The lone heavyweight tilt on tonight's card sees the return of Gabriel Gonzaga to the UFC after being let go in 2010 following a knockout loss to Brendan Schaub. In his return, he welcomes former WFE Heavyweight Champion Edinaldo Oliveira.
Oliveira, a training partner of UFC heavyweight kingpin Junior Dos Santos, is undefeated in 14 professional fights, with eight of his victories coming by way of knockout or technical knockout. Gonzaga, mostly remembered for his epic head-kick knockout of Mirko Cro Cop at UFC 70, has been wildly inconsistent since that landmark victory.
There is a public misconception that Gonzaga is a top striker. While his knockout of Cro Cop is undoubtedly one of the greatest in UFC history, he has actually been finished by technichal knockout or knockout as often as he has been victorious in that manner (five each). With the exception of Cro Cop, he has never knocked out a premier striker.
While Oliveira may not fall into that category, he does have an amateur boxing background, and is very comfortable in the stand-up. Oliveira will be enjoying a sizeable reach and height advantage in this fight, and should be able to dictate the pace.
Gonzaga is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, and in my opinion his best chance an winning this fight is to take it to the ground and work for a submission. There are several problems he may encounter in doing that, however.
For one, Oliveira has above-average takedown defense and rarely has been forced to fight off his back. Furthermore, even if Gonzaga is successful in acquiring a takedown, Oliveira is also a black belt and will not be dealt with easily. Also, it cannot be forgotten that Gonzaga has made a poor habit in the past of getting involved in ill-advised slug-fests, many ending in his opponents favor.
The Play: I feel that this fight will take place mostly on the feet, which I feel will be advantageous to Oliveira. At even money, he is a great value. Also, keep in mind that heavyweight striking matches in MMA rarely go the distance, so I also see some value in Oliveira inside the distance at +172, and as a potential Knockout of the Night winner at +800.