Charlie Brenneman did what he had to do last night against Erick Silva. He fought through some strikes, fought through the boos of the crowd, and went for takedowns. He pushed Silva against the cage and tried to make it an ugly fight, at least for the four and a half minutes that it lasted until he got choked out.
He really had no other options though. Brenneman was outmatched, as he seems to be whenever he faces top competition.
His Rick Story win aside, Brenneman has never defeated a top competitor. And even that win has a little "what if" hovering over it because Story took the fight on very short notice.
This is in no way intended to denigrate Charlie Brenneman. He’s a very good fighter, and as tough as they come. But he just doesn’t have the skills to reach the next level.
At 31 years old, we’ve probably seen the best that Brenneman has to offer in the UFC. The Story fight was the pinnacle of his career, and with opponents getting better and better, that relegates him to gatekeeper status.
As dreaded as the "gatekeeper" tag may be, it’s not a label without some value. A fighter becomes a gatekeeper when it’s clear he’s peaked, and will not progress any further to the point where he’s considered, even by a stretch, a title contender.
Charlie Brenneman has reached that point.
You could argue that his UFC losses were to Johny Hendricks (potential title challenger), Anthony Johnson (light heavyweight futilely trying to stuff himself into a welterweight’s body), and Erick Silva (the next big thing). No shame in those losses. But that’s exactly what defines a gatekeeper—the consistent inability to defeat top level competition.
Too often "gatekeeper" is used as a pejorative term. Sometimes that’s the intended usage. Not here. Here, it’s simply a harsh reality.
Welterweight is a merciless category. MMAWeekly has Jon Fitch ranked at No. 7. When a fighter the quality of Fitch is No. 7, with a UFC record of 13-2-1, that makes it very difficult for a Charlie Brenneman, with a 4-3 UFC record to ever reach the pinnacle of such a division.
Of course, no fighter wants to accept this dreaded label. Every fighter wants to be a champion, and believes they can be. Becoming a gatekeeper means that dream is pretty much squashed. But eventually, practicality steps in. Being a gatekeeper makes a fighter a benchmark. It means they’re tough enough to validate a young lion like Erick Silva, and as difficult as that may be to accept, it is what it is.
That may conflict with the ego of a professional athlete, understandably, but everyone has got to make a living. And a UFC gatekeeper can earn a decent living.
Charlie Brenneman is a gatekeeper. That doesn’t mean he’s no good. That doesn’t mean he’s done. It just means he’ll never be the UFC welterweight champion. And there’s nothing wrong with that. At the end of the day, he’s still earning a living doing what he loves to do.