Travis Browne vs. Gabriel Gonzaga Head-to-Toe Breakdown
Travis Browne missed out on a big opportunity when he injured his knee mid-fight and went on to lose to Antonio Silva.
Silva went on to defeat Alistair Overeem and now finds himself scheduled to challenge Cain Velasquez for the UFC heavyweight title. While it's hard to say what the outcome of his fight with Silva would have been had he not suffered an injury in the opening round, Browne certainly had to feel sick when it was announced "Bigfoot" would be competing for a UFC championship.
Browne is now healed, though, and will be able to focus on getting himself back in position to contend for the UFC heavyweight belt. On Saturday, he will meet former UFC title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga, who has rebounded from a temporary retirement to once again become a noteworthy player in the heavyweight division.
Let's take a look at whether Browne or Gonzaga is more likely to take a step toward title contention.
Aside from his epic knockout of Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic in April 2007, Gabriel Gonzaga hasn't had much success against high-level strikers. Heavy hitters Junior dos Santos and Shane Carwin put Gonzaga away in the first round, while Brendan Schaub bested the Brazilian in a three-round bout that saw both fighters standing for the most part.
While his most recent outing didn't showcase his stand-up skills, Browne is one of the more athletic strikers in the heavyweight division.
The Jackson's MMA product holds a knockout win over Stefan Struve that came via superman punch.
While Browne is an excellent striker on his feet, we haven't gotten to see much of his ground-and-pound. He'll go to the ground if needed, but Browne would much prefer to stand and use his long reach against shorter heavyweight opponents like Gonzaga.
A world-class jiu-jitsu practitioner, Gonzaga has been more focused on working toward submissions when his fights go to the ground. The Brazilian has forced taps from Ben Rothwell and Ednaldo Oliveira in his past two outings, but that doesn't mean he won't look to do damage from the top if that's what Browne gives him.
Gonzaga finished off a wrestler in Chris Tuchscherer with strikes on the ground and is capable of doing the same against a somewhat inexperienced grappler in Browne.
Power and Durability
Browne and Gonzaga possess plenty of knockout power, each earning multiple wins via strikes inside the Octagon.
Both heavyweights have also been stopped themselves, though.
Four of Gonzaga's five UFC losses have ended in knockouts, while Browne just tasted defeat for the first time when he was overwhelmed by the powerful punches of Antonio Silva.
If this fight does stay standing, it's unlikely to go the distance.
Overall Striking Edge: Push
Takedowns and Takedown Defense
While Gabriel Gonzaga is brilliant once he gets fights to the ground, his wrestling could use some work.
The jiu-jitsu ace has only been successful on 51 percent of his takedown attempts. Against a low-ranked heavyweight in Brendan Schaub, Gonzaga was completely shut out in the takedown department.
Though Browne isn't on Gonzaga's level on the canvas, he has found a way to develop his takedown defense to the point where that may not be something he has to worry about. Browne has not been taken down in six UFC appearances, most recently stuffing both of Antonio Silva's takedown attempts.
Control and Escapability
Browne may have an edge when it comes to defending takedowns, but any mistakes in that area could be disastrous.
Should Gonzaga achieve the top position, he's not likely to lose it, as Browne is not accustomed to having to work off of his back.
A single takedown could turn this fight around quickly.
Submission and Submission Defense
Gonzaga may not be the best at dragging opponents to the ground, but once he gets them there, things can get ugly in a hurry for his foes. The Brazilian has four submission wins inside the Octagon, but his renewed focus on grappling make him a threat to pick up several more wins on the ground in the near future.
Although Browne has never been submitted, he's also never been put in a bad spot while fighting off of his back against a submission ace like Gonzaga. His submission defense is somewhat of an unknown at this point, but testing in this matchup is the last thing he'll want to do.
Overall Grappling Edge: Gonzaga
Travis Browne actually only has a handful fewer fights than Gabriel Gonzaga, but those few more fights that Gonzaga does have were meaningful.
A majority of Gonzaga's bouts have taken place inside the Octagon, whereas Browne has just begun to get comfortable with the UFC's way of doing things.
More importantly, Gonzaga has less to prove than Browne, who has been considered a potential contender for awhile now but has been slow to break through.
Gonzaga is may be more experienced and well-rounded than Browne, but he's not the natural athlete that his opponent is.
Browne is lighter on his feet than most heavyweights and holds a reach advantage over just about any fighter in the division not named Stefan Struve. That reach advantage will be important in this matchup, where Browne will want to land from the outside and keep Gonzaga out of range for takedown attempts.
As far as heavyweights go, Browne and Gonzaga shouldn't have too much of a problem with a three-round fight.
Unless this fight carries a ridiculous pace, which it likely won't with Gonzaga biding his time and trying to figure out how to work inside Browne's long reach, conditioning shouldn't be a deciding factor.
Overall Intangibles Edge: Push
The outcome of this fight hinges on the takedown.
If Gabriel Gonzaga can find a way to bait Travis Browne into throwing looping strikes instead of maximizing his range with straight punches, the Brazilian may be the first fighter to take "Hapa" to the ground.
Browne works with one of the best coaches out there in Greg Jackson, though, and will come in prepared to throw down the middle.
Should he fight smart, Browne won't need to keep this fight standing long in order to land a knockout blow to the recently suspect chin of Gonzaga.
Browne defeats Gonzaga by technical knockout in the first round.