This Saturday night (February 15, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweights Ronaldo Souza and Francis Carmont will face off in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 36, airing live on FOX Sports 1 from Arena Jaragua in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil.
The pivotal Top 10 showdown features two fighters who bring a ton of momentum into the Octagon.
Former Strikeforce middleweight champ Souza has won his last five mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts, brutally finishing his opponent in each one. "Jacare" was last seen knocking out former title challenger Yushin Okami at UFC Fight Night 28. Undefeated in UFC, the No. 3-ranked"Jacare" is looking to cement his position as a future title challenger.
Carmont has received a mere fraction of the publicity that "Jacare" has garnered, but that doesn't necessarily make him less dangerous. "Limitless" has won 11 straight bouts, including a 6-0 mark in UFC. Last seen upsetting Costa Philippou at UFC 165, the No. 8-ranked TriStar Gym-trained product has a golden opportunity to shock the world and establish himself as a legitimate player in a tough division.
He'll just have to derail a freight train to do it. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Souza vs. Carmont:
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza
Record: 19-3(1) overall, 2-0 UFC
Key Wins: Yushin Okami (UFC Fight night 28), Tim Kennedy (Strikeforce: Houston), Robbie Lawler (Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg), Alexander Shlemenko (Jungle Fight 6)
Key Losses: Luke Rockhold (Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov), Gegard Mousasi (DREAM 6)
Record: 22-7 overall, 6-0 UFC
Key Wins: Costa Philippou (UFC 165), Lorenz Larkin (UFC on FOX 7), Tom Lawlor (UFC 154)
Key Losses: Evangelista Santos (WFC- Europe vs. Brazil)
Souza brings a heralded all-world Brazilian jiu-jitsu pedigree to the table, owning a long list of high-level accomplishments that have gained him a reputation as one of the finest submission artists in all of MMA. Lately, however, Souza has added some power striking to his game, resulting in two face-shattering knockouts over Okami and Derek Brunson.
"Jacare" prefers to unleash his power shots on the inside, but that could potentially be a tough task against a long, rangy fighter like Carmont. Because of this, he may look to take this fight to the ground early. There's not a 185-pound fighter in the world that Souza can't contend with on the mat; Carmont has also tapped out three times.
To score the huge upset in Brazil, Carmont needs to show up with sharpened takedown defense. The former light heavyweight should look to use his four inch reach advantage to keep "Jacare" at bay, simultaneously avoiding his big punches and takedown attempts while scoring with his jab and kicks.
Souza is no doubt strong. However, Carmont is an absolutely huge middleweight. Don't be surprised to see him go for a takedown and surprise "Jacare" by putting him on his back. Carmont has 10 submission wins of his own, but it's going to be nigh impossible to score one here.
This fight is a very interesting clash of top-ranked talent. "Jacare" has only lost once in over five years, while Carmont has remained undefeated since early 2008. In a division full of dangerous title contenders, Souza has a chance to put himself directly behind the winner of UFC Fight Night 36's main event between Lyoto Machida and Gegard Mousasi. That could mean a title shot is just around the corner.
Carmont, on the other hand, could become an instant dark horse contender with a win on Saturday night. He'll undoubtedly have to put forth the best performance of his career to get it, making this a crucial bout.
With "Jacare" a massive favorite, this bout could be a lot closer than you might think.