UFC 142: Gabriel Gonzaga Makes His Octagon Return in Rio

Alex BallentineFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2012

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 21: A victorious Gabriel Gonzaga of USA walks off after defeating Mirko Cro Cop of Croatia in a Heavyweight bout of the Ultimate Fighting Championship at the Manchester Evening News Arena on April 21, 2007 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Gary M. Prior/Getty Images)
Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

UFC 142 is stacked with intriguing stories. Featherweight champion Jose Aldo is facing the toughest test of his career. Anthony "Rumble" Johnson will make his much-anticipated middleweight debut. Brazil will play host to its second UFC event in the last year.

Perhaps the most intriguing story is the return of a former UFC heavyweight title challenger—Gabriel Gonzaga.

The inconsistent Gonzaga was once a highly-touted prospect in the organization who even fought for the title against Randy Couture in 2007 after his upset victory over Mirko Cro Cop.

After posting a pedestrian 3-5 record after the win over Cro Cop, Gonzaga was cut from the organization and largely forgotten as a serious threat in the division.

With heavyweight Rob Broughton a late scratch in his scheduled matchup against UFC newcomer Edinaldo Oliveira, Gonzaga became an obvious injury replacement for the UFC and got the call.

With the addition of the Strikeforce heavyweights coming, the heavyweight division landscape will dramatically change in 2012. If Gonzaga plans on ever being relevant again, he will need to capitalize on the opportunity.

Gonzaga's opponent, Edinaldo Oliveira, won't be an easy out.

Oliveira has an impressive 13-0-1 (1 NC) record while fighting exclusively in Brazil. Oliveira has the power to pull off an upset knockout of his own and will force Gonzaga to use his impressive jiu-jitsu to win the fight.

Will UFC 142 be Gonzaga's first step back to relevance? Or his last stand in the organization?