MMAmania.com resident fighter analyst Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of UFC Fight Night 50 headliner Ronaldo Souza, who looks to avenge his 2008 loss to Gegard Mousasi this Friday (Sept. 5, 2014) at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Ledyard, Connecticut.
Former Strikeforce middleweight champion, Ronaldo Souza, is ready to rematch Dream's former light heavyweight strap-hanger, Gegard Mousasi, this Friday (Sept. 5, 2014) at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Ledyard, Connecticut.
Since losing his title to Luke Rockhold, "Jacare" has been on a tear. He's now on a six fight win streak, during which he finished five of his opponents and was absorbed into Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). If not for Vitor Belfort and his string of head-kick knockouts, Souza would very likely be challenging for the title.
Now, Souza needs at least one more win before competing for gold. On the bright side, the Brazilian will finally get a chance to settle the score with "Dreamcatcher." But does he have the mixed martial arts (MMA) skill to defeat Mousasi?
Let's take a closer look.
Souza is a pressure fighter in every way. The muscular middleweight is constantly stalking his opponent and looking for opportunities to land strikes or a takedown.
While pressuring, Souza is coiled up and ready to blast forward with power punches. As he pushes his opponent back, Souza uses head movement very well. His opponent is often attempting to keep Souza away with straight punches, while Souza is just biding his time until he can slip and rip. If his opponent -- such as Francis Carmont -- is very tall and lengthy, Souza will move his head as he takes big steps forward.
Souza frequently attacks with the overhand right. "Jacare" swings hard and without hesitation, making him a very dangerous opponent. He frequently looks to land the punch over his opponent's jab, which is the counter that rocked Okami early in their fight.
In addition, Souza often leads with the overhand. Though not safest technique in a strictly stand up fight, it feeds into his grappling attack quite well. "Jacare" will even double up on his overhand, which is fairly unexpected and thus more difficult to defend.
Since Souza and his right hard are so dangerous, many of Souza's opponent's will look to circle left. When they do, Souza will rush in as though he were throwing his right but instead dig a left hook. "Jacare" often throws the hook to the body but will also throw a pair of hooks to the body then head. This technique is quite effective, as his opponent is moving into the hook, but if his opponent adjusts, he's back in line for the overhand. Souza also turns to the left hook as his primary counter punch when his opponent tries to press him backwards.
"Jacare" is not much of a combination puncher. He'll double up on either strike and attacks with the left hook-right overhand combo occasionally, but he rarely extends past those combinations.
Before Souza commits to his punches, he often kicks from the outside. "Jacare" throws hard kicks to the leg and body often, although he rarely sets them up. In addition, Souza has been attacking with the wheel kick lately, which also deters his opponent from circling to Souza's left.
Unlike some submission fighters, Souza is powerful takedown artist. Not only is he strong and fast, but "Jacare" is a Judo black belt.
Souza has a very strong double leg takedown against the fence. Once he gets in on his opponent's hips, Souza explodes back and drags his opponent's hips away from the fence. Souza's primary takedown setup comes from his overhand right. When his punches misses, Souza will continue the swing until his hand down by his waist. Since Souza already changed levels a bit to throw the punch, his hands are in position, and his opponent is likely covered up, it's the perfect time to shoot for a double.
Additionally, Souza is a beast inside the clinch. He frequently attacks with inside trips in the clinch and often distracts his opponent with strikes first. For example, he tripped up Chris Camozzi by engaging the Muay Thai fighter with clinch strikes then tripping him when Camozzi looked for a knee.
"Jacare" will also look for head and arm throws. Although these risky throws can cause him to lose position on the floor, Souza is so confident in his grappling that it doesn't really matter. Of course, if all this technical clinch work doesn't workout, Souza can just throw his opponent to the mat.
Souza's takedown defense -- largely due to his overall physicality -- is pretty strong. He hasn't been taken down since the tail end of his bout with Tim Kennedy, in part because very few people want to grapple with Souza at all. It's just not a desirable position to be in.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
A jiu-jitsu black belt, Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) gold medalist, and multiple time Mundials winner, Souza is perhaps the best jiu-jitsu competitor inside the UFC today. Just like his style of stand up, "Jacare" is a major pressure fighter on the mat.
Firstly, Souza's guard passing game is phenomenal. His posture is frequently strong, and his hips are always heavy on his opponent. If his opponent starts to defend a pass, Souza will pause the pass in order to land a few hard punches. Then, he'll throw an underhook in a hop around his opponent's guard.
Another excellent thing Souza does is make it very difficult for his opponent to secure a full guard. Though the offensive options are limited, it is much easier to hold a talented grappler inside the closed guard simply by squeezing. However, Souza usually attempts to pin a butterfly hook or land in half guard immediately after hitting a takedown. From either of these positions, Souza can more easily advance into a dominant spot.
Once Souza is passed the guard, he'll transition between dominant positions like side control, north-south, and mount. If his opponent simply allows this to happen, then Souza will pick his shots with heavy ground strikes. Most of the time, Souza's opponent uses these opportunities to attempt to recover guard. Even if his opponent is successful, "Jacare" is thoroughly unconcerned; he'll just pass guard again.
It's only once Souza's foe is actively trying to defend that "Jacare" will really attack with submissions. He usually attacks with kimuras, arm triangles, and armbars during these exchanges. All of those moves are utilized when the bottom man's arm is out of position, which often occurs in MMA due to the bottom man's need to protect his face while he elbow escapes.
"Jacare's" finish of Chris Camozzi is a beautiful example of this strategy. Camozzi was doing a pretty decent job retaining guard and putting Souza back in it when he did pass. However, "Jacare" was simply too technical and would not be denied forever.
After getting an open guard back for a half-second, Camozzi's guard is passed by Souza. The Brazilian then slides into mount and lands a punch. Mounted by a power punching black belt, Camozzi desperately attempts to hip escape. However, he turns a bit too much in his bump, which allows "Jacare" to swim his arm around Camozzi's head and arm. When Camozzi turns back in to hook one on Souza's legs, he's actually turning into the arm triangle choke.
The exception to Souza's opportunistic, transitional attack is his back mount. When Souza latches onto his opponent's back, he has no intention of letting go or allowing his opponent to move. Instead, he locks in a body triangle, squeezes, and tries to jam his forearm under his foe's jaw. "Jacare's" control from this position is excellent, and it's simply a matter of time until he bores through his opponent's defenses.
Best chance for success
"Jacare" may have improved his striking, but he's fighting an experienced kickboxer. In addition, both men are pressure fighters, meaning it will be fight to control the center of the Octagon.
Souza does not want to be moving backwards the entire night.
Instead, Souza needs to really focus on getting Mousasi to the mat. He can't fight like Mark Munoz and utterly neglect to set his takedowns up, but Souza cannot get sucked into a kickboxing match either. That's simply not a fight he's likely to win.
But if Souza can get on top of Mousasi, he's in his wheelhouse. Though no one can truly relax in Mousasi's guard, Souza may be able to slow the fight down once he passes. From there, he can simultaneously hunt for the finish while securing rounds.
Will Souza earn his shot at the title, or can Mousasi truly prove that he's an elite athlete?
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