The kick to Mirko Cro Cop's head that Gabriel Gonzaga delivered in April made him a hero among mixed martial arts fans, but I would guess that if you took a random sample of 100 Americans, only one or two would know who Gonzaga is.
However, that could change if Gonzaga beats Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champ Randy Couture tomorrow night at UFC 74. Although the Brazilian Gonzaga needs to work on his English before he can become the kind of celebrity in this country that Chuck Liddell is, I think Gonzaga has the skill in the Octagon and the charisma outside it to become a star.
I'm not the only one who's bullish on Gonzaga's future. Dave Doyle of Yahoo! Sports writes, "We just might be watching the ascension of the next great MMA heavyweight." And McD at Rumors and Rants notes that if Gonzaga wins, this could be the start of a long reign at the top.
UFC still has a long way to go before the average non-sports fan in America recognizes its biggest stars. But Gonzaga could be one of the fighters to change that.
We'll be live blogging UFC 74 here at FanHouse.