Rag-dolling opponents and bullying them with brute force has been the M.O. for both Mike Brown and Manny Gamburyan, so something will have to give Saturday when the former featherweight world champion collides with the lightweight finalist from season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter.
“I’ve never had a problem in my life with a strong guy. I’ve never been overpowered or fought a guy that I thought was really strong, even when I fought at 155 pounds,” said Brown, a nine-year pro who, despite his exceptional power, contends he hasn’t lifted weight in years. I train with big, huge guys, you know, so nobody has muscled me, nobody has grabbed me and thrown me around. I’ve never really come across that.”
Enter Gamburyan, a chiseled fighter who is solid as a fire hydrant and believes he’s stout enough to become the first opponent to ever physically impose his will on Brown (23-5).
“He’s a former world champion. He’s a good fighter and I give him props,” said the Armenian-American, who is 2-0 since dropping to 145 pounds and smothered Leonard Garcia in his last fight to earn a unanimous decision victory. “I’m going to find Mike Brown’s weaknesses. I’m going to go out there and do what I do best. I can’t wait.”
The clash of mashers comes with high stakes; the victor could be next in line to challenge the winner of Saturday night’s featherweight title fight between Jose Aldo and No. 1 contender Urijah Faber. Brown, however, claims he’s blocking out any championship scenario and focusing solely on the task in front of him, realizing he’s never faced anyone with the unique skill set of the 28-year-old Gamburyan. Fighting out of Hollywood, Calif., Gamburyan is a decorated judo black belt capable of slamming foes with ease. In the mold of say, Frank Mir, once Gamburyan latches onto a submission, escapes are rare. The 5’5 Californian poses particular danger with an array of guillotine chokes, kimuras, foot locks and heel hooks. Watching Gamburyan crack mitts, it is apparent that he packs plenty of power in his hands. Unfortunately for him, once the opening horn sounds that pop has translated into just one TKO, as Gamburyan generally uses his punching to merely set up his takedowns.
Given the trend of Gamburyan’s fights, Brown, a biology major in college, feels he owns the deeper bag of tricks. Brown trains at the vaunted American Top Team headquarters in Coconut Creek, Fla., where he is a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The former Division III college wrestler owns 13 wins by way of submission, compared to six for Gamburyan. Expect Brown to respect and be well-prepared for Gamburyan’s leg attacks, especially since five years earlier Brown had his knee shredded and underwent ACL surgery following a vicious kneelock from Masakazu Imanari. Brown sat on the shelf for many months thereafter and no fighter would want to endure a repeat of grueling rehab and time away from the gym.
While any grappling battle between Brown and Gamburyan will offer intrigue, Brown is far and away the more widely feared striker – having floored both Urijah Faber and Leonard Garcia with one punch, making him the only pro fighter who can make that claim.
“He’s going to do what he does every fight: He’s going to throw the overhand right and then to try to take me down, try to mash me against the cage and try to double-leg me. He’s predictable,” Brown said. “Manny and I are both really strong for the weight class. Neither of us are slick, finesse fighters. It’s going to be two rocks just smashing into each other, so we’ll see if one of us breaks. We’re both solid takedown guys with solid jiu-jitsu, but I’m the bigger, harder puncher. I just have to crack him hard. If I hit him hard I think he won’t want any part of it.”