This Saturday's Strikeforce card won't just feature Ronda Rousey defending her 135lb championship against Sarah Kaufman, the co-main event will pit former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza against rising contender Derek Brunson.
For UFC fans this fight is a much watch as the Strikeforce Middleweight division as this promotion has a good deal of talent that will likely move over to the UFC one day. The UFC 185 lb division is in need of fresh faces and both Jacare and Brunson could help bring needed depth to that division. It is a classic veteran vs prospect fight, Jacare is fighting to prove he is still a contender for the title while Brunson is trying to make his name off the former champion.
We will do a through breakdown of both fighters after the jump...
9-1 (2-1 in Strikeforce) | 6'1" | 28 years old
Derek Brunson is a rising prospect in the middleweight division. A DII wrestler, Brunson's wrestling game is based around power. Brunson seems to favor setting up a level change with strikes and then shooting in for a power double leg. Once Brunson is under his opponent he likes to elevate them and slam them to the mat.
Brunson appears to be working on his positional grappling, but he is still some what tentative to advance position when on top. He actually gets more aggressive in guard because he postures up and begins striking. This worked well for him at lower levels at MMA, but he is struggling to work his ground-and-pound against the higher level of grapplers he is running into in Strikeforce. In side control Brunson seems unsure of what to do and contents himself to just pin his opponent. Brunson's wrestling instincts work well for him at times, like allowing him to catch the back in scrambles, but they also work against him at times. One example is that Brunson seems uncomfortable putting in both hooks from the back and as a result when he is attempting to lock in rear naked chokes his opponents are regularly able to spin out of the choke because he doesn't put in the proper hook. Brunson is a classic wrestler in that he does not like to be on his back and will scramble rather than try to play guard.
On the feet Brunson is aggressive with strikes, but sloppy at times. He has power in his hands, which is reflected in five first round knockouts, all coming off of punching offense. Brunson does mix in kicks, but they often are less than technical. While his offense certainly packs a punch, Brunson's lunging punches and wild strikes leave him open to counters. Brunson is extremely strong in the clinch and doesn't seem to tire easily, which is a good trait to have when going up against Jacare.
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza
15-3 (5-1 in Strikeforce) | 6'0" | 32 years old
The first place to start when breaking down Jacare's MMA game has to be his grappling. A Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, Jacare is considered to be one of the greatest competitive submission grapplers ever. Jacare has won world championships in and out of the gi, and he excelled not just in his weightclass but also in open weight competitions.
Jacare's grappling game was ideally built for MMA as he paired a very strong Judo takedown game with his ground skills in grappling competitions. Jacare has preferred to shoot in for low takedowns his and has an expositive first step that make him very effective at both double and single leg takedowns. That isn't to say Jacare's takedown game isn't diverse, he has an array of trips and throws from in the clinch.
Once on the ground Jacare is a master of top position grappling and is extremely aggressive in looking to advance position. That aggression comes at a price however, as his efforts to advance leave opponents looking to escape to the feet. That said, he is an excellent scrambler so often when opponents try to escape Jacare is able to catch the back. From the guard Jacare is often looking to sweep rather than submit, but he is more than able to lock on submissions. As Jacare's record of 12 of his 15 wins coming by submission, once on the ground he is a huge threat to finish to fight.
On the feet Jacare is actually a very able boxer, throwing crisp and strong punches. His striking offense is certainly above average, but the real concern for the Brazilian is defensive striking ability. While Jacare would not be accused of having a glass chin, he can certainly be hurt badly when a strike connects solidly.
Athletically speaking Jacare is special. He is very strong and explosively fast, and that combination is what makes both his takedowns and top position grappling so dominating. Given the smallest openings he is able to use picture perfect technique to pass guard or score an ankle pick takedown. The one athletic aspect Jacare doesn't seem especially gifted in is endurance. Jacare has slowed down in a noticeable fashion in just about every Strikeforce fight in his career.
Brunson certainly is a threat to Jacare on the feet, his aggressive attack on the feet could overwhelm Jacare and his power could certainly put the former Champion down. Jacare is a good boxer and might be able to take advantage of the holes in Brunson's stand up but it is unlikely he has the power to really hurt Brunson. On the mat however it is clear Jacare is more advanced than Brunson. He may be able to survive Jacare's grappling game if he is the on top, but if Jacare is able to score a takedown or a sweep this fight is likely over.
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza by Submission, Round 1.