Back in August 2012, on the same night that Ronda Rousey defeated Sarah Kaufman, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza knocked out a green Derek Brunson inside the Strikeforce cage. The bout lasted 41 seconds. Now, five and a half years later, they are going to run it back on network television.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship stages UFC on Fox 27 this Saturday at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, with Brunson seeking revenge against Souza in his own North Carolina backyard.
It is a card that lacks for star power, but for not fun and competitive matchmaking; and the fights that are not competitive on paper feature two outstanding prospects in Mirsad Bektic and Gregor Gillespie. Not too shabby.
Are we headed for a repeat, or is this about to become one of MMA’s least likely trilogies? Let us find out, as we dig into the odds and analysis for UFC on Fox 27:
MiddleweightRonaldo Souza (24-5) vs. Derek Brunson (18-5)
ODDS: Souza (-145), Brunson (+125)
ANALYSIS: When Souza and Brunson fought back in Strikeforce, the latter had just two years of pro MMA experience under his belt and was coming off of his first career loss to Kendall Grove. Meanwhile, “Jacare” had already been Strikeforce champion. Brunson was a one-dimensional wrestler facing one of the greatest grapplers to ever live and one he could not come close to matching in the standup. It is little wonder he lasted less than a minute.
Brunson is an infinitely better fighter now. He is a fast-starting, aggressive southpaw who has harnessed the massive pop in his left hand. He has developed a powerful kicking game. He sets up that power double-leg well, blending his feints, punches, kicks and takedowns nicely. He still has a penchant for defensive lapses, but he is still at worst a top-15 middleweight and has come a long way. Is it enough to avenge his previous loss to Souza?
Though this is a 25-minute contest, Brunson would be wise to try to jump on “Jacare” early with his volleys of powerful strikes and catch him cold. Souza has been knocked out three times in his career, and though he only absorbs 2.20 significant strikes per minute, when he does get tagged, he tends to get tagged clean.
Brunson needs to find the Brazilian’s chin. In a lengthy, thoughtfully paced standup battle, “Jacare” remains the better striker. He does not throw an awful lot, but he is precise with his jab, places his hard low kicks well and varies his attacks to the head and body. All of this, of course, is on top of the fact that he is one of the best jiu-jitsu players of all-time, a judo black belt, an outstanding takedown artist and a freak athlete.
“Jacare” may be 38 years old, returning from a knockout loss to Robert Whittaker and coming off of shoulder surgery, but he is the sort of elite physical specimen that can overcome hurdles like that. Though Brunson has not been taken down in the UFC and is a great wrestler, “Jacare” has the sort of varied, explosive takedown game that can change things; and if Souza gets to play from top position, there is a very real chance he taps Brunson.
If “Jacare” cannot get the takedown, he will just box and chop at Brunson with low kicks, working at a methodical pace while seeking to avoid any sort of long exchanges where Brunson can drill him with a heavy left. If “Jacare” is still in fighting form, he takes a 25-minute unanimous decision at the least, with a clear shot at a submission win.
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