Jacare Souza was tonight (Sat., May 12, 2018) looking to string together back-to-back wins and re-establish himself as the top-ranked Middleweight contender. Looking to steal his shine at UFC 224, which took place inside Jeuness Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was the dangerous and ever-evolving Kelvin Gastelum.
And shine steal is exactly what Gastelum did, squeaking out a split decision win in Jacare’s hometown in a very close fight.
Jacare went for a diving takedown to start the match, signaling that he wanted to get the fight on his terms early. Gastelum, though, was able to sprawl and peel the Brazilian off him as they jockeyed for position along the cage. Jacare grabbed a single-leg and the pair did a little dance — with Gastelum drilling him with shots while hopping on one leg — until Jacare was finally able to get the fight on the ground. He initially angled for a leg lock, but Gastelum scrambled and ended up in side control. He didn’t stay there long, however, as Jacare was soon able to secure full mount in the center of the cage with two minutes remaining in the round. Gastelum rolled to his belly and Jacare rolled with him, stepping over and grabbing an arm while he was belly down. Jacare rolled to his back and tried to rip Gastelum’s arm down to hyperextend it, but Gastelum defended expertly until he was saved by the bell.
Gastelum came out for the second stanza looking to land a big shot. The pair traded shots and Jacare once again went for a diving takedown, but was unsuccessful. Jacare drilled him with an overhand right, then a kick to the belly, that appeared to back up Gastelum. Gastelum stuffed another takedown moment later, but Jacare made him pay with a one-two combination that snapped his head back. Gastelum then drilled him a combination of his own and Jacare crumbled to the canvas. Gastelum tried to smother him on the ground, but Jacare rolled and seemed to attempt a submission, which Gastelum wanted no part of, allowing him to get back to his feet so he could finish him standing. He ultimately let Jacare off the hook, though, even though he was plodding forward ... perhaps a little punch drunk. Nevertheless, Jacare continued to throw bombs and trade leather until the round came to a close.
Jacare was a mess in his corner — fatigued and likely woozy. Gastelum, meanwhile, came out of his corner with pep in his step, seemingly on a mission to end the fight early on his terms. Jacare was game, slinging zombie-like shots, including a nice head kick. Gastelum was clearly the fresher fighter down the stretch, but somehow he couldn’t muster enough of an offensive attack to take advantage of Jacare’s lack of conditioning. In fact, Jacare scored a single-leg takedown with 10 seconds remaining in the match ... even though he didn’t have enough energy to follow Gastelum to the canvas.
It was a close fight. Gastelum had the gas tank to finish the fight, but he was unable to pull the trigger. Nevertheless, he was somehow able to score a split decision despite being behind enemy lines as an underdog. It’s a huge feather in his cap and another major setback for Jacare, who is/was perhaps the most talented 185-pound contender to never get a title shot. And it seems as though his best days are now behind him.
For complete UFC 224: “Nunes vs. Pennington” results, including play-by-play updates, click here.