When No. 4-ranked middleweight Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza finished former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi in the main event of Friday night’s (September 5, 2014) UFC Fight Night 50 from Mashantucket, Connecticut (watch highlights here), he made a strong case for a title shot with his seventh straight win.
UFC President Dana White said that “Jacare” will most likely fight again before he gets a title shot because Chris Weidman will fight Vitor Belfort in the main event of UFC 181 on December 6, but it could be argued that Souza already poses more of a threat to Weidman’s title reign than “The Phenom.”
True, Belfort has won three straight fights with amazing knockouts of top competitors Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, and Dan Henderson. However, Belfort’s last win, which was a first round finish of “Hendo” at UFC Fight Night 32, seems like light years ago in today’s fast-paced MMA landscape.
And obviously Belfort has gone through the tiresome spectacle of losing his testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT), which was banned in late February after Belfort failed an early February drug test for his proposed UFC 173 headliner against Weidman. The champion even went so far as post a “before and after” comparison of Belfort’s physique when he was on the therapy and after he got off.
“The Phenom” isn’t the young specimen he once was when he blazed into the Octagon when in the Dark Ages of the UFC. While he was arguably his best throughout 2013, that year has come and past, and things have changed.
There’s no doubt Belfort still has perhaps the most aggressive striking in the middleweight division, and perhaps the most power as well. He could certainly apply a heavy amount of pressure on Weidman (something no middleweight has been able to do as of yet) and shock the world with another one of his patented knockouts.
But “Jacare” is just so polished and so complete. Mousasi has a bit of a lackadaisical style, but he’s dangerous everywhere the fight goes. The mat dominance he showed against Mark Munoz in the main event of UFC Fight Night 41 from Berlin was nothing short of brilliant, and Souza reciprocated it to him on Friday night. He was slammed to the mat with repeated double leg takedowns before being controlled and submitted with a third round guillotine.
Yet it wasn’t just his vaunted ground game that was on display; his striking showed more progression as well. He used relentless pressure to throw massive hooks with ruthless intentions, similar to the manner in which he knocked out former title challenger Yushin Okami at UFC Fight Night 29.
“Jacare” is never going to be the most technical of strikers, but neither is Weidman. The truth is that Souza is simply more of a total package than Belfort is at this point. That’s not to say that TRT made Belfort; it certainly did not. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that he was a different animal after it came out that he was on the controversial therapy.
Weidman won’t be able to use his wrestling to control “Jacare” like he’s accustomed to doing to his opponents. The champ could have some success with his mat game that’s for sure, but he most likely won’t smother Souza if the fight this the mat. Could he do just that to Belfort? Maybe.
If Souza meets Weidman in a grappling exchange, it’s anyone’s game, and I wouldn’t say the exact same thing for Belfort despite his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
“Jacare” might just be the finest jiu-jitsu practitioner to ever crawl into an MMA cage, and his power striking, although still developing, is becoming to be a comparable weapon. He’s also immensely strong and incredibly tough to damage.
He’ll probably have to win another fight to get his long-awaited title shot; that fight could come against the winner of UFC Fight Night 55’s Luke Rockhold vs. Michael Bisping main event. If he wins that match-up, especially with a finish, he’ll undoubtedly deserve a title fight against Weidman or Belfort.
I’d have to give him a slight edge in both fights. How do you think he rates against both fighters?
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