Gabriel Gonzaga has compiled a 4-5 record since fighting for the UFC title in 2007. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Gabriel Gonzaga (13-6, 8-5 UFC) vs. Ben Rothwell (32-8, 2-2 UFC)
The Matchup: After gasping for air in a unanimous decision loss to Mark Hunt at UFC 135, Rothwell looked like a new man in his last outing, knocking out Brendan Schaub in 70 seconds in April. The former International Fight League standout appeared to be in much better shape than in previous Octagon appearances, and he credited a revamped training regimen and lifestyle changes for the improvement.
Gonzaga returned to the promotion for the first time since October 2010 at UFC 142, where he submitted Ednaldo Oliveira with a rear-naked choke in the opening frame. “Napao” quickly rose up the heavyweight ranks after his stunning knockout of Mirko Filipovic more than five years ago, but the Brazilian’s tendency to abandon his grappling has proven to be his undoing against superior opposition.
While Rothwell took advantage of a careless Schaub with a counter left hook, the Wisconsin native is generally a methodical competitor who does his best work by bullying foes against the fence and wearing them down on the mat. The 31-year-old has decent hands, but his standup defense can be exposed; Schaub had him backpedaling early after rocking him with an elbow at UFC 145.
Gonzaga can do damage with hard leg kicks, but the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt would be wise to try and get his opponent to the canvas instead of engaging in a standup brawl. Rothwell is a capable grappler, but most of his submission victories have come from top position, and he will not be able to control Gonzaga on the mat. Conditioning could play a role if the bout does not end early, as both Rothwell and Gonzaga have shown a tendency to tire late in fights. Rothwell’s newfound conditioning could prove to be the difference if he is able to avoid being submitted.
The Pick: After a fairly spirited beginning, the contest slows to a crawl, as Rothwell attempts to assert himself in tie-ups. The American eventually wears Gonzaga down to earn a decision victory.
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