In one of the upcoming heavyweight contests for UFC 162 in Las Vegas, Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga will replace Shane del Rosario to go up against Dave “Pee Wee” Herman. Herman has the height advantage over Napao, as well as a more impressive record with more wins and less losses. However, Gonzaga is a fourth-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and has faced many world-class opponents. Although Gonzaga has more losses than his opponent, and has previously been let go from the UFC before, this dangerous Brazilian submission artist is not to be underestimated.
In Gonzaga’s last 17 fights, he has connected with 46% of his strikes and cinched 49% of his takedowns, meaning that about half the time he tries something he is successful. Over half of his game is spent standing up, but when he brings it to the ground he likes to pound on his opponent before finishing them with a submission. With nine submission victories, a 79% takedown avoidance ratio, and 23 passes, his ground game is unquestionably exceptional. His defenses are solid, and he avoids 58% of every attack his opponents throw at him. Although he is coming off a loss, Gonzaga has gone toe to toe with many memorable MMA veterans such as Junior dos Santos, Shane Carwin, Josh Hendricks, Fabricio Werdum, Randy Couture, and knocked out Mirko Cro Cop with a crippling head-kick that won him Knockout of the Year in 2007. Formerly of the famous Chute Boxe Academy in Brazil, his training is second to none. He was the 2006 champion at Mundials, heavyweight black belt GP 2004 champion, ADCC trials Brazil champion, and ADCC 2005 second-place winner. He was also a four-time BJJ national champ and a five-time Sao Paulo state champion. He has grappled with submission legends such as Mustapha al-Turk, Jeff Monson, and Xande Ribeiro, and although his record is sporadic, is more than qualified to be called one of the better heavyweight fighters in the UFC.
Herman, on the other hand, is coming off a three-loss streak, and eager to prove that he still belongs in this promotion. The three men that beat him however are all top-quality fighters: Minotauro Nogueria, Roy Nelson and Stefan Struve. With 17 knockouts and three submissions, he has a very impressive record that generated a significant amount of media buzz when he first hit the circuit. In Pee Wee’s last five fights, he has connected with 58% of his strikes and nailed three out of three takedowns. With 75% of his strikes thrown from the standing position, and a wrestling background from Indiana University, we can see that his style is based on beating his opponents up until he can land a takedown, but he doesn’t like to go to the ground too early. He has bested Don Frye, Kerry Schall, and Ron Waterman, and was also once awarded Fight of the Night. After having fought in Elite XC, Sengoku, and Bellator, he has racked up a significant amount of experience and will definitely be able to put a lot of pressure on Gonzaga.
If Herman performs as poorly as he did in his last three fights, then we can expect this win to go to Napao. Gonzaga’s submission game is far superior, and his striking style is more varied by mixing in kicks and more clinch work. Gonzaga’s standing defenses are statistically better by 8%, and his takedown defense by 16%. Although Herman has more wins, he has fought less big-name opponents, and Gonzaga’s experience against top quality fighters could tip fortune’s scales in the Brazilian’s favor this match.