Junior dos Santos vs. Gabriel Gonzaga: UFC on Versus 1 Preview

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Junior dos Santos vs. Gabriel Gonzaga: UFC on Versus 1 Preview
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

The UFC On Versus 1 event will have already built up an ecstatic buzz in the 1stBank Center through the first nine fights. It's the 10th fight where the huge fireworks are set to detonate.

Colorado fans are in for a treat as former heavyweight contender Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga looks to get back on track against the meteoric rise of Black House prospect, Junior "Cigano" dos Santos.

"Napao," which means big nose in Portuguese, was once in the shoes of dos Santos. He joined the company in 2005, where Gonzaga steamrolled through four straight opponents. The biggest win in that streak came when he defeated Mirko "Cro Cop", ending the Croatian's night in a devastating head kick.

This huge win banished the aura of invincibility that surrounded Cro Cop. It also earned Gonzaga a crack at the UFC heavyweight championship against the much smaller Randy Couture.

Couture implemented his game plan to perfection, and busted Gonzaga's nose very early in the fight. After this, Gonzaga was never able to keep up with the champion and eventually found himself on the ground being punched out by Couture.

After this fight, Gonzaga has been riding a roller coaster of sorts, going 3-2 through his last five fights. It's because of this that people have forgotten how dangerous he really is.

So Gonzaga has experienced the ups and the downs of a typical UFC career. It's usually the losses that make fighters that much more hungry anyways.

Dos Santos, on the other hand, has only experienced the ups in his UFC career. In a similar fashion to Gonzaga, "Cigano" has been wrecking the heavyweight shop since his arrival into the UFC.

Pre-UFC, many people thought that dos Santos would be a submission guy, training under the Nogueira brothers at the Black House gym. Things couldn't be further from the truth though as he has beaten his first four opponents senseless with his lightning-fast hands.

He's been beating down his foes so quickly and effectively that no one has been able to expose any of his weaknesses. Only one of his past UFC fights has gone past the first round, and that was a three round beat-down over Mirko "Cro Cop" at UFC 103.

That will happen when you constantly train with superior strikers such as Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, Jose Aldo, and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.

Heading into this fight with Gonzaga, dos Santos definitely holds the advantage in the hands. His combinations are very quick, and come from the hip as opposed from the shoulder. His punches bring with them knockout power and are some of the most dangerous in the division, despite his smaller frame.

While dos Santos has some very explosive hands, he has yet to mix them up with a number of kicks, which is something that Gonzaga is very good at.

Must we forget that Gonzaga "Cro-Copped" Mirko Filipovic?

Gonzaga has very powerful kicks, and he is great at mixing them up from attacking the legs, the body, and the head.

He has great hands as well. People seem to forget that he clipped Shane Carwin a few times before eating Carwin's extra-large fist. Although he doesn't have hands like dos Santos, Gonzaga has more variety in his striking.

The only reason that dos Santos still holds the advantage in striking is mainly because of his speed. He is much faster than Gonzaga, plus he has the type of footwork to avoid the heavy hands of "Napao."

Additionally, dos Santos is excellent with his head movement. If Gonzaga should miss big on one of his strikes, "Cigano" will make him pay. Most likely with his uppercut of doom that busted up "Cro Cop's" face.

Although he loves to put on a fan-pleasing fight, Gonzaga should look for the clinch as early as possible. The gorilla of a man does have a tough chin, but being knocked out by heavyweight brutes is the only way he has tasted defeat.

Gonzaga should avoid that fire and clinch up with dos Santos as early as possible. Even though dos Santos is tough to control in any clinched position, Gonzaga's extra weight might be able to keep dos Santos away from his most dangerous weapon.

Clinching with dos Santos is walking along the cliff's edge as well. His uppercut of doom is even more deadly if "Cigano" has got a grip on your head.

Dos Santos likely holds the advantage in the clinch. His takedown defense is great, and he will make his opponent pay if there is any space.

Gonzaga's best chance on the feet is to use his size advantage to press dos Santos on the cage, where he can smother him with his weight and wear him down with knees and punches. If he can do this, his size and strength is enough to put dos Santos on the mat.

On the flip side, dos Santos' best chance on the feet is to use his footwork to avoid Gonzaga's clinch. That's easier said than done as Gonzaga is faster than most would expect.

There's a great chance that these two will clinch. Now whether this fight goes to the ground is a different story. Both are excellent at defending the takedown, although we rarely get to see it because of their obsession with striking.

Usually, any ground game we see from each fighter comes after a big strike puts his opponent in a daze. Other than that, fans rarely get to see any ground game from either guy. It's a shame too, considering the credentials of each fighter.

Gonzaga is a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu and is more than capable of finishing opponents by submission with his brute strength. If he can't finish the fight with his hands, he'll do it by submission, as long as it's a finish.

Dos Santos on the other hand is a brown belt under Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Considering that black belts are tossed around like candy from parade floats nowadays, most consider dos Santos' brown belt to be a modern age black belt.

Regardless, until "Cigano" shows what his jiu jitsu is all about, the advantage has still got to go to Gonzaga in that department. But once again, that's if either fighter is on the ground long enough to even dabble with grappling.

It is in this writer's opinion that the only way this fight hits the ground is after a skull-rattling strike.

Whoever lands the strike can finish with their hands in a matter of seconds. Gonzaga has the heavy hands to put people to sleep after one shot while dos Santos has the speed that doesn't let opponents even think about recovering into a better position, let alone send the brain signals required to do so.

It's not completely out of the question, but fans would be delusional if they were expecting anything other than a knockout of some sort here.

Many are jumping on board of the dos Santos boat in this fight, and I'm no different. Expect another first round knockout for Junior dos Santos, but don't be completely surprised if it's Gabriel Gonzaga running around the ring after someone's lights go out.

 

Advantages

Experience: Gonzaga

Training Camp: dos Santos

Range striking: dos Santos

Clinch striking: dos Santos

Takedowns: Gonzaga

Takedown defense: Draw

Submissions: Gonzaga

Submission defense: Gonzaga

Ground striking: dos Santos

 

UFC On Versus 1 Official Picks

Schafer over Brilz

Pierce over Paulino

Schaub over Gormley

Ludwig over Elkins

Roberts over Howard

Matyushenko over Marshall

Guida over Gugerty

Sakara over Irvin

Kongo over Buentello

dos Santos over Gonzaga

Keep an eye out for coverage on the night's spectacular main event between Jon Jones and Brandon Vera.

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