The Film Room: Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza

By Kevin Wilson Apr 24, 2019
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One of the most accomplished jiu-jitsu players of all-time will step inside the Octagon for the 12th time on Saturday, when Ronaldo Souza takes on Jack Hermansson in the UFC Fight Night 150 main event in Sunrise, Florida. At 39 years of age and with 16 years of MMA experience under his belt, it is shocking that “Jacare” still has not lost a step. A win over Hermansson could thrust him right back into contention for the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight crown.

Souza supplies the material for this installment of The Film Room.

“Jacare” is a five-time medalist at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships, a 10-time medalist -- including eight gold -- at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships and is widely considered one of the greatest competitors of this generation, along with Roger Gracie and Marcelo Garcia. He has accomplished nearly everything for which a mixed martial artist could ask, except for holding a UFC championship; with how he has looked recently, it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. From a wrestler’s standpoint, Souza does not have the best takedowns, but his relentless pressure and mindset of never giving up have allowed him to get nearly every one of his opponents to the mat. When fatigued or hurt, he will often shoot for easy-to-defend takedowns from a mile away. When fresh, he can back opponents to the cage with a flurry of right hands and shoot for a takedown against the fence. He also has some nice trips and throws from the clinch, but his go-to move is a simple double-leg against the cage.

Once on the ground, “Jacare” has some of the slickest guard passes and transitions in the sport. He generally looks to land in side control or half guard after takedowns and uses chest-on-chest pressure to pass to full mount or take the back. The most impressive aspect of his passing is how he uses feints and chains together passes to eventually get to his preferred position. Against a fellow exceptional grappler in Gegard Mousasi, he feinted a pass to half guard on one side before quickly flipping his hips and passing in the other direction. If you watch closely, you will notice that he goes through the same motions to pass into mount. If he ends up in full guard, he will either go chest-to-chest to pass to half guard or tripod up and swing his legs over into side control, similar to Demian Maia. Once he moves to side control, he will put pressure on the chest and post up on his feet to pass into mount, as he did against Chris Camozzi.

Once he gets to a favorable position, “Jacare” will aggressively look for submissions, but he can also surprise you and pull them off unexpectedly during transitions or sweep attempts from the opponent. Fourteen of his 25 wins have come by submission, with a simple arm-triangle being his money choke since he likes to play in side control. Similar to his passes, if you watch closely, you can see “Jacare” going through the same motions to set up the arm-triangle. Once he has passed to full mount, he will fake a back take and quickly lock up the kata gatame as the opponent is turning to defend his back.

Souza does not end up on his back often, but when he does, it is usually because he was dropped with strikes and the opponent is looking for the finish. Against Yoel Romero, he was dropped with a beautiful spinning backfist, and the former Olympic silver medalist rushed in for the finish. Although it looks like Romero is about to get the TKO, watch closely and you will see that “Jacare” is taking nearly every strike on the arms and only gets hit clean once.

“Jacare” is one of the greatest grapplers to ever step inside a cage, but that does not mean he is one-dimensional. He has a terrific overhand right, especially on the counter, and the power and speed behind it rank as some of the best in the division. Since his opponents are always concerned about his grappling, they will often get too aggressive on the feet looking for an early finish and are met with a quick counter overhand right. The only problem is “Jacare” does not have much on the feet other than the big right hand. This has been exploited by better strikers like Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum.

Souza’s chin has held up thus far -- Whittaker is the only man to beat him by KO or TKO in the UFC -- but his lack of striking has been exploited in the past. Whittaker managed to defend all of his takedowns and used Souza’s overuse of the overhand right against him. He feinted his way into the pocket to draw out the overhand and then countered it. At this point in Souza’s career, it would be surprising to see him develop new techniques on the feet, but if he learned to stay patient and pull the trigger a bit less, he would have more success in standup exchanges. Advertisement
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