It’s hard to say that Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (24-5 and 1 NC) is ‘underappreciated’.
After all, he’s headlined and co-headlined multiple cards. In seven UFC wins, he’s finished his opponent six times and earned four “Performance of the Night” bonuses. But he hasn’t competed in nearly nine months and his last fight was a knockout loss. So, let’s refresh ourselves on why Jacare was so terrifying in the first place.
Most of MMA’s prolific submission artists are lanky, with the exception of heavyweights. There are odd exceptions like Rousimar Palhares, who relies on destructive strength in a tiny package but the submission game generally favors long and flexible limbs.
Jacare has the best of both worlds.
At 6’1″ with 72″ reach, his dimensions are identical to the venerable Demian Maia. Unlike Maia though, Jacare packs terrific strength onto his frame. It gives him enough finesse to fight for position on the ground but still have the muscle endurance to crank submissions at the first opportunity. He’s not over-muscled to the point that his cardio suffers, but has the short-twitch explosiveness to shoot in on and drag middleweights to the ground.
Grip of the gator
It’s much harder to be a submission fighter rather than a knockout artist in MMA.
Knockouts literally happen in a flash; it’s a perfect collision of moving objects that pushes a switch in the brain. It’s the reason why underdog fighters pull off miracle knockouts more easily than miracle submissions. A submission, no matter how explosive, requires grips and extensions which in turn require time. Plenty of fighters have oppressive top games but can’t translate it into a surefire submission . . . until Jacare.
Jacare can take down, manipulate, and submit his opponent consistently. That may be the MMA equivalent of “you have nice hair”, but you’d be surprised at how many submission artists can’t do all three. Some, like Nate Diaz, have no offensive wrestling to speak of. Demian Maia finds himself stuck in dominating but static top positions because he doesn’t have the raw power for explosive submissions.
On the other hand, getting stuck under Jacare is a death sentence.
Victim of circumstance
A few years ago when Chris Weidman was stomping through the middleweight division, a trio of contenders emerged whom I dubbed the “Three Headed Monster”. But while Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero have performed as expected, Jacare has lagged behind.
It’s not his fault.
Jacare’s only two losses in the UFC are to Romero and Whittaker. The fight with Romero was a razor-thin decision loss in which Jacare ate a surprise spinning backfist that stole a round. Whittaker would beat Romero for the interim title in a brutal back and forth fight on a torn knee, slaying two of the three monster’s heads. Essentially, Jacare had the poor fortune to run into two freak middleweights in a short span of time.
Derek Brunson is a nice rebound fight, as he’s on a hot streak and dangerous but nowhere close to elite. His hands have dynamite in them and it only takes one shot to end a fight.
But Jacare can do the same thing on the ground.