Rivalries: Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza

By Brian Knapp Sep 11, 2021

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Mixed martial arts was better off for having known Ronaldo Souza.

The two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist, former Strikeforce titleholder and longtime Ultimate Fighting Championship contender retired from the sport on Aug. 10. Souza closed out his career with a 26-10 record, his resume highlighted by victories over Matt Lindland, Tim Kennedy, Robbie Lawler, Derek Brunson, Vitor Belfort and a host of others. The 41-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt appeared for the last time at UFC 262 and went out on his shield, as an armbar from Andre Muniz resulted in a gruesome technical submission loss on May 15.

In wake of Souza’s retirement, a look at some of the rivalries that marked his remarkable journey:

Luke Rockhold


The American Kickboxing Academy product entered an entirely new dimension in his MMA career with a downright dazzling performance, as he scrambled out of trouble on the mat and battered Souza with a variety of punches and kicks to capture the Strikeforce middleweight crown with a unanimous decision on Sept. 10, 2011 at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. Rockhold swept the scorecards in the Strikeforce “Barnett vs. Kharitonov” co-feature: 50-45, 48-47 and 48-47. The American weathered a handful of takedowns and broke free from Souza’s notorious grip on the ground, as he repeatedly returned to his feet and went back to outstriking the champion. The lead left hand was his primary weapon, though he mixed in other strikes with beautiful timing and precision. Unable to keep Rockhold on his back, “Jacare” largely abandoned the takedown and clinch game late in the fight, and though he wobbled the Californian with two overhand rights, he was woefully outgunned on the feet.

Gegard Mousasi


Souza was the better man the second time around. A little less than six years after Mousasi upkick knocked him silly in the 2008 Dream middleweight grand prix final, “Jacare” returned the favor and submitted the former Strikeforce champion with a third-round guillotine choke in the UFC Fight Night 50 main event on Sept. 5, 2014 at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut. Souza coaxed the tapout 4:30 into Round 3 and planted his flag as the No. 1 contender in waiting within the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s 185-pound division. Souza dominated the rematch from start to finish. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt tuned up his punches at opportune times and executed takedowns in all three rounds, suffocating Mousasi with oppressive top control. Souza scored with a trip takedown with roughly 90 seconds left in the third frame, caught the choke with Mousasi in a seated position, closed guard and secured the finish.

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Yoel Romero


The American Top Team juggernaut laid claim to a split decision over Souza in a UFC 194 middleweight attraction on Dec. 12, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Judges Glenn Trowbridge and Tony Weeks scored it 29-27 and 29-28 for Romero, while judge Lester Griffin saw it 29-28 for Souza. Romero almost rendered the judges meaningless in the first round, where he sat down “Jacare” with a magnificent spinning backfist, jumped into the former Strikeforce champion’s guard and bludgeoned him with punches and elbows. A dazed Souza retreated to his corner on wobbly legs, his fate all but a forgone conclusion. However, Romero ran out of gas in the second round, became more and more stationary and allowed “Jacare” to claw his way back into the fight. In the third round, Souza flurried into takedown range, struck for a double-leg on the 2000 Olympic silver medalist and assumed top position, using his ground-and-pound to hunt for openings from half guard. Unfortunately for the Brazilian, the finished he needed never materialized.

Robert Whittaker


“The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes” winner announced his arrival as a middleweight title contender when he took care of Souza with a head kick and follow-up punches in a UFC on Fox 24 showcase on April 15, 2017 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. “Jacare” bit the dust 3:28 into Round 2. Whittaker was systematic in his approach. He survived a ground exchange with the two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist in the first round, tore into him with accurate punches and bided his time. Whittaker floored “Jacare” with a right hand to the temple but did not overcommit in his pursuit of a finish. He allowed the dazed Souza to stand and resumed his assault on the feet. Whittaker later cracked the former Strikeforce champion with a head kick and swarmed with punches and elbows, prompting referee Mario Yamasaki to act.

Chris Weidman


Souza took care of business in hostile territory, as he cut down the former middleweight champion with punches in the third round of their stellar UFC 230 co-main event on Nov. 3, 2018 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Weidman succumbed to blows 2:46 into Round 3. The two contenders spent the first two rounds battering each other in standup exchanges, Weidman delivering power punches in combination and Souza answering with crushing leg kicks and brutal left hooks to the body. In the end, the “All-American” blinked. Midway through the third round, Souza unleashed a blistering string of power punches and pressed the Serra-Longo Fight Team rep toward the fence. He then clipped and floored Weidman with a right hook to the forehead, stood above him and followed up with a few hammerfists to prompt the stoppage. It was the final victory of Souza’s storied 37-fight career. Advertisement
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