UFC Sao Paulo: Breaking down Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza vs. Jan Blachowicz

Elias Cepeda
Yahoo Sports Contributor
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza punches Jack Hermansson during their middleweight bout at UFC Fight Night at BB&T Center on April 27, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Saturday’s UFC main event pits established light heavyweight contender Jan Blachowicz (24-8) against former middleweight Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (26-7-1) in the latter’s home nation of Brazil. Check out our summary take on the fight in four broad categories, below, and get yourself ready for the showdown from Sao Paulo.

Stand-up striking

Souza is one of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu grappling competitors in the history of submission wrestling, as well as one of the most effective with that base style to have transitioned into MMA. He soon added stand-up striking knockout ability to his ground prowess, however.

In fact, both he and Blachowicz have a large amount of their total career pro MMA wins from KOs or TKOs (eight and six, respectively). Blachowicz’s stand-up striking arsenal is a bit more well-rounded, but “Jacare” may possess the superior single-shot power.

At his best, Souza is capable of closing distances, fast, with an overhand right. At his, Blachowicz fights long and shows great timing off of separation from the clinch.

There may be reason to believe that Blachowicz is still closer to his own “best,” or prime, however. Souza was a perennial contender at middleweight, and never received the world title shot he arguably deserved.

Now, after having lost three out of his last five and four out of his last eight going back to 2015, Souza is choosing to move up in weight instead of retiring. Blachowicz is a tough first fight up at light heavyweight, as he is far from plodding and slow, and he possesses real striking power.

Wrestling

(R-L) Jan Blachowicz punches Thiago Santos in their light heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at O2 Arena on Feb. 23, 2019 in the Prague, Czech Republic. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Souza has always shown great takedown ability in MMA, and Blachowicz has excellent takedown defense. The Polish fighter showed this in his last bout against Luke Rockhold, and very well could be capable of keeping Souza off of his hips and legs as well.

Souza has understandably looked a bit more stiff in the back, neck and hips of late, as he’s aged, which effects his ability to shoot and score takedowns. He’ll likely work from clinches against the cage to attempt to get Blachowicz down.

From those types of positions, Blachowicz will be well-equipped to fight underhooks and use a wide base and leverage to peel Souza off of him while staying upright.

Ground

Make no mistake about it, Blachowicz does not want to be underneath even an aging Souza on the mat. If Souza can put Blachowicz down, either with strikes or with takedowns, and has more than a few minutes on the clock with which to work, afterward, he will be a threat to finish the fight. Souza’s punching power and mat wrestling ability will be the last thing to leave him in his already storied career, and he is capable of doing damage on top with strikes and working his way to fight-ending submission holds as well.

Blachowicz is no novice on the ground, but if he ends up on his back for an extended period of time against Souza, it will be an up-hill battle for him to survive.

X-factors

We’ve alluded to these interconnected ones a bit in previous sections, but a few overarching things can’t be overstated in this matchup. One is Souza’s mileage.

He hasn’t just fought for a long time, and isn’t just getting older chronologically, he’s also taken some real damage to the head in recent years. He’s likely got other injuries that affected his mobility through his back and neck, from the looks of his movement.

All of that has resulted in him being less reliably fluid-moving, and a tad slower in many spots. His being a little less reactive and having already taken considerable damage to the brain don’t mix well with his moving up in weight 20 pounds to take blows from larger men than he’s used to.

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