Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight hitters, Gabriel Gonzaga and Shawn Jordan, went to war on the pay-per-view (PPV) main card of last night's UFC 166 from Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
Both fighters had momentum on their side after winning their previous mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts via knockout. Gonzaga and Jordan are known for their propensity to throw heavy leather and deliver action-packed bouts for combat sports fans everywhere.
Beyond that, however, the similarities stop.
Gonzaga is a former UFC title challenger who has 18 bouts in the Octagon under his belt. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt possesses a myriad of ways to submit his opponents, but last night he recorded his second straight striking stoppage to win five out of six bouts. The only blemish on his record during that span was a controversial loss to a series of vicious Travis Browne elbows this April.
Jordan was more of an up-and-coming prospect with four previous UFC bouts to his name. He went into Houston having finished three of those bouts via strikes. Jordan's last victory was a quick knockout of dangerous kickboxer Pat Barry at UFC 161. The former LSU Tiger was looking to make a statement with a win over "Napao," hopefully announcing his presence in the UFC heavyweight division.
Unfortunately that scenario didn't play out for Jordan. When you are a power-slugging heavyweight in UFC, you either live or die by the sword. Jordan felt the crushing pain of the latter in Houston last night. Let's break down "Napao's" crushing victory:
The two fighters began the bout with a sort of feeling-out process, exchanging a few cautious strikes on the feet. It didn't take long for the action to reach the entire pace it needed, as Gonzaga caught Jordan with a huge counter right hook as he rushed in. Jordan immediately crumpled to the mat, leaving a few Gonzaga hammerfists to seal the deal.
This fight wasn't expected to last long - and it delivered on that promise in a big way.
The victory was another much-needed shot in the arm for Gonzaga, who's shown a balanced attack in finishing his last five wins in the Octagon. The knock on "Napao" has always been his chin; it tends to fail him against top UFC heavyweights. He's fought the best 265-pound fighters in the world throughout his career, rarely having his hand raised at the end.
He does have a legendary highlight reel knockout over Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, but that fight was over six years ago. Gonzaga fell into a slump after his failed title bid against Randy Couture, even being released from UFC at one point. He's regained a ton of lost ground with his recent success. At some point, he's going to need another signature win over a top-ranked fighter to truly be considered a legitimate contender at heavyweight.
Jordan will experience a slide down the pecking order after his decisive loss. It's a discouraging setback for Jordan, who has worked hard to erase the bad memories of his lackluster loss to Cheick Kongo at UFC 149. Jordan undoubtedly has the power to knock out almost any fighter in the world - but now his own chin may be a problem area for him. He'll need to go back to the drawing board to refine his striking defense so he doesn't leave himself that open to damage his next time out. Jordan still has a lot of value thanks to his fight-changing knockout power -- he'll likely find himself fighting an opponent that's just outside the top 15 heavyweights.
Gonzaga delivered a big knockout that added to the massive excitement of the entire UFC 166 main card. He declared his intentions to seek out another title shot during his post-fight interview. There's still a long road to travel if that's his ultimate goal, but you can't argue with "Napao's" recent results. With a bulldozer like Cain Velasquez ruling over the UFC 265-pound landscape, Gonzaga's ability to take a punch will always be his Achilles' heel. He's looked great as of late; we'll see if he can continue the run against stiffer competition.
Gabriel Gonzaga continued to impress in his second UFC run by knocking out Shawn Jordan. Can he do the improbable and claw back to another heavyweight title shot?