Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (left) defeated Tim Kennedy: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
HOUSTON -- With one of the best jiu-jitsu games in the sport at his disposal, it was his striking that clinched victory and the vacant Strikeforce middleweight title for Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza on Saturday.
The two-time Abu Dhabi World Submission Grappling champion had a relaxed and fluid style on his feet, landing choice shots against worthy opponent Tim Kennedy en route to a five-round unanimous decision. Kennedy pushed forward on multiple occasions, but a cut over the U.S. Army sniper’s left eye and a mouse under the other dismissed any doubt that Souza’s strikes weren’t effective.
The judges agreed, awarding the 30-year-old Manaus, Brazil, native 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47 marks.
“I felt throughout the fight that he felt my hands and that I connected with some punches,” said Souza through his translator. “I could see that I was getting some punches in and I was sure that I was winning the fight….I just looked at his face.”
Souza, whose wife welcomed their newborn son the day before in Brazil, said he tried to ground Kennedy early, but changed tactics after his opponent proved too defiant.
“I was surprised how strong Tim Kennedy was and I had a hard time taking him down and then I kept this fight up,” said Jacare.
With both throwing their fair share of punches, the 30-year-old Souza credited his ability to circle away and stay mobile with giving him the edge.
“I was moving around better, connecting shots, so I kept pushing that way,” he said.
Kennedy stated afterward that he’d felt he had won the bout. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker neither agreed with nor disparaged Kennedy’s claim.
“I saw him hit Jacare with a left hook close to the end of the first round and so, in my mind, that was a 10-8 round,” said Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker. “Could he have won one of the other rounds? Possibly. Going into the last round, I remember texting to someone that this might go to a draw. It went to Jacare, but if it went to Tim, it wouldn’t have surprised me either.”
With no noticeable bumps or bruises, Jacare expressed his wish for the promotion to turn him back around as soon as possible. Coker suggested a three-month time frame for the new champion’s first title defense.
Strikeforce still has plans for some variation of a middleweight tournament launching at their Oct. 9 event in San Jose, Calif., to name a No. 1 contender in the division.