Photo by Esther Lin
The Abu Dhabi Combat Club's grappling tournament is the pinnacle of the submission wrestling world. Competitors travel from all corners of the globe to compete in this grappling competition that pits the best practitioners of Sambo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Judo, and traditional wrestling against one another in a true skill vs. skill test of their knowledge, determination, and competitive spirit. Brazilian jiu-jitsu has been proven to be the "King" of these competitions as only Mark Kerr and Sanae Kikuta were able to break the streak of wins by the BJJ elite.
It comes as no surprise to fans that the dominant champions in the ADCC tournaments have a high propensity of becoming successful mixed martial arts fighters. Fabricio Werdum, Demian Maia, Rani Yahya, and Jeff Monson are just a few successful mixed martial artists who've been winners of past ADCC tournaments, and Strikeforce's newest middleweight acquisition in Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza happens to be another major player in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu community.
Souza might be the absolute best 185 pound BJJ fighter in the world. He's a two-time World Jiu-Jitsu champion and the 2005 ADCC 77-87kg winner along with placing second only to Roger Gracie in the 2005 Absolute Division. Not only are his credentials impressive, his nickname, "Jacare", means "alligator" in reference to the grip he brings down on his opponents in the grappling department. It's safe to say that he'll put opponents into a "death roll" if a fight happens to hit the ground.
His winning performance on Saturday night at Strikeforce: Evolution might very well be his most impressive win to date. Although most fans would point at Matt Lindland's crushing 37-second loss to Vitor Belfort and his age (39) as evidence that the sport has passed him by, Souza did manage to show us an evolving striking game coupled with the ability to out-grapple nearly anyone that stands in front of him. His shredded physique and visibly powerful shoulders and arms only give further credence to the fact that he'll be a very tough battle for anyone in the division.
Unlike the discussion surrounding Cung Le and Scott Smith, Souza's chances at the top of the division are quite good. Dan Henderson and Jake Shields are both top dogs in the division, and Souza could give either fighter a complete drubbing at the hands of his grappling prowess. I think Henderson's wrestling ability and experience would give him a slight edge though.
He also has some appeal in that he's been in a constant feud with fellow Strikeforce fighter Jason "Mayhem" Miller in regards to their DREAM 9 no-contest decision, and he did lose to Gegard Mousasi at DREAM 6 by the highly-underutilized upkick. He should have plenty of match-ups to take advantage of in helping him gain some popularity and put truly exciting Brazilian jiu-jitsu techniques on the map to the American casual fanbase.
But what separates Souza as a legitimate threat as opposed to other top notch grapplers? Marcelo Garcia is undoubtedly one of the best grapplers to ever compete, yet he was defeated in his debut by a fairly unknown Dae Won Kim. Why are we touting Souza as the next great middleweight?
For all the complaining we do about strikers needing to develop their ground game, the same can be said for grapplers needing to develop a striking game. While Demian Maia shattered the concept until he ran into Nate Marquardt's fist at UFC 102, fighters such as Souza and Alexandre "Xande" Ribeiro are two of the newer wave of Brazilian grapplers who are being progressive and learning that mixed martial arts truly comes down to the more well-rounded fighters being more victorious than standard one-dimensional fighters. There are surely outliers to that statement, but how scary will it be for fighters to battle a very powerful ADCC champion grappler who can punch for power?
Maybe this is a bold statement, but I believe we'll be seeing a lot of success from Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza. He has Anderson Silva behind him in his striking training, and he has all the resources of a top notch MMA camp in Black House behind him as well. Instead of relying solely on his top-notch BJJ talent to win fights, Souza has went with a much more progressive plan to become a well-rounded fighter. Look for Jacare to become a true double threat and vie for the title sometime in 2010.