Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza appears to be closing in on a title shot. | Photo: Gleidson Venga/Sherdog.com
MiddleweightsFrancis Carmont (22-7, 6-0 UFC) vs. Ronaldo Souza (19-3, 2-0 UFC)
The Matchup: Carmont has an imposing look and the winning streak to match, but even in victory, his performance has often left plenty to be desired. After charmed triumphs over Tom Lawlor and Lorenz Larkin, the Tristar Gym export took an encouraging step forward at UFC 165, scoring a dominant unanimous verdict over Costas Philippou in September.
While Carmont’s brand of topside control, positional advancement and ground-and-pound did not enthrall the Toronto crowd, it was a marked improvement from previous efforts. In particular, Carmont displayed excellent timing on his takedowns against an opponent who had proven himself to be stingy in that area. If “Limitless” is to add to his current 11-fight winning streak, he will have to accelerate his progress. He has yet to face anyone near Souza’s level in the grappling department, and the Brazilian’s speed, power and athleticism make him a threat on the feet, as well -- just go back and watch how quickly he dispatched Yushin Okami at UFC Fight Night 28.
Souza, a five-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion and the 2005 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist, might very well be the best grappler in all of mixed martial arts. The fact that his first two knockout wins -- against Okami and Derek Brunson -- have come within his last four bouts should be a scary prospect for the rest of the middleweight division. Not only can “Jacare” slice up your guard and make you tap, but he is now capable of putting you to sleep with his hands.
For all the grief he has taken, Carmont has a decent set of tools with which to work. The Paris native is a massive 185-pounder, and he will enter the Octagon with a two-inch height and four-inch reach advantage on fight night. While the Frenchman relied on his wrestling and grappling to carry him past Philippou, he can also do a little kickboxing. Carmont puts plenty of power behind his kicks and will change levels between the head and body. The jab is his most consistent punch, though he is not as proficient with it as some of his Tristar Gym brethren.
Carmont is not especially explosive in exchanges, so it would seem likely that Souza should be able to get inside and counter. If the fight enters the clinch, Souza’s judo background and vast array of trips and throws should negate Carmont’s size and strength.
Even if Carmont is able to use punching and kicking combinations to disguise his shot and plant Souza on his back, he will likely find himself worrying less about landing ground-and-pound and more about defending himself from being submitted. Carmont has provided openings to foes in the past, and Souza is not one to grant a mulligan.
The Pick: Carmont can try to use his kickboxing to keep Souza on the outside or he can attempt to rely on his size to tire out the Brazilian by trapping him against the fence. No matter what he does, “Jacare” should have an answer. Souza takes this by submission in round two or three.
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