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UFC Fight Night 64 complete fighter breakdown, Gabriel 'Napao' Gonzaga resident fighter analyst Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of UFC Fight Night 64 headliner Gabriel Gonzaga, who will look to defeat Mirko Filipovic for the second time this Saturday afternoon (April 11, 2015) inside the Krakow Arena in Krakow, Poland

Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight title contender, Gabriel Gonzaga, is set to scrap with PRIDE FC veteran, Mirko Filipovic, this Saturday afternoon (April 11, 2015) on Fight Pass from inside the Krakow Arena in Krakow, Poland.

Let me preface this by saying this is by far the strangest UFC main event of the year (and Nick Diaz vs. Anderson Silva happened).

Since these two fighters first battled eight years ago, they've both been cut by UFC. Hell, "Cro Cop" has been cut twice! Considering the fact that Gonzaga's prime was somewhere around 2007, while Filipovic was at his head-kicking best back in 2005, it's pretty miraculous that these two heavyweight powerhouses are set to throw down as the main event in 2015.

Regardless of all the weirdness, let's take a closer look at the skills that have kept Gonzaga inside the Octagon for such a long time.


Gonzaga is a very powerful striker, capable of unexpectedly quick movements. Despite his origins as a submission grappler, Gonzaga grew into a dangerous kickboxer fairly early in his career.

The Brazilian rarely sets up his kicks, but he lands them with power. In particular, Gonzaga is very good at digging his shin into his opponent's thigh. When they land, his opponent is usually knocked out of his stance by the impact.

As Gonzaga proved in his first match with "Cro Cop,"he can go high with absolutely zero warning. Again, there's no real set up here, but the speed and power with which he throws it makes him very dangerous. More recently than his trademark win over Filipovic, Gonzaga set up his finish of Chris Tuchsherer with a switch high kick.

Since his kicks are mostly sporadic, Gonzaga usually relies on power punches to take out his opponents. For the most part, his left hand mostly just gauges the distance and parries his opponent's strikes. Once he's in range, Gonzaga will fire off a straight right hand. Occasionally, Gonzaga will follow up his straight right with a left hook and perhaps a second cross.

Additionally, Gonzaga is very effective with his overhand right. As he throws the strike, he slips his head off the center line, ensuring that his lands more effectively if both men throw.

Gonzaga isn't exactly a refined counter striker, but he does have his moments. In particular, he scored a vicious rip down left hook knockout of Shawn Jordan. Jordan fired off a straight left hand from the southpaw stance, which landed directly on Gonzaga's guard, his left hand to be specific. As the strike landed, Gonzaga brought his arm down -- taking the impact off the punch -- and turned it into a left hook of his own.

Very slick move from the veteran.

More commonly, Gonzaga frequently looks to counter his opponent's low kicks. If he notices his opponent throwing a naked kick, Gonzaga will step through the strike and launch a long strike towards his jaw. Against Miocic, Gonzaga landed some seriously nasty counter punches as Miocic dug into his leg, but top contender's jaw held up. On the other hand, Dave Herman was put down in the first 20 seconds thanks to a wide open low kick.

Gonzaga has been knocked out more than a few times, and his defense is a major part of it. In addition to just being hittable -- Gonzaga's general movement is not very fast or defense-minded -- Gonzaga can get predictable while ducking down. In his last fight, Matt Mitrione tagged Gonzaga as he ducked down and quickly finished the fight.


Gonzaga actually has a Judo background, which shows up on the fairly uncommon occasion that Gonzaga looks for a takedown. While Gonzaga relied on his grappling ability quite a bit early in his career, he doesn't rely on it that often anymore.

When Gonzaga does try to drag the fight to the mat, he usually shoots for a single-leg takedown. From that position, Gonzaga has a number of finishes. For one, he can just muscle through his opponent's base, physically overpowering them to the mat.

"Napao" is a strong dude, after all.

Alternatively, Gonzaga will look to lift the leg high and sweep the remaining leg. Or, he'll lift the leg high and push forward, counting on his opponent's lack of balance to send him tumbling,

Finally, Gonzaga likes to transition into the clinch. Once there, he'll look to overpower his opponent to the mat, usually with a body lock. Overall, none of Gonzaga's techniques are particularly slick, but he's able to force his opponent down anyway.

Gonzaga actually has fairly strong takedown defense. While Miocic got him down briefly, Gonzaga hasn't been taken down outside of that fight since he fought Randy Couture for a UFC title.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

A fourth degree jiu-jitsu black belt, Gonzaga is one of the most talented jiu-jitsu players in the heavyweight division and has found success in high-level grappling tournaments. Despite all that, Gonzaga rarely relies on his jiu-jitsu, which could be in part due to his inability to drag elite fighters to the mat.

Still, Gonzaga has shown in recent years that he's still very dangerous with his chokes. "Napao" doesn't concern himself too much with the positioning, as his squeeze is nasty enough to finish from even unorthodox positions.

In his last submission victory, Gonzaga surprised Ben Rothwell with a guillotine choke. After failing to secure top position for much of the first round, Gonzaga was slowing down. Gonzaga pursued the takedown in the second as well, but Rothwell looked to take advantage of his fatigue by using his own wrestling.

However, Rothwell left his neck out just a bit, and Gonzaga wrapped up an arm-in guillotine. Though he was fatigued, Gonzaga pulled guard and squeezed. Rothwell looked to be in a strong position to defend, but Gonzaga ultimately forced the tap.

In the fight before that -- Gonzaga's return to the UFC after a brief release -- Gonzaga faced lengthy boxer Ednaldo Oliveira. After having some difficulty dealing with his opponent's range, Gonzaga shot in for a takedown and threw him to the mat. As Oliveira went to stand, Gonzaga jumped on his neck for a rear-naked choke, not even bothering to secure the hooks.

Best chance for success

While both men are fairly fragile at this point in their respective careers, meaning either fighter could land a quick knockout, Gonzaga shouldn't look to immediately strike with his opponent.

Instead, Gonzaga should attempt to replicate his success in their first fight. Prior to the head kick, Gonzaga had landed a quick takedown and some hard elbows. When Filipovic did return to his feet, he was very hesitant, setting up the eventual knockout.

Though both men have declined since then, the core match up is still pretty similar. If Gonzaga gets on top early -- and he very likely can -- there's a decent chance he can do serious damage or lock up a submission early. At worst, even failing on the takedown will set up his punches a bit more.

Will Gonzaga be successful in his second match up with the kickboxer, or can Filipovic make a successful return to the Octagon?

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