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UFC on FOX 27 card: Jacare Souza vs Derek Brunson full fight preview

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Souza vs Belfort Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight contenders Ronaldo Souza and Derek Brunson will clash TONIGHT (Sat., Jan. 27, 2018) at UFC on FOX 27 inside Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Jacare” approaches this fight at a crossroads. On the heels of his first definitive loss in many years, the Brazilian briefly considered retirement. Instead, Souza will attempt to return from pectoral surgery to make another run at the title.

On the other hand, Brunson has put on some of his best performances yet in recent bouts. The powerful wrestler found his knockout power a few years back and went rather wild with it, but he seems to have settled down — at least a little — and found great success as a result.

Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both men.

Ronaldo Souza

Record: 23-5 (1)

Key Wins: Vitor Belfort (UFC 198), Gegard Mousasi (UFC Fight Night 50), Yushin Okami (UFC Fight Night 28), Francis Carmont (UFC Fight Night 36), Tim Boetsch (UFC 208)

Key Losses: Robert Whittaker (UFC on FOX 24), Yoel Romero (UFC 194), Luke Rockhold (Strikeforce: Barnett vs Kharitonov)

Keys to Victory: Souza is a physical beast with some of the best jiu-jitsu on the planet. As a wrestler and kickboxer. he tends to lean more towards a simple-but-effective mentality, which has been enough to place him among the top of the Middleweight division for many years.

This is an interesting matchup. In a firefight, there’s potential for either man to score the knockout, as both fighters tend to bite down on their mouth piece, hope for the best, and swing heavy. In their first match up, Souza’s Southpaw right hook found a home before Brunson’s left hand, ending the bout quickly.

That could very well happen again, but Brunson has been knocking out fighters with far greater consistency than “Jacare” in recent years. Instead of trading with Brunson, Souza would be best advised to attempt to draw Brunson’s wildness out. If he can duck under a big left hand, his chances of planting Brunson on the mat are strong.

From top position, it is no longer an even exchange where either man can win: Souza is likely to dominate.

Derek Brunson

Record: 17-5

Key Wins: Lyoto Machida (UFC Fight Night 119), Uriah Hall (UFC Fight Night 94), Lorenz Larkin (UFC 177), Dan Kelly (UFC Fight Night 110), Ed Herman (UFC 185)

Key Losses: Robert Whittaker (UFC Fight Night 101), Anderson Silva (UFC 208), Yoel Romero (UFC Fight Night 35), Ronaldo Souza (Strikeforce: “Rousey vs Kaufman”)

Keys to Victory: Brunson might just be the strongest man at 185 lbs. He hits so absurdly hard that people forget that Brunson is a decorated collegiate wrestler, a skill which earned many of his victories earlier in his career.

Opposite Souza, Brunson will want to use that wrestling in reverse, at least until “Jacare” is quite fatigued. Early on, Souza is far too crafty to grapple with top or bottom, so Brunson’s focus should be on stuff shots and getting out of dodge.

On the feet, the most immediate advantage besides raw power that Brunson holds is an extra five inches of reach. If he can restrain himself from lunging forward, that extra length means Brunson could shoot out long crosses from a range that Souza would have difficulty countering. Plus, hanging back with long distance strikes means that Souza will have a harder time landing the takedown, which is precisely what Brunson must avoid.

Bottom Line: Someone is walking away as a top five Middleweight, while the other is on the outside looking in.

If Souza wins, he confirms his current position among the elite. It will not be easy to secure a title shot, but it’s definitely possible, particularly since Chris Weidman needs an opponent in the near future. However, if Brunson does land first, it will drop Souza significantly. Aside from the fact that it’s unclear is Souza will even want to continue competing with a loss, that will make climbing towards the title far more difficult and time consuming.

The No. 8-ranked Middleweight in the world, Brunson scored the first truly major victory of his career by stopping Lyoto Machida in the first round last time out. There’s some doubt around that victory though; Machida is nearly 40 and was already on a losing streak. If Brunson follows it up by taking out a long-time top five fighter in Souza, there can be no doubt that the Southpaw is ready for a title eliminator.

Ignoring the Anderson Silva “loss,” Brunson’s last match with an elite Middleweight saw him flail wildly until Robert Whittaker overwhelmed him. It was an ugly loss, which puts extra pressure on Brunson, as a similar defeat would make it quite difficult to earn similarly high-level match ups.

At UFC on FOX 27, Ronaldo Souza and Derek Brunson will square off in an excellent 185-pound contest. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles? will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 27 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” match online, which is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 5 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.

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