.
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