Heavyweights set to meet on May 26 card
Strikeforce heavyweight Shane del Rosario will put his unbeaten record on the line when he makes his UFC debut in May against Gabriel Gonzaga.
UFC officials recently announced the heavyweight tilt for UFC 146, which will take place May 26 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Verbal agreements are in from both fighters, and bout agreements are expected to be signed soon.
Though not officially announced by the UFC, the targeted main event of the card is a heavyweight title fight between champion Junior dos Santos and top contender Alistair Overeem. UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta recently said on his Twitter feed that event was the plan for dos Santos’ first defense of the belt he took from Cain Velasquez in November. Overeem, the former Strikeforce heavyweight champion, beat former UFC champ Brock Lesnar in December to become the No. 1 contender.
Del Rosario (11-0, 3-0 Strikeforce) has never gone to a decision in his 11-fight career, and all but one of his wins have come in the first round. With Strikeforce, the California-based heavyweight went 3-0, including a first-round armbar submission of Lavar Johnson, who debuted with the UFC last month with flying colors, winning Knockout of the Night honors. A herniated disc suffered in a car accident has kept him out of action since his win over Johnson a year ago. He fought just once in 2010 and once in 2011.
Gonzaga (13-6, 8-5 UFC) returned to the UFC last month at UFC 142 in his native Brazil and picked up a first-round submission victory over Ednaldo Oliveira, a highly touted and then-unbeaten training partner of dos Santos. Gonzaga, who started his UFC career 4-0, including a legendary head-kick knockout of Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, challenged Randy Couture for the heavyweight title at UFC 74, losing by third-round TKO. Since that loss, it was an up-and-down stretch for “Napao.” He went 3-4 in the UFC with wins over middle-of-the-pack fighters, none of which currently are with the promotion and losses to Fabricio Werdum, Shane Carwin, dos Santos and Brendan Schaub. The latter two wound up costing him his UFC job.
But after a win outside the promotion, the Massachusetts-based Gonzaga was brought back to the UFC with a new deal and a fight in his home country for the first time since 2004. A win over an unbeaten prospect like del Rosario would be arguably his biggest win since the knockout of Cro Cop.
UFC officials did not announce the placement of the Gonzaga-del Rosario fight on the card. The main card will air on pay-per-view, and the preliminary card is expected to be broadcast on the FX cable channel. Other fights already announced for the card include a middleweight fight between Jason “Mayhem” Miller and C.B. Dollaway; a lightweight fight between Evan Dunham and Edson Barboza; and a welterweight bout between Dan Hardy and Duane Ludwig.