Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza is a fighter that most other fighters would rather avoid fighting, at least on the ground. The BJJ black belt and 5 times world Jiu-Jitsu champion would easily be one of the best ground-fighters in the UFC and probably the best in the middleweight division or at least until wrestlers like Weidman, Munoz or Sonnen prove otherwise.
However and as always, the fight starts on the feet and on that issue Souza has not demonstrated the same skill set, as he has on the ground. To that point, his last loss was a 5 round unanimous decision back in 2011 to Luke Rockhold, in the Strikeforce middleweight championship. Rockhold, who’s ranked #8 to Souza’s #5, isn’t one of the division’s more well-rounded fighters and indeed, was KO’d in his last / UFC debut outing, by Vitor Belfort.
To the point, Okami, at least on paper, is a better fighter than Rockhold and the question becomes for Souza, if he couldn’t deal with Rockhold, what’s his plan for dealing with Okami?
Souza’s answer to that question appears to be the “surprise” that he’s going to show the fans and that surprise seems to revolve around better stand-up, and a better overall game.
Jacare says that he’s better physically and that he’s been working hard on his boxing and wrestling skills, and that he never stops training his Jiu-Jitsu. Of his goal to surprise, Souza says he will, but more importantly he won’t disappoint.
That said, Okami is a tall order and has a wealth of experience in fighting the best the UFC has had to offer. In doing so, Yushin has been able to string together a 13 & 4 record over his 7 years in the UFC and has even fought for the title. In a nutshell, he’s no joke. Other than a decision loss to Rich Franklin in 2006 and his KO loss to the Wizard of 185, Anderson Silva (2011), the only fighters who have been able to solve Okami as a problem have been powerful wrestlers; Chael Sonnen & Tim Boetsch.
As Souza does not have Anderson Silva’s stand-up or the wrestling background of fighters like Sonnen & Boetsch, Okami stands to be a big test of Souza’s progression in both departments. That said, he’s appears to be in healthy, in great shape and confident that he can beat Okami.
Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing this fight go to the ground just to see how Souza would fare against a fighter of Okami’s caliber. However, it would also be nice to see Okami keep it on the feet and test Jacare’s improved stand-up.
In terms of any surprises from Souza, we shall see; for in order to surprise the fans, Souza must first surprise Okami in the ring and that could be prove easier said, then done.