The first of two hugely important middleweight bouts came in the UFC Fight Night 36 co-main event, as BJJ standout Ronaldo Souza took on France's Francis Carmont in a battle of fighters who had yet to experience defeat in the Octagon. "Jacare" was the clear betting favorite, but would he deliver in front of his fellow countrymen once again?
Carmont threw a few front kicks in what was effectively a feeling out process in the opening minute. The boisterous crowd cheered on Jacare as he took Carmont's back and locked in a body triangle. Carmont tried to wriggle himself free but Jacare was having none of it. Having regained the body triangle, Jacare attacked with a deep rear-naked choke, and while the forearm was underneath the chin, Carmont was able to escape. With 5 seconds to go Carmont reversed position but time expired and round 1 was all Jacare if not an outright 10-8.
Jacare scored with two right hands over the top and sprung forward looking for a takedown, but Carmont stuffed it. The striking advantage early on was in favor of the Brazilian, who continues to improve in that facet of his game, and he was also able to deny Carmont a takedown. Carmont found a little bit of a rhythm in the latter part of the 2nd, including a couple of short right hands and the occasional jab. Jacare was struggling to land that powerful right hand towards the end and was unable to complete any takedowns. It was a close round that may have been won by Carmont on the feet.
With the fight seemingly hanging in the balance, Jacare needed less than a minute to get a takedown, advance to mount, and start working on a finish. He briefly lost full back control, but dragged him back down once again and secured the body triangle. Jacare stayed active with a few short punches and then pursued the rear-naked choke twice before the final horn sounded. Carmont's only offense on the ground was literally trying to punch behind his back to get Jacare off of him.
Official Result: Jacare Souza (20-3, 1 NC) def. Francis Carmont (22-8) via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27).
In the post-fight interview, Jacare said he wants "whoever has the belt" and that if the UFC doesn't see him as worthy of a title shot, then put whoever they want in front of him and he'll take the fight.
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