The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday ventured into Sao Paulo, Brazil, with UFC Fight Night 164 -- an event featuring legendary native sons Ronaldo Souza and Mauricio Rua in the headliner and co-headliner. The fan favorites failed to come through for a crowd of 10,344 that filled the Ibirapuera Gymnasium.
Souza, who was coming off a disappointing decision loss to Jack Hermansson in April, made the move up to light heavyweight in a last-ditch effort to resurrect his career. The former Strikeforce champion was outpointed across a slow-paced 25-minute affair that resulted in Jan Blachowicz earning a split decision. A two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist, “Jacare” did not agree with the verdict.
“I think that I fought well against a top-level guy,” Souza said. “Yeah, I thought [I won]. Sherdog and ESPN thought the same. I think I won the first three rounds. The second and fourth rounds, I wasn’t sure. I lost the last one.”
The win was the sixth in seven starts for Blachowicz. Immediately after the bout, the former KSW champion shifted his focus to the next possible obstacle in his road: “I hope they push me on the top again and my next fight will be for the title or for the top,” Blachowicz said on the ESPN+ post-fight show. With rumors that the UFC was looking to book divisional champion Jon Jones against Dominick Reyes in the first quarter of 2020, it leaves Blachowicz and another top contender, Corey Anderson, out in the cold. The 36-year-old was asked about a rematch with Anderson -- a man who defeated him in 2015 -- as a consolation prize.
“Corey would be a good fight, a rematch for him because he got a lot lucky against me in the first fight,” Blachowicz said. “I will prove that he was lucky, but maybe a title shot would be best option for me. I would like to fight against Jon Jones.”
Originally slated to face Sam Alvey before the Team Quest rep was forced off the card with an injury, Rua entered the co-main event with wins in four of his last five outings. He managed to withstand an early flurry from Paul Craig in the first round and rallied behind his superior wrestling. The two men battled back and forth across three rounds, with the fight ending in a split draw. Despite taking the fight on two weeks’ notice and nearly capturing the signature win of his career, Craig was less than pleased with his performance against the former UFC light heavyweight champion.
“I’m disappointed. I think I should have done better,” Craig said. “I had energy in the last round to stand up and take him down. If I had the energy then, I should have had more energy at the start to take him down, hold him and finish the fight in my fashion.”
Craig, a former British Association of Mixed Martial Arts titleholder, did not dwell on the outcome for long and instead turned his focus to settling the score with Rua, perhaps in his native Scotland.
“There are rumors that Glasgow is just around the corner,” Craig said. “If I can do this on just two weeks’ notice with a really bad camp -- when I say a bad camp, I mean not sparring, no wrestling, just technical stuff -- what could I do with eight weeks? I want ‘Shogun’ Rua. He won’t take that fight. It is too dangerous. He will want an easy fight, like Sam Alvey or maybe even Johnny Walker, somebody he can piece up. Let’s do Glasgow or London.”
Rua brushed aside all talk of a possible retirement and seemed willing to answer Craig’s request to meet inside the Octagon once more.
“I think it is great,” the 2005 Pride Fighting Championships middleweight grand prix winner said. “I think I won that fight. I think a lot of people are saying that. I think we need a rematch, absolutely. I just have to see if the UFC wants that [and] if they [will] agree to the rematch. If they do, I’m ready for the rematch.”