Former Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo Souza will try to rebound from a recent knockout loss to Robert Whittaker when he takes on power puncher Derek Brunson later tonight (Sat., Jan. 27, 2018) at UFC on FOX 27 live on big FOX from inside the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
At 38 years of age, this may be the last run at UFC gold that Souza has left. The legendary Brazilian could still play a major role in 2018’s title picture, but a loss could spell disaster. Brunson, on the other hand, is just getting started in the talented 185-pound division. He will look to avenge a 2012 loss to Souza and try to lock down his seventh first-round knockout finish under UFC rule.
In order to prepare for the impending chaos, let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for both Souza and Brunson.
1. Counter with the clinch...
It’s no secret that Souza is going to be looking to grab a hold of Brunson and suffocate him with his elite grappling. Souza has ran through some of the best middleweights in the world by closing the distance, trapping arms or legs, and eventually working for a submission.
Things will be no different for Jacare this weekend in Charlotte, but he’ll have to get close to Brunson in order to threaten with his bread and butter. Brunson will enjoy a five-inch reach advantage so it’s key that Souza is able to time his shots inside and avoid getting punched in the face for his efforts.
Considering Brunson is often wild with his attacks (although he has calmed in recent appearances), Souza may find success by countering the powerful middleweight’s punches with clinch work. Whether that’s ducking under looping hooks or targeting Brunson’s upper body following an uppercut, Jacare must wait for Brunson to extend before he explodes in.
2. Aim for deep waters...
Whenever two fighters are competing in a five-round affair one is usually going to have the upper hand in the cardio department. While neither middleweight has been exceptional down the stretch in fights, Souza would probably have to be favored in the later rounds against a one-punch finisher like Brunson.
That’s not to say that Brunson isn’t athletic enough to power through some adversity and land offense in Rounds 3-5, but the way he throws his punches and attacks make him a good candidate to blow his arms out within the first 10 minutes. And even if Souza happens to tire at the same rate, the Brazilian’s ground game would give him the advantage in a slowed main event.
That said, Souza should not count on Brunson gassing at any point in this fight. But if Jacare is able to defend Brunson’s biggest shots and lean on him throughout the first few rounds, there’s a really good chance Brunson will let his guard down later in the fight
1. Shot selection...
We all know that Brunson can finish any middleweight in the world with one punch. Whether it’s a puzzling striker like Lyoto Machida, a crafty Judoka like Dan Kelly, an athletic monster like Uriah Hall, or a fellow one-punch knockout artist like Sam Alvey, Brunson has been able to record six first-round knockout finishes in just nine UFC victories.
Brunson has been able to be so effective early in fights by leaning on his punching power and often swinging for the fences. Some middleweights have willing exchanged, while others have tried to evade but ended up getting tracked down anyways. It has been a good source of offense for Brunson, but one that could get him into trouble against a savvy veteran like Souza.
If Brunson wants to be the better fighter at UFC on FOX 27 he’s going to have to remain patient with his attacks. Shot selection is going to be key for the North Carolina native as he tries to put a hurting on Jacare. Punching himself out early isn’t going to bode well down the stretch, so Brunson must pull back some of his aggression, pick his windows of opportunity, and only rush in for the finish if it presents itself.
2. Distance control...
In order to avoid Souza’s clinch game and ground advancements, Brunson must remain at distance for this entire fight. Brunson is one of the best wrestlers in the UFC’s middleweight division, but he still doesn’t want to find himself rolling around on the canvas with a world-class submission guru like Jacare.
Luckily for Brunson, he will have a five-inch reach advantage for this main event. That will not only help him keep Souza at bay with strikes on the feet, but it will help his sprawling efforts while defending any potential takedowns. While Brunson has never been taken down in his entire UFC career, Souza doesn’t need him on his back to grab an ankle or a knee and try to snap it off.
Brunson must do everything in his power to keep this fight on the edges. Anything that takes away his reach advantage and puts himself close to Souza’s grasp is a step in the wrong direction.
Prediction: Brunson via second-round knockout
MMAmania.com 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.