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UFC 102:

Gabriel Gonzaga looking to add a little excitement to his game

Heavyweight contender trying to climb back up the ranks after loss to Shane Carwin

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Sam Morris

Heavyweight Gabriel Gonzaga growls for the camera after his TKO of Josh Hendericks in the first round of their bout at UFC 91 Saturday, November 15, 2008 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Gabriel Gonzaga’s most famous UFC moment came when his stunning high kick knocked out Mirko "Crocop" Filipovic in the first round of their bout at UFC 70.

While a lot has changed for the 30-year-old Brazilian since that April night in 2007 in Manchester, England, Gonzaga believes he’s got plenty of big moments left in him and hopes to show off the first one against Chris Tuchscherer Saturday night at UFC 102 in Portland, Ore.

“I think to get back to the top you just got to go out there and train hard and hope to score a couple of exciting knockouts or submissions that brings you attention,” said Gonzaga, who brings a 10–4 mixed martial arts record into his bout at the Rose Garden Arena.

After suffering back-to-back TKOs in the aftermath of his exciting win over "Crocop," Gonzaga climbed back up the heavyweight ranks with a submission win over Justin McCully at UFC 86 and a knockout of Josh Hendricks at UFC 91.

Gonzaga was challenging Shane Carwin for top contender status at UFC 96 in March and looked pretty good for the first minute before Carwin caught him with a big right.

“With us big guys and such small gloves, one blow can change it all, and that’s exactly what happened,” Gonzaga said. “It was a tough loss to take, because I started off doing so well. But he’s an awesome fighter and he landed a huge punch.”

To try to avoid the second two-loss setback streak of his career and to improve his wrestling skills for Tuchscherer, a two-time NCAA Division II All-American, Gonzaga enlisted the help of the man who beat him the first time he got his heavyweight title shot in Randy Couture.

“I tried to look for a wrestling-based training camp with some good heavyweights, so naturally Randy Couture’s was the first to come to mind,” said Gonzaga, who lost to Couture at UFC 74 in August 2007.

“I spoke with him and asked if it was OK for me to come, and of course he opened the doors for me.”

While some fighters or fans may think it would be hard to train with a former foe, Gonzaga, who lives in Ludlow, Mass., said the hardest part of training in Las Vegas was the weather.

“It’s really a hot place. I mean, it gets to like 117 degrees,” said Gonzaga with a laugh. “People say Brazil is hot, but it’s not like Vegas. When I had spare time I didn’t gamble, I tried to go to the pools with my family.

“But I didn’t have any spare time, I didn’t enjoy Vegas. I was training only for the fight.”

While the 33-year-old Tuchscherer is making his UFC debut, he sports a 17-1 record and defeated fellow UFC 102 card participant Krzysztof Soszynski in his pro debut.

“He’s a strong guy with a good record and great wrestling skills. A Really good opponent for me to fight and show off my skill set,” Gonzaga said.

“I’m looking to provide some fun and excitement to my fans.”

Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.

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