FOX analyst and former UFC middleweight contender “All American” Brian Stann gave MMAWeekly.com his breakdown of the UFC on Fox 10 main card fights. Next up is a key heavyweight match-up pitting Stipe Miocic against Gabriel Gonzaga, who face off Saturday night in Chicago.
Miocic (10-1) had been nearing the title picture on the heels of a 9-0 start, but ran into Stefan Struve, who derailed his momentum. Miocic has since bounced back with a win over Roy Nelson. Already a former UFC title challenger, Gonzaga (16-7) is trying to get back for another shot at the belt, and is currently on a two-fight winning streak, both victories coming by way of knockout.
[Beating Roy Nelson] was huge [for Stipe Miocic]. It wasn’t just the fact that he won that fight. It was how he looked during the fight. He showed a rare kind of athleticism for the weight class against a really good, tough, durable fighter that’s beat a lot of guys.
You know, his loss to Stefan is unique to me because reach, in my opinion, is one of the hardest things to overcome in the Octagon, especially in the striking realm if you’re not a natural wrestler, and Stefan has a lot of [reach]. It’s really hard to overcome that. It’s one of the reason’s why when you look at Jon Jones why in his earlier fights, we all knew he didn’t know anything, but he was making guys look really bad. Now that’s not the case, he’s obviously very well rounded. But that reach is hard to overcome.
Stipe is extremely athletic. He’s fast, he’s strong, and he’s powerful. So I think this could be another huge win, and building off that Roy Nelson hype, now getting himself into the talk of top echelon heavyweights; I think he comes in with a lot of momentum and a lot of motivation in this fight.
Does beating Nelson set Miocic up well for this fight, as Nelson and Gonzaga have some similarities?
There’s no doubt about it. This is a match that favors Stipe. For Gabriel, he’s got to get inside. He’s really got to throw combinations well and get after Stipe a little bit. If you keep your feet planted and allow Stipe to move around you and cut angles and the things he did against Roy Nelson, you’re going to have a tough time. Stipe really showed off that athleticism that made him such a great college baseball player and all the things he’s done athletically.
Gonzaga sometimes has a tendency to stalk his opponents and throw combos, but if you keep your feet planted, it just makes it too easy for Stipe to show mobility that we didn’t necessarily see from him before. It’s gonna be hard. Gonzaga’s gotta integrate his takedowns with his strikes or he’s not gonna finish them against Stipe because Stipe may be long an everything else, he’s a strong guy.
Something we need to see from Stipe when you talk about him getting to that next level of heavyweight fighters is if he is put on his back by Gonzaga, how does he do? Can he get back to his feet? Can he work himself back up? Or is he just a guy who has got a great top game? That’s where I feel Gonzaga has to get this fight in order to win. Barring, of course when you’re talking about heavyweights, the knockout, because when you’re talking about this weight class, a good solid punch from either guy could end the fight.
Is this a crossroads fight for both to reach the upper echelon, to break into fights with the Top 5?
I think that’s exactly why Joe Silva set this fight up. You got both guys are moving up. Gonzaga has been to the top of the heap. He’s fought for the title before. He’s starting to get back on the positive side of the win-loss column again in terms of the UFC. [Stipe] is the kind of guy that he needs to beat to prove that he still belongs; he still deserves to get a shot at top echelon guys, while Stipe, he’s gotta get this win against a guy who has been there. A win would obviously propel Stipe into a big fight. With Gabe coming off two-straight knockout wins, he’s got some momentum going. I think a win for Stipe means something and gets him a fight with a Top 5, 6, 7 guy.
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