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The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday returns to Houston for UFC 262, and even after some late changes, there is some solid depth on the undercard. In the featured slot, former Strikeforce champion Ronaldo Souza looks to remain relevant after a recent losing streak, defending his standing against Andre Muniz in a battle of Brazilian grapplers. Beyond that, there are some talented fighters looking to work through their current issues, whether it involves Lando Vannata dropping down to featherweight to face Mike Grundy or Kevin Aguilar attempting to turn back promotional newcomer Tucker Lutz.
Now to the preview for the UFC 262 “Oliveira vs. Chandler” prelims:
MiddleweightNR | Ronaldo Souza (26-9, 9-6 UFC) vs. NR | Andre Muniz (20-4, 2-0 UFC)
ODDS: Souza (-110), Muniz (-110)
How much does “Jacare” have left in the tank? It has now been nearly a decade since Souza was arguably at his peak, reigning as Strikeforce champ before getting dethroned by Luke Rockhold. Once the UFC absorbed Strikeforce shortly thereafter, Souza and Rockhold were expected to make an impact in the UFC’s middleweight division. Rockhold eventually claimed championship gold, but Souza was not as fortunate. Souza was successful in the UFC, using some vicious striking to buoy his absolutely elite grappling game, but things never quite came together for him to challenge for the title. Even as Souza racked up wins, there always seemed to be a more commercially viable option, and his losses always seemed to come just as the title picture was opening up. A 2017 defeat to Robert Whittaker was the first sign that Souza was slowing down and being surpassed by the next generation of contenders, but it was not until his current three-fight slide that Souza fully slid out of title contention. A five-round loss to Jack Hermansson in April 2019 was a shock, as was Souza’s decision to briefly move up to light heavyweight, where he lost an ugly bore of a bout against current champion Jan Blachowicz. Souza returned to middleweight in December, but things did not go much better, as he was the victim of an unorthodox knockout against Kevin Holland, who managed to start a fight-ending combination of punches while lying on his back. With the UFC in cost-cutting mode and with seemingly little appetite for past-their-prime former contenders, Souza badly needs a win here against Muniz. This is a big spot for Muniz, who has looked solid but not overly impressive two fights into his UFC career. He is mostly an aggressive submission hunter, either charging forward with takedowns or looking for a scramble when opponents start moving him backwards. Muniz is more tricky than controlling as a submission artist, so he would probably have to catch Souza, which seems quite unlikely. Even if Souza’s gas tank has become a liability in later years, Muniz has also tired whenever his fights go into the later rounds. This is basically a test of Souza’s viability as a UFC fighter and little else, and he should still be able to win rounds against Muniz, even if it is not likely to be in an inspiring or exciting fashion. The pick is Souza via decision.
Continue Reading » Grundy vs. Vannata
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