The Evolution of ‘Jacare’

By Mike Whitman Jan 29, 2011
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza | Dave Mandel/

Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo Souza possesses one of the finest jiu-jitsu pedigrees in all of mixed martial arts. However, that submission mastery is apparently not enough for the man they call “Jacare.”

Souza’s next fight will be arguably his toughest to date, as he puts his title on the line against hard-punching “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler at Strikeforce “Diaz vs. Cyborg” on Saturday at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. Though the Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships winner has already made considerable leaps in his overall MMA game, Souza believes he still has much to reveal in the ring.

“I want to show my improved cardio, strength and jiu-jitsu technique,” Souza said through his translator during a Jan. 20 teleconference. “I want to combine and improve all those elements. I have a great team behind me, and I’ve been training a lot of boxing in both the cage and the ring. [Lawler] is a good boxer, but I’m prepared to go there and fight. Hopefully, I can end the fight before five rounds [are completed].”

In Lawler, Souza faces a powerful southpaw with knockout power in both hands. In his most recent outing, the H.I.T. Squad representative laid 2000 Olympic silver medalist Matt Lindland out cold with a brutal combination as the Greco-Roman specialist was attempting to engage him standing. Though Souza has made natural improvements to his stand-up game, he remains aware of the decided advantage he has if the fight hits the floor.

“The plan is to bring jiu-jitsu to the fight. I don’t know how or when I’m going to bring that to the game, but I’m well-prepared,” said Souza. “The plan is, when the time is right, to bring jiu-jitsu to the table and use it.”

According to the champion, Lawler ranks among the toughest competitors he has ever faced.

“Robbie is a mauler, man,” said Souza. “I’ve fought a bunch of tough guys, and I’d put Robbie right there in the mix.”

A former EliteXC middleweight champion, Lawler was defeated last year in his Strikeforce debut when another submission specialist, current UFC welterweight contender Jake Shields, finished him with a first-round guillotine choke. After rebounding with a shocking, come-from-behind knockout over Melvin Manhoef in January 2010, Lawler once again tasted defeat, this time at the hands of Renato “Babalu” Sobral at Strikeforce “Los Angeles” in June. Sobral used straighter, more accurate punches to earn a unanimous decision victory. Though Lawler finally started to let his hands go in the third round, he failed to end the fight, and it went to the scorecards.

Though Souza has not spoken to his countryman about his performance against Lawler, Jacare claims that may not be the case for long.

“I haven’t talked to Babalu yet, but I’m on my way to L.A.,” said Souza, calling from Brazil. “When I get there, there’s a big chance I will be talking to him. Who knows? He may help me with some tips to get this fight the way I want it.”

For Souza to succeed where Lindland failed, most agree the Brazilian will need to close the distance and take the fight to the floor. According to the submission ace, he has just the tool for the job: the “Jacare takedown.”

“I’ve been training a lot of takedowns, but I don’t call them wrestling takedowns,” he said. “They’re more like jiu-jitsu or ‘Jacare takedowns,’ because I’ve got my own twist on it.”
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