The UFC returns to beautiful Brazil this weekend for UFC 224 at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro.
The co-main event of the evening is a middleweight showdown between Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (22-5) and Kelvin Gastelum (14-3). In what is more than likely to be the most action-packed bout of the night, this fight is sure to satisfy the MMA fan’s thirst for entertainment and expertise in this turbulent sport. With Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero facing off in less than a month, this weekend’s fight could determine the next title contender in the middleweight division.
“Jacare” is primed for war
Fresh off a first-round knockout of fellow middleweight Derek Brunson, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza is looking to continue his winning ways this Saturday in his home country. With only five professional losses in a career spanning nearly 15 years, Jacare is obviously doing something right. Being around this long has its advantages, but it also means that he needs to eventually face rising talent in the UFC such as Gastelum, which definitely won’t prove to be an easy feat.
Having lost to both Whittaker and Romero in the last three years, Jacare may have to pull something special out of the bag to guarantee a definitive title shot. However, the Brazilian pro always has a sneaky submission or devastating blow to pull out of his arsenal and as a fan favorite, he could snatch the title shot from his up-and-coming counterpart.
Gastelum’s big chance
Gastelum is also on a winner’s high after his first-round knockout of former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping in Shanghai in November 2017. Despite competing in the UFC since winning the TUF 17 finale nearly five years ago, this win has elevated Gastelum’s career. Now, after some time off, he’s in the mix at the top of one of the toughest divisions in MMA.
Gastelum is a perfect example of a well-rounded fighter, and that is beneficial against such an experienced athlete as Jacare. With a silent welcome at this week’s open workouts, Gastelum will have to face the adversity of having a Brazilian opponent in Rio, but with so many successful Brazilian fighters in the mix, this is almost a rite of passage when competing at the top of the UFC food chain.
How will it play out?
There is no point overlooking the size difference between both fighters. Standing at a 6”0, Jacare Souza is three inches taller than American opponent Gastelum. The advantage for Gastelum is speed. For what he lacks in stature, he can make up for with his hand speed. Another contributing factor to this is Gastelum’s age. Being 12 years younger than his veteran opponent, Gastelum should have the edge with his explosiveness. Recognized as having a very high-pressure method, Gastelum will no doubt try to overwhelm his opponent. However, Jacare has a great way of controlling the flow of a fight and with a steady pace, and he may stall or even shut down Gastelum’s attack.
With both competitors having heavy hands, the fight could end at any moment. Jacare’s right hand has caused a lot of damage in the past and Gastelum has shown he can get the job done with six first-round finishes on his record. We can expect to see a high volume, technical test for both men. It’s a well-matched competition, and no matter what happens Saturday night, this fight should prove to be entertaining.
As with all MMA fights, we know that anything can happen but ultimately, my prediction for the co-main event this weekend is a submission win for Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. Jacare’s powerful kicks and sheer power will wear Kelvin down until he gets his opportunity to utilize his renowned ground game. However, Gastelum is not one to go down without a fight, so I see the bout running until the third and final round.
Prediction: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza by Submission (Round 3)