The co-main event of Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman is an important middleweight fight between elite submission specialist Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza (15-3, 1 NC MMA, 5-1 Strikeforce) and Derek Brunson (9-1 MMA, 3-0 Strikeforce). Brunson is a heavy underdog in this one, and for good reason, as Souza is regarded as one of the best middleweights outside the UFC. Jacare is ranked #12 in the SB Nation MMA Consensus Rankings, while Brunson is unranked.
This is a fight that could very well determine the next challenger for current champion Luke Rockhold. If it's Jacare, it's a chance for the Brazilian to take back the title that he lost to Rockhold last year. If Brunson pulls off the upset he may not be guaranteed a title shot, but he'd certainly be very close. The main card airs on Showtime live tonight for the East Coast but delayed to the West Coast at 10:00 PM ET/PT.
How do these two stack up?
Souza: 31 years old | 6'0" | 74" reach
Brunson: 28 years old | 6'1" | 76" reach
What have these two done lately?
Souza: W - Bristol Marunde (SUB) | L - Luke Rockhold (UD) | W - Robbie Lawler (SUB)
Brunson: L - Kendall Grove (SD) | W - Nate James (UD) | W - Lumumba Sayers (SUB)
How did these two get here?
Jacare is a world-class grappler and a 2005 ADCC champion with a runner-up placement in the openweight tournament that same year. His biggest grappling accomplishment is submitting the legendary Marcelo Garcia. Jacare made his Strikeforce debut in 2009, submitting former UFC fighter Matt Lindland. When Jake Shields vacated his middleweight belt, Jacare fought Tim Kennedy in August 2010, taking a narrow decision victory. He successfully defended it once against Robbie Lawler before losing the title to Luke Rockhold. Having submitted Bristol Marunde, a win over Brunson would put him in line for a rematch with Rockhold in the very thin Strikeforce Middleweight division.
Brunson was a collegiate wrestler at North Carolina-Pembroke, earning All-American honors three times. He's only fought in professional MMA since 2010, but has kept a busy schedule, fighting 5 times in his first year and 4 in 2011. After a 3-0 start in Strikeforce, Brunson fought Kendall Grove on short-notice for the ShoFight Middleweight title in Missouri, and was unfortunate to be on the wrong end of a split decision, his first career loss. Brunson was originally scheduled to face Jacare in Ohio this past March, but was denied a license because he wore contacts (prohibited by the Ohio State AC) in his previous fights outside the state. He had lasik surgery to improve his vision and now is ready for the biggest fight of his career.
Why should you care?
There's no way around this, Jacare should win this and win it easily. Brunson does have a small chance of victory, but a Jacare win sets up a very intriguing rematch with Luke Rockhold that not only affects the Strikeforce belt but the state of the sport's MW division.
More Bloody Elbow coverage in the full article.