Browne Has Everything to Prove Against Gonzaga at TUF 17 Finale
A loss inside the Octagon has a tendency to change things about a fighter.
When everything is going smoothly and notches are piling up in the win column, there is no reason to make big adjustments in training. But when the first setback comes, and a fighter watches his opponent's hand raised in victory, confidence is either shaken to the core, or the fires of determination are fueled.
In the latter case, there becomes a greater drive to prove the last performance was a temporary setback on the road to greater things.
And this will be exactly what Travis Browne will be aiming at on Saturday night when he steps in against Gabriel Gonzaga at The Ultimate Fighter 17 finale in Las Vegas.
After suffering the first loss of his professional career to Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva at UFC on FX 5 last October, "Hapa" is looking at his matchup with the Brazilian submission ace as a way to get back into the divisional title race.
"I'm definitely ready to go," Browne said. "I'm more motivated than I've ever been. I'm more confident than I've ever been. I'm going out there to make a statement.
"Coming off a loss and a disappointing performance like my last fight, you really want to get out there and show people what you are really capable of. I want to make a statement in this fight and show the rest of the heavyweights in the division that I'm better than my last performance and show them what I'm all about."
While Browne is looking to get back on the winning track, his opponent on Saturday also knows a few things about resurgence.
After years spent as one of the top heavyweights under the UFC banner, "Napao" was released by the promotion following a two-fight skid.
The 33-year-old former No. 1 contender has made the best of a second chance with the UFC thus far as Gonzaga has earned back-to-back victories since his return to the Octagon.
That being said, there is a bit of "gatekeeper" stigma which follows Gonzaga around as the fighters who have defeated him have gone on to upper-tier status, while those how have lost have slowly faded into heavyweight obscurity.
While Browne doesn't necessarily agree with the "Gonzaga Theory," he does see the bout as an excellent opportunity to validate his place in the divisional hierarchy.
"I think this is a great fight to prove I belong with the best in the division," Browne said. "I don't really agree with the idea that the guys he's beaten aren't ready to be top-tier fighters because he has some solid wins under his belt. Also, I think he's back to his old form and in a good way. He's not just a one-dimensional fighter. He stands up with guys and then tries to take the down. He has been mixing it up and I'm really looking forward to the competition.
"I'm coming into this fight in old form. I'm coming forward and being aggressive. I'm definitely going back to some of my roots and coming out and pushing forward. I'm going to try to knock his head off."
From a stylistic standpoint, the matchup between Browne and Gonzaga appears to be a classic striker versus grappler tilt. In past bouts under the UFC banner, the 30-year-old Hawaiian has displayed put away power as he's pounded out the opposition on several occasions.
On the other side of the coin, Gonzaga brings top-level jiu-jitsu skills to the table but is also proven to have knockout power as well.
There hasn't been one of Gonzaga's 14 Octagon appearances that have gone to the judges cards. In fact, despite having one of the best ground games in the heavyweight division, Gonzaga has more TKO/KO finishes than submissions during his time with the UFC.
That type of diverse resume has Browne ready for anything that comes his way and he believes Gonzaga will be a great test to every aspect of his skill set.
"I think this fight has the capability to go anywhere," Browne said. "[Gonzaga] could definitely get a takedown, but at the same time, I could stuff his take downs as well. We are going to be prepared and ready for wherever this fight goes.
"I've been doing a lot of training from off my back and training from inside the guard. I've done a lot of work with Frank Mir, Andrei Arlovski, Jon Jones, and all of those guys at Jackson's. They have all helped me prepare for any of the bad positions I could be put in. I'm more than confident I will get it done on Saturday night."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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