Saturday, January 25th, 2014, Cleveland’s own Stipe Miocic will return to the octagon for possibly the biggest fight of his career versus Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga. Gonzaga (16-7 MMA, 11-6 UFC) is coming off career resurgence with his 5-1 record since returning to the UFC. The Brazilian born heavyweight has finished all his opponents in his 5 wins since returning to the biggest MMA organization in the world. Gonzaga’s last two victories were first round knockouts of Shawn Jordan and Dave Herman respectively. “Napao” has some of the best finishing ratios in the history of the UFC and most Croatians would remember him from the devastating head kick knock out of Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic.
Miocic (10-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) on the other hand is coming off a victory in a one sided clinic he put on against top ten ranked Roy”Big Country” Nelson. The Croatian showed big improvements in that fight and showed the world why he is one of the top heavyweight prospects and belongs in the top ten. A win in this fight against a former number 1 heavyweight would cement Miocic’s top ten ranking and a top 5 opponent would most certainly be next. Stipe Miocic is the best Croatian athlete we have seen in combat sports since the emergence of Mirko CroCop in the Pride Fighting Days. Miocic may also have revenge on his mind, as Gonzaga did almost decapitate his idol in Filipovic.
“He’s a tough dude,” Miocic admitted. “He’s fought ‘Cro Cop.’ He fought Couture for the title. He’s a tough guy.”
“Every fight you have to bring it like it’s the biggest fight of your career,” Miocic told MMAjunkie. “I’m excited for it. I’ll be ready.”
This fight is very interesting as both combatants are looking to climb the division and possibly earn a title shot in the future. They are also at very different spots in their respective careers. Gonzaga has been to the dance once before losing to Randy Couture in a heavyweight title fight and then later being released by the UFC. The Brazilian has returned and is looking to make one final run to the heavyweight holy grail. Miocic is quite new to the sport but has made quite an impact since arriving. The Croatian was one of the most talked about and talented heavyweight prospects to enter the UFC in a while. The Cleveland native dismantled his first 3 opponents inside the octagon and suffered his first career loss to Stefan Struve before returning with vengeance against Roy “Big Country” Nelson.
The Man with Adriatic blood will need to use his superior athleticism and stand up in this fight. Miocic has better movement inside the cage and is a lot quicker then Gonzaga. The Brazilian does have one punch/kick knockout power standing but if Miocic can use his angles and speed to his advantage he should be able to avoid Gonzaga’s power. The big question mark is if the fight gets to the ground. Gonzaga is a superior BJJ practitioner and is very aggressive with his submission attempts. We have yet to see Miocic on his back against a very good submission grappler and do not know how he would fare on the mat with Gonzaga. Stipe is a more decorated wrestler so if he can work his ground and pound from the top position he may be very successful with that, but being cognizant of the submission attempts by the Brazilian. This fight can go to either combatant Saturday night but one thing for sure is the victor will put the heavyweight division on notice.
The Crippler’s prediction for Saturday night’s bout is that Stipe will use his superior footwork, angles and boxing to frustrate Gonzaga. This would force the Brazilian to chase Miocic around the cage and lead to a unanimous decision for the Croatian over a battered Gonzaga. The Croatian Crippler will be in attendance in Chicago for the event so look for articles and interviews prior to the event.
UFC on Fox 10 from Chicago’s United Center will be broadcasted in the USA on Fox and in Canada on Sportsnet 360.
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