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UFC middleweights take centre stage in Charlotte as Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza looks to defeat Derek Brunson for a second time to become the #1 contender for the middleweight title.
It has been almost six years since Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (24-5) and Derek Brunson (18-5) last fought under the then Strikeforce banner. Since that 41 second knockout by Jacare, the middleweight landscape has changed dramatically.
Now ranked #8, Brunson looks to dethrone Souza and extend a two fight win streak and put his name into the hat for a shot at the gold. In his way is #3 ranked Jacare who is looking to get back to winning ways and silence Brunson’s hometown crowd in North Carolina this Saturday night.
Derek Brunson comes into this fight with momentum on his side. Coming off two big knockout wins in a row against Lyoto Machida and Daniel Kelly, Brunson is making a name for himself but more importantly, he is on a rampage up the middleweight ladder.
Brunson has fought some of the biggest names in MMA and despite a loss to Anderson Silva, he has knocked off the aforementioned fighters which is no easy task and should not be ignored.
SEEKING PAST GLORIES
“Jacare” has tasted gold before when he became the Strikeforce middleweight champion and the Brazilian is looking to taste UFC gold for the first time since the promotions merged together.
Souza had a near three fight win streak snapped by Robert Whittaker last April but the BJJ black belt is eager to put that behind him and remind fans as to why he is ranked #3 in the 185lb division.
When you read the stats for this fight, it has all the makings of a classic ‘striker vs grappler’ match up.
Souza has 14 submissions to his name and it is a favoured gameplan for the Manuas native. On the flip side, his opponent Brunson has 11 KO/TKO victories to his name with just 3 submissions to his record.
Both fighters have been beaten by Robert Whittaker recently who unfortunately had to pull out of next months UFC 221 headline title tilt due to a staph infection.
It is quite obvious as to what Derek Brunson is looking to do in this fight. His left hook is vicious and fighting out of the southpaw stance, he feints well with his right hand to load up with his power punching.
Souza is a grappling expert and has relentless pressure. He likes to shoot early and he likes to shoot often. If he can get Brunson down to the mat, he is a non stop pressure fighter and is always looking to advance to dominant positions.
Brunson has been known to get a little wild in exchanges when he feels he is down on the scorecards so it may be wise for Souza to “bring the crazy” out in Brunson to leave openings. Souza isn’t exactly renowned for having a stellar stand up game but if he can throw combinations rather than one punch at a time, he may drag Brunson into a fight he wasn’t prepared for.
Brunson does tend to leave his head up straight when throwing punches. This could prove to be dangerous and he’ll need to adjust his hand position to a slightly lower base to quickly defend Souza’s takedown defence.
Brunson has been very composed lately and is reaping the rewards. He has already fought Souza and lost but it was a fight that didn’t last very long so getting a good read of Souza wasn’t exactly forthcoming.
This is arguably the biggest test of Brunson’s career because he hasn’t fought a superior grappler like Souza and he may need to pull out a surprise or two to halt his relentless onslaught of takedown attempts.
Souza has had trouble against high level strikers before but if he can tighten up his stand up game, he has a chance of surprising Brunson and has already knocked him out before. If he can impose his will and keep control of Brunson on the mat, it may break his will and cause him to become reckless and leave openings.
Writing Irish Prediction: Jacare Souza via submission – Round 2