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Ronaldo Souza (26-6, 1 NC), more commonly referred to as “Jacare,” is a former Strikeforce middleweight champion, and one of the best grapplers the sport has ever known. On April 27, the Brazilian will headline UFC on ESPN 3 opposite Jack Hermansson.
In the build-up to the pivotal middleweight clash, here are five moments that have come to define the 39-year-old veteran’s career:
An Inauspicious Start
At just 22, the grappling phenom made his professional mixed martial arts debut against Jorge Patino at the inaugural Jungle Fight event in September 2003. It was a tough challenge for the grappler, as his experienced adversary had 25 bouts to his credit. “Jacare” tried to duke it out on the feet with his more established rival, and he had some success until he was clobbered by a right hand that ended the contest just three minutes into the first round. Souza’s MMA career had got off to a losing start.
Missing Out On Gold
In 2008, Souza was riding a 10-fight winning streak going into the final of the Dream Grand Prix versus Gegard Mousasi. The Brazilian had used his world-class grappling to overcome three opponents, and he looked to do the same this time around. In the first frame, “Jacare” grounded Mousasi and proceeded to dish out strikes from top position. It appeared that the end was nigh when Jacare pounced on his downed rival with a massive overhand right from a standing position. However, he was caught with an upward kick from Mousasi on the way down, which knocked him out cold.
A Belt At Last
At Strikeforce: Houston Souza faced Tim Kennedy for the organization’s vacant middleweight strap. The well-rounded American proved to be a tough adversary. Despite Kennedy having the edge in total strikes and defending all four takedown attempts, it was the Brazilian who was awarded the unanimous decision after five rounds of competitive action. “Jacare” was an MMA champion at last.
“Jacare” was unbeaten across four outings with the Ultimate Fighting Championship when he rematched Gegard Mousasi at UFC Fight Night 50. This time around the Brazilian grounded the Dutchman at every opportunity, and once there smothered him with impeccable ground control. In the third and final round, Souza secured a guillotine choke from top position while in mount. Having rolled to his back he kept tightening the squeeze until Mousasi was forced to tap with just 30 seconds remaining. The dominant display earned him Performance of the Night honors.
Thinnest Of Margins
Former Cuban wrestling standout Yoel Romero and Souza had been scheduled to fight on two occasions, but both had fallen through. The pair finally met at UFC 194. “Jacare” came into the clash with an unblemished 5-0 record within the promotion. The first frame saw Romero dominate. However, it was the Brazilian who was the more active combatant in the latter two rounds. Many were of the opinion that the Brazilian’s striking output and lengthy periods of ground control would be enough to earn him the victory, but it was Romero who was awarded the split decision.