Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight powerhouses Ronaldo Souza and Derek Brunson clashed last night (Jan. 27, 2018) at UFC on FOX 27 inside Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Souza entered this bout as the No. 3-ranked Middleweight in the world, but his recent loss was a devastating defeat to the current champion that halted his climb. It was uncertain just how well the Brazilian would perform after a layoff and surgery, so “Jacare” was in a position where he must defend his top five position. On the other hand, Brunson alternates between looking like a world-beater and lunging forward sloppily into counter shots. His inconsistency made predicting his fights difficult, but a third-straight victory for Brunson would propel him into the title mix.
Contrary to some of Brunson’s wild openings, the two patiently traded kicks to start the bout. Souza kept his hands tight and looked to counter, while Brunson occasionally moved forward with combinations.
The first time Brunson truly lunged in, Souza stepped back into Southpaw and cracked him with a right hook, exactly how he knocked Brunson out back in 2012. Brunson did fall down, but he didn’t like it either and hesitated a bit more after eating the shot. When he stepped forward with a big four-punch combination a minute or so later, the same right hook counter landed once more.
Not long after, Souza countered a charge from his foe with a deep double leg takedown, but Brunson did a great job to switch his hips and whizzer. However, once they were back in the open, Souza fired a right high kick that soared right over Brunson’s block into the side of his head. Brunson fell to the mat, and “Jacare” patiently walked towards his wounded prey. A right hand and a few follow up left hooks ended the bout, sending Brunson slumping to the mat repeatedly.
Souza’s kickboxing has always been simple, and that was pretty true here. It’s also been very effective, as Souza sticks to the fundamentals and throws with power, doing his best to remain defensively tight all the while.
Speaking of, Souza’s boxing defense was absolutely on point last night. Brunson threw a mix of combinations and looping wild shots, which is a dangerous mix to defend. However, Brunson understood the threat coming from his opponent and kept his hands glued tight to his chin, backed away to remove some steam from Brunson’s punches, and even slipped a few shots.
Building on that defense, Souza’s general Fight IQ was on display. He looked for the Southpaw check hook repeatedly: it worked once, and it worked again in this bout. He dug a number of kicks to the body that were thrown with the goal of getting Brunson’s to charge forward, but that also set up the eventually fight-ending high kick.
Souza is back, and I believe Chris Weidman needs a dance partner. That fight very nearly happened for the title a couple years back, and it’s still rather intriguing.
As for Brunson, it’s become obvious that his kickboxing will not work consistently against the division’s best. He lunges forward too much and is too open defensively whenever on the feet. To me, it appears that Brunson does most of his sparring with fighters afraid of his power, as Brunson always looked mildly surprised when his opponent counters him.
The best fighters in the world have the skill to avoid those shots, and Brunson is in terrible position to absorb counters after his own shots miss.
Last night, ‘Jacare’ Souza knocked out his opponent in a tremendous return to the cage. What’s next for the Brazilian contender?
For complete UFC on FOX 27: “Souza vs. Brunson” results and play-by-play, click HERE!