At one time Gabriel Gonzaga was one of the most feared fighters in the heavyweight division. With knockout power in both hands, excellent jiu jitsu skills and good size and speed, Gonzaga was destroying his opponents left and right. The head kick knockout of Mirko Cro Cop by Gonzaga will be seen on highlight reels for the rest of time. It was this dominance that earned him a shot at championship gold against Randy Couture at UFC 74. That dominance was nowhere to be seen as Couture had his way with Gonzaga, earning a TKO victory in the third round.
Gonzaga never was the same after his loss to Couture, going 3-4 in his next seven fights and none of his wins came over top competition. Gonzaga’s four losses, however, were to some of the best in the division. He lost to Fabricio Werdum, Shane Carwin, Junior dos Santos and most recently to Brendan Schaub. In his last seven fights, Gonzaga has not looked like the fighter that sat on top of the mountain. He has looked slow and tentative in all of his fights, allowing his opponents to get off first and dictate the pace of the fight. Gonzaga lost his ability to attack his opponent and use his powerful strikes to help set up his take downs, and because of that he is no longer a top-tier heavyweight.
Due to his recent lack luster performances, Gonzaga was released by the UFC yesterday. Gonzaga stated that he was disappointed but not surprised. Gonzaga’s release was expected after he suffered a second straight defeat and three out of his last four. Gonzaga has all of the talent necessary to be one of the best fighters in the world, but he needs to regroup and refocus on the mental aspect of his game. He needs to get back to being the aggressive fighter that wasn’t scared to throw punches and would break your limbs if the fight went to the ground. For now it is up to Gonzaga and only time will tell how he bounces back from this adversity.