Robbie Lawler (top) | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Strikeforce Middleweight Championship
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (No. 9 MW) vs. Robbie Lawler
The Matchup: Despite being one of the best submission grapplers in the world, Jacare does not fight like a guy making the transition in to MMA. His striking is crisp and confident, and he attacks aggressively, unafraid of mixing it up. His takedowns are also solid, a trait often lacking in fighters coming from the submission wrestling and jiu-jitsu circuits, especially those from Brazil.
Lawler will always be Lawler, which is a win-win for fans. The longtime battler loves a gut check-style brawl and rarely is outmuscled despite being a former welterweight. Lawler’s go-for-broke style was best exemplified a year ago in his rousing knockout of Melvin Manhoef, who was seemingly kicking him -- and his lead leg -- into oblivion until Lawler rallied with a massive bomb to win the fight.
Style-wise, one could not ask for a more entertaining clash, as Jacare specializes in overwhelming opponents early and then submitting them with his textbook finishing holds. Ten of his 13 victories have come in the opening round, but his wins against Tim Kennedy, Joey Villasenor and Jason “Mayhem” Miller went the distance. One question remains unanswered. Can Jacare stay effective if Lawler takes his best shots, keeps swinging and drags him into a long, tough fight?
Lawler’s task is clear. He has to let his hands go while timing his shots to avoid being taken down into a compromising position. Lawler may be known as a heavy-handed slugger, but his wrestling chops and takedown defense are largely overlooked. Technically, Jacare will likely be too much for him on the mat, but getting punched in the face has long been the great grappling equalizer.
The Pick: Expect Jacare to oblige some stand-up early before opting to take it down. Lawler will have to either catch him early -- something at which he is accomplished -- or survive an onslaught of transitions, submission attempts and high-energy fury. I think Jacare will walk into something big and make a crucial mistake. Nobody in the game is better at capitalizing on those opportunities than Lawler, who will win by third-round knockout in a comeback classic.
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