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Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza, UFC on Fox 15's 'Fighter to Watch' in New Jersey

The alligator looks to take a bite out of former TUF 11 competitor Chris Camozzi for the second time after top-10 middleweight Yoel Romero went down with a knee injury.

Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

The mixed martial arts (MMA) gods don't want Ronaldo Souza to achieve top contender status in Ultimate Fighting Championship's (UFC) rankings.

A bout with pneumonia, compounded by the recent knee injury suffered by his UFC on FOX 15 opponent, No. 6 ranked middleweight Yoel Romero, has left the 35-year-old Brazilian stuck. Fortunately for him, the UFC slotted former foe Chris Camozzi, who's stepping up on short notice, in Romero's place.

Souza will now likely miss out on fighting for the No. 1 contender spot in the 185-pound division, especially with fellow divisional stalwarts Lyoto Machida and Luke Rockhold set to anchor the show from inside the Prudential Center in New Jersey. It is unfortunate because "Jacare's" resume is already on par with, if not better than, the best in the weight class.

Since his Zuffa arrival, Jacare has ousted three of four opponents, including Yushin Okami and Gegard Mousasi, via strikes or submission. He does own a loss to Rockhold in a 2011 battle for the Strikeforce middleweight belt.

Outside of that, he's largely been untouchable in his nearly 12-year run in MMA. The X-Gym product began training in jiu-jitsu and Judo as a teenager, before making his professional fighting debut as a 22-year-old.

It was here where he would illustrate to the world exactly what his nickname meant.

"Souza's nickname of "Jacare", which is the name of a species of crocodile that inhabits Brazil, was given to him for his aggressiveness and explosiveness on the mats," wrote Bloody Elbow's T.P. Grant.

After suffering a setback in his debut, Souza finished his next 10 opponents -- six of them via armlock or choke submissions. Early victims included future Bellator competitor Alexander Shlemenko and Alexey Prokofiev.

Both men were suffocated under the pressure of Souza. They weren't in his league on the ground. Not even close. He slid right through their guards'.

The next eight all suffered the same fate; Haim GozaliBill Vucick; Jose de Ribamar; Wendell Santos; Ian Murphy; Jason Miller and Zelg Galesic. Miller, to be fair, lost a hard fought decision.

Never in any sort of danger through 11 pro fights, Jacare faced Iranian striker Gegard Mousasi for the vacant DREAM middleweight title in September 2008. The former K-1 kickboxer couldn't stay upright, but landed a vicious upkick off of his back to stun the jiu-jitsu ace and claim the gold.

Things didn't necessarily get much better for Souza. A rematch with "Mayhem" Miller took place less than a year after the pair's first meeting. It was a fierce, hotly contested tilt that saw both men busted up and the fight declared a no contest.

Make no mistake about it, Souza could strike. His stand-up might not have been the best, but it was far from the worst. He was not the least bit one-dimensional, even if his ground game was off the charts. Just as Anderson Silva's bread and butter was his renowned muay-thai, Souza's was his unparalleled grappling.

And that's not the only aspect of his success we should admire. Souza's wrestling was also top notch. He could either ragdoll an opponent to the floor, or shoot in on him. His nickname should've been freight train.

Following the events of the Miller rematch, Jacare signed a deal with Strikeforce in 2009. He would rocket up the division ladder with wins over gritty veterans Matt LindlandJoey Villasenor, Tim Kennedy and Robbie Lawler. The latter two affairs were for the Strikeforce 185-pound championship and were a couple of steep tests.

In particular, Souza's battle with Tim Kennedy was very close. It was almost entirely contested on the feet, where FightMetric stats show he got the better of the striking exchanges.

Nonetheless, he defended his first major championship against Lawler and then came Rockhold. The slick submission artist came into his title fight with Souza having won four of his previous five fights via rear-naked choke.

He took the middleweight strap off of Souza in part due to solid takedown defense and his high-volume striking. Souza's strong suit had begun to meet its kryptonite; an equally strong wrestler.

However, he wouldn't allow the bleeding to trickle on as he ravaged wrestlers like Derek Brunson and Ed Herman between 2012-2013. In May 2013, Souza made his Octagon debut against Camozzi. The California native fell via arm-triangle submission -- a choke that Jacare, along with many others, snatches up with ease.

Souza also took out former middleweight title challenger and stout grappler Okami with ease during his present UFC tenure. He has yet to fight since his dismissal of Mousasi in their September rematch.

Now, instead of advancing his pursuit of a title, Souza is just fighting to stay active. He's fighting to keep his seat warm atop the 185-pound pecking order.

And maybe that's not such a bad thing. We've seen the way title shots are given and taken away. Perhaps, UFC President Dana White elects the winner of the Machida-Rockhold pairing to face the winner of the upcoming Chris Weidman-Vitor Belfort tilt at UFC 187.

Maybe there will be a new middleweight titleholder by year's end. Could Camozzi actually defeat one of the world's best middleweights on just a week of notice?

Las Vegas doesn't like his odds. But hey, you never know.

Remember, too, that will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 15 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX under- and main-cards, which will begin at 6 p.m. ET.

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