It’s “Jacare” versus “The Joker” in Florida.
If you hadn’t heard the news, the highly anticipated battle between Ronaldo Souza and Yoel Romero at UFC on ESPN 3 has been scrapped after Romero came down with a case of pneumonia. But the show must go on and now ESPN is reporting a new opponent has been found for Souza: 19-4 Swede Jack Hermansson.
While the person across the cage from “Jacare” has changed, the stakes remain the same. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto confirms that a win over Hermansson on April 27 will lock in a middleweight title shot for the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace.
Breaking: Jacare Souza vs. Jack Hermansson is verbally agreed to headline UFC Fight Night on April 27. Hermansson replaces Yoel Romero, who withdrew due to illness. UFC has promised Souza a title shot should he win. A victory would improve his UFC record to 10-3.— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) April 6, 2019
From Jacare's manager, Gilberto Faria: We know how hard it is to find someone to fight Jacare on short notice. Props to Jack for taking the fight. We are glad it's been made clear a win will guarantee Jacare a title shot, something he's pursued for many years."— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) April 6, 2019
Jacare's title shot, should he win on April 27, would come after a title unification bout between Robert Whittaker and the winner of next week's interim title fight between Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum.— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) April 6, 2019
Souza had recently declared he’d consider retiring if a win in Florida didn’t earn him the long awaited opportunity to challenge for a UFC belt. “Jacare” has been with the UFC since it absorbed Strikeforce in 2013 and is 9-3 with the promotion (26-6 overall). His gain is our loss: it could be a while before we get to see that title fight.
First Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum will fight for the interim 185 pound strap at UFC 236 on April 13, and then the winner of that bout will fight recovering champ Robert Whittaker sometime later in the summer. Unless the middleweight division really picks up the pace, this may be Souza’s only fight in 2019.
That’s all assuming he can get past Jack Hermansson, whose 2018 involved a three fight win streak with finishes against Thales Leites, Gerald Meerschaert, and David Branch.
While Hermansson is definitely a tough opponent, a lot of his success has come from taking down his opponents and working them over with relentless ground and pound. We have our doubts that is a winning skillset against a submission specialist like Souza, but it should make for an entertaining fight.
UFC on ESPN 3 goes down April 27th from the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida. As the name implies, you’ll be able to catch all the action on the ESPN cable network.