Two UFC veterans look to climb their way back into Heavyweight contention on the main card of The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale. Travis Browne (13-1) suffered his first professional loss at the hands of Antonio Silva, who is set to challenge for the UFC heavyweight title in May. Fighting out of Jackson's MMA, Browne has been a heavyweight prospect for some time, but now at 30-years-old it is time for Browne to either move towards title contention or a role as a gatekeeper.
Gabriel Gonzaga knows something of that fork in the road as he has faced it several times. A UFC veteran since 2005, Goznaga has faced many of the best heavyweights in the sport and has served as a gatekeeper to the stars. But with a win this Saturday, Gonzaga's current winning streak would grow to four straight fights and he might punch his own ticket to an upper-level heavyweight fight.
Browne is a brawler who has steadily increasing his technique on the feet. Browne does like to throw hands, but he doesn't just stand in the pocket and wing wild shots. Browne throws punches with good power, accuracy, and mixes in body shots. He is a dangerous fighter to stand with, and he charges fighters, pushing them back to the fence. Once he has trapped opponents on the fence he flurries with strikes and if they try to clinch, Browne unloads with knees. Browne is a massive fighter at 6'7" and hovering 250 lbs and he dominates many of his opponents in the clinch, punishing them with knee strikes.
Gonzaga is also a power striker, with one of the most famous knockouts in MMA history to his name. His head kick knockout of Mirko Cro Cop, back when Cro Cop was the most feared striker in the sport, is a highlight that will live forever. As a result it is no secret Gonzaga has heavy kicks, mostly targeted at the legs. Gonzaga also has heavy punches, which he can put together into combinations. Gonzaga has knockout power on the feet, but he tends to leave his chin exposed when he punches, and as a result he can be countered.
Browne showed off a little ground grappling against Chad Griggs, but he had such a massive size advantage it is unclear how much can be taken away from that fight. On top Browne does have heavy strikes, but most of the time he only engages on the ground when he has an opponent hurt. Browne has shown pretty strong takedown defense and ability to get back to the feet.
While Gonzaga is best known for his knock out of Cro Cop, his grappling is by far his best skill. Gonzaga has experience in ADCCs and has translated it well to MMA. Gonzaga has good clinch takedowns, and once on top he is one of the most dangerous heavyweights when it comes to being a submission threat. He passes guard well and once in dominant position he attacks any exposed limb or the neck.
The Match Up
This one is interesting because Gonzaga has shown that he loses to a certain level of heavyweight, but it is unclear if Browne is that caliber of fighter. If Gonzaga gets Browne down, it is very likely he will tap the Hawaiian out. But it is far more likely the size, aggression, and power of Browne is what carries the day.
Fight Prediction: Travis Browne by TKO, Round 2.