by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
When Gabriel Gonzaga stepped into the Octagon for the first time to face Kevin Jordan, both fighters were complete unknowns to the MMA world.
After a performance that was downright painful to watch, Gonzaga did manage to pull off a knockout late in the third round, earning him a victory in the UFC, but not gaining many new fans after the lackluster performance.
What many people didn’t know about Gonzaga going into the bout was that just weeks prior, he had lost a child. Not once did the Brazilian fighter make excuses or drop out of a fight that could mean a secure future for his family.
While UFC color commentator Joe Rogan mercilessly ripped both Gonzaga and Jordan for their performances during the bout, fans had much of the same opinion. Shortly thereafter, Gonzaga was relegated to the preliminary fights prior to the pay-per-view broadcasts.
In his second performance, Gonzaga, who currently trains out of Marco Alvan’s gym in Massachusetts, showed fans that he was much more than the fighter they saw six months earlier in his debut.
The 6’3″ heavyweight followed that up by taking out another Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter in Fabiano Scherner; this time by TKO in the second round. He then went on to show his submission skills by tapping out previously undefeated Carmelo Marrero with an armbar midway through the first session in their bout.
Gonzaga wasn’t necessarily rewarded for his efforts by the UFC moving him back onto the main card, but instead he was thrust into a main event fight with Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic, a fighter widely seen as the most dangerous striker in all of MMA.
The odds seemed impossible for Gonzaga to overcome and it almost looked like he was being set up as a sacrificial lamb being sent to the slaughter against the former Croatian special forces unit member.
Instead of rolling over in defeat, Gonzaga instead pulled off one of the biggest upsets in MMA and UFC history by knocking out the perennial top five heavyweight by a devastating head kick late in the first round.
Going into the fight, it seemed the only person outside of Gonzaga’s camp picking him to win was UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture, who said from the beginning that he believed the bout was a bad match-up for Cro Cop. Afterwards, it seemed like the ageless champion was nothing short of Nostradamus.
Now the prolific champion will get his chance to see if he can figure out what Cro Cop could not when he faces Gonzaga on Saturday night.
Gabriel Gonzaga brings a world-class jiu-jitsu game into the fight with Couture and has obviously shown that he has stand-up to compliment his ground fighting.
The Brazilian has been on an unbelievable ride over the last few months, taking out the former Pride Grand Prix champion and now getting a shot at UFC gold.
Currently, most oddsmakers have Gonzaga as a very slight favorite over Couture, although it seems it will likely be a toss-up come fight night in Las Vegas.
Can Gonzaga pull off another huge win that could catapult him to possibly being considered one of the top 2 or 3 heavyweights in the world while putting a heavyweight title around his waist?
It’s almost certain that Gonzaga faced the toughest adversity a fighter could ever come to grips with – losing a child – in his first bout in the UFC and a title fight should be easy compared to that.
Gabriel Gonzaga will get his chance to prove he belongs in the upper echelon of the heavyweight class when he faces champion Randy Couture in the main event of UFC 74 this weekend.