For Gonzaga, a win over the undefeated Carwin could put him in a position to fight for the heavyweight title again. For Carwin, this fight represents the first true test of his career against a bonified heavyweight.
It has been peaks and valleys for Gonzaga since his shocking knockout upset win over Mirko Cro Cop in April 2007. After giving Cro Cop a taste of his own medicine in his UFC debut with a devastating kick to the head, Gonzaga suffered a grueling loss at the hands of the legendary Randy Couture in his challenge for the heavyweight title.
Despite breaking Couture’s arm with one of his trademark kicks, Couture simply imposed his will on Gonzaga en route to the third round stoppage. The loss had a reverberating effect on Gonzaga. He was beaten in TKO fashion by Fabricio Werdum for the second time. Gonzaga has since rebounded with a pair of first round wins over Josh Hendricks and Justin McCully improving his MMA record to 10-3.
The 1999 NCAA Division II heavyweight champion Carwin has mauled his cast of MMA opponents so far. He is a perfect 10-0 with all 10 wins coming by way of first round stoppages. A win for Carwin against Gonzaga could put him in line for a heavyweight title shot as well.
Carwin’s style is simple yet punishing. Ground-and-pound is the name of the game. As usual the 6’3, 262 pound Carwin will have a size advantage over his opponent on Saturday. Although Carwin has proven that he can finish fighters in the stand-up position with his fists, he’ll want to take Gonzaga down to the mat and try to overpower him with his size and strength. Carwin will want to spend a lot of time watching video of the Couture-Gonzaga fight. He’ll want to apply the same style that Couture used to limit Gonzaga’s strengths.
Gonzaga, who is more versatile, will apply his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu mastery in both stand-up with his crushing kicks or submission techniques on the ground. This versatility and overall ring savvy may be the difference in the fight. However, if Carwin can manage to close down the distance between him and Gonzaga he’ll have a legitimate chance to pull out the win.
Gonzaga’s submission techniques are a big strength, but he may opt for more stand-up against the powerful Carwin. Gonzaga is the safe pick in this fight, most likely in the form of a late stoppage. But watch out for Carwin regardless. Are there many more heavyweights as big and strong as Carwin in the UFC outside of Brock Lesnar? Not that I’ve seen. As for Gonzaga, if he defeats Carwin he’ll be paying a lot attention to the Lesnar vs. Frank Mir rematch.