Ronaldo Souza is a name known well to mixed martial arts (MMA) fans who followed Strikeforce before its eventual downfall earlier this year. The former Middleweight champion was regarded as a tremendous talent; however, being that he was not in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fold, "Jacare" was not necessarily a proven commodity to those fans hesitant to believe that truly great fighters could exist outside the Octagon.
Later tonight (Sat., May 18, 2013), Souza has a chance to finally prove himself, making his promotional debut against Chris Camozzi in the co-main event of UFC on FX 8, which takes place from Arena Jaragua in Santa Catarina, Brazil.
Souza has been a veteran of the sport for just under 10 years, and up until recently, he's been known mostly as a grappling specialist. Following a knockout loss in his first fight back in 2003, "Jacare" reeled off eight straight wins, including seven submissions over notable names such as Jason Miller and Alexander Schlemenko.
A knockout loss to Gegard Mousasi slowed Jacare's momentum ever so slightly, but after just three more fights, Souza found himself fighting for the vacant Strikeforce 185-pound title. He defeated Tim Kennedy via unanimous decision to take home a championship belt.
One thing that kept improving, fight after fight, was Souza's striking game, and even after the Kennedy fight, he continued to develop in this area. A hard-fought decision loss to Luke Rockhold didn't take too much away from Souza's stock, as he was still recognized as a fighter with tremendous skill on the mat and ever-improving striking fundamentals.
In fact, the loss brought the best out of "Jacare," and following three straight finishes before Strikeforce folded, he is looking as promising as ever. With noted improvements in both the wrestling and striking departments, he has become a fierce opponent, and with his newer -- more muscular -- build, he's showing that he is every bit more explosive and frightening than before.
If recent performances are any indication, "Jacare" is still on the hunt to be one of the world's best middleweights. He made a great performance last summer, putting away Derek Brunson early into their fight for his first-ever career knockout. And he followed up that fight with a dominant performance over Ed Herman, beating the brakes off The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) alum on the feet and on the mat before catching him in a gruesome kimura that forced a tapout.
In his fight at UFC on FX 8, "Jacare" will face a hopeful up-and-coming middleweight, but Camozzi is a fighter he should be markedly better than. Camozzi doesn't specialize anywhere in particular, but he is currently riding a four-fight win streak and is the kind of jack-of-all-trades who can show flashes of talent in every position.
Ultimately, I expect Jacare to show off an even more composed and violent striking attack, as well as his trademark grappling prowess, bringing the fight to Camozzi in a way he has not yet experienced. A win over Camozzi would make the talent of "Jacare" just that much more proven, moving him along in the UFC middleweight division.
Even at 33 years old, the best "Jacare" has yet to be seen. And that is the reason he is UFC on FX 8's "Fighter to Watch" this evening in Brazil ... and beyond.