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The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday set up shop on Sao Paulo, Brazil, with UFC Fight Night 164 -- an event headlined by a pivotal light heavyweight clash pitting Jan Blachowicz against Ronaldo Souza. Some stocks rose, and others took a dive.
Charles Oliveira: In victimizing Jared Gordon for his sixth consecutive finish, Oliveira likely punched his ticket to the lightweight Top 10. Consistency has been the enemy of “Do Bronx” in the past, but since December 2017, he has been flawless; and his knack for executing finishes will undoubtedly earn him one of the biggest opportunities of his career to open up his 2020 campaign. Afterward, Oliveira mentioned his desire to face Conor McGregor, and while the proposed fight may be admirable on paper, he stands little chance of seeing it materialize. “Do Bronx” also called for rematch with Paul Felder, the last man to defeat the Brazilian. With Oliveira now entrenched in the lightweight division’s upper tiers, it will be interesting to see if his renewed focus can carry him all the way to a title fight.
James Krause: The Glory MMA and Factory X representative stayed patient and survived a ground exchange with Sergio Moraes before dragging the fight into deeper waters and drowning the Brazilian with punches for a third-round stoppage. The victory -- Krause’s second straight by knockout -- extended his current winning streak to six fights, offering him the potential for a step up in competition after ending 2019 on a high note. Krause was persistent with his jab throughout the contest, as he peppered a fatigued Moraes until he managed to set up a fight-ending sequence with an overhand right late in Round 3. Krause is a well-rounded competitor, and since he moved to the welterweight division, he seems to have an improved sense of awareness inside the Octagon. While he may not be directly in line for a Top 15 fight next, he almost certain will be offered a marquee opponent if he wants one.
Randy Brown: Brown has looked like a transformed fighter in his past couple of outings, stopping Bryan Baberena in June before submitting Warlley Alves with a triangle choke in Brazil. The former Ring of Combat champion seems to have hit his stride, and with newfound momentum, he will undoubtedly look to capitalize on his winning streak and realize the potential many saw when he was signed off of Dana White’s “Lookin’ for a Fight.” Brown’s length, athleticism and aggression presents a problem for virtually anyone in the welterweight division, and seeing as though he has not yet turned 30, it seems his best days are ahead of him. Expect Brown to join the queue of hopeful contenders sitting just outside the Top 15, all looking for a chance to break out as true title challengers.
Ronaldo Souza: In moving up to the light heavyweight division for the first time, “Jacare” seemed slow and plodding in a five-round dud against Poland’s Blachowicz. The game plan for Souza was evident from the beginning, as he repeatedly looked to strike his way into grappling range, to no avail. Once Plan A failed, he instead opted to hold his opponent against the fence while landing almost nothing in terms of meaningful offense. By fight’s end, “Jacare” had landed just two clinch strikes despite over 13 combined minutes of control. Souza lost a split decision and provided little hope for his becoming a title contender in a new division. “Jacare” turns 40 next month, so it appears unlikely that a career resurgence is on the horizon. If the former Strikeforce middleweight champion wants wins at 205 pounds, he will need to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to more effectively get opponents to the canvas.
Paul Craig: In the first round of Craig’s co-main event with former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio Rua, the Scotsman was surprisingly dominant. He managed to land flurries of damaging strikes, but after failing to put away Rua, he seemed too comfortable letting the final two rounds play out from his back rather than looking to work to his feet, where he enjoyed a majority of his success, to strike with “Shogun.” The result was a split draw that saw Craig’s stock dip due to his failing to capitalize on the opportunity. This fight was without a doubt the biggest of Craig’s MMA career, and while he remained competitive with a shopworn all-time great, he did not do nearly enough to establish himself as a future player at 205 pounds.
Renan Barao: If it was not evident before, it is abundantly clear now that the time has come for Barao to call it a career. In suffering another lopsided loss, this time to Douglas Silva de Andrade, the former bantamweight champion was not competitive at any point in the contest -- a trend that has continued for years. Barao owns a 1-7 record since 2015. While the Brazilian’s initial championship run with the UFC was something to behold, it has become clear that his days as a relevant fighter are done. One would hope that “The Baron” rides off into the sunset, but it is possible that he will look to continue his career with another promotion if the UFC elects to release him.