Ronaldo Souza (19-3-1 NC) vs. Francis Carmont (22-7) Middleweight
When we last left our heroes...Even after dominants runs in ADCC in 2003, 2005, 2009, 2001, and at the CBJJ World Championships from 2001-2005, along with medals in the BJJ World Cup, the CBJJ European and Pan American Championships...I suspect people still underestimate just how good Jacare is.
Not simply as a grappler, but as an athlete.
Jacare has "struggled" inasmuch as he's lost two important fights: one to Gegard Mousasi, and one to Luke Rockhold. Both are fights that most observers wouldn't feel silly in picking for Jacare in a rematch. The Rockhold bout was close and competitive, and upkick knockouts happen as often as John Tortorella is at peace.
With a win Souza will likely get one more high profile fight, and then a title shot. But he needs to get through the polarizing Frenchman from Saint-Tropaz.
Carmont will always be known for his bout with Lorenz Larkin in April, last year. It's a bit impossible to avoid talking about when we're looking at his history. While it's the judges who deserve our collective ire, Carmont has never endeared himself to fans with his fighting style. I'm not sure his last bout, a win over Constantinos Philippou, alleviated much of the criticism. He made some scary noises and grunted his way through a brief ground and pound attack in the 3rd round of that fight. That's a start I guess.
To be honest, however, I tend to sympathize with fighters like Carmont. It's a fight. There's another guy in the cage. He's also responsible for a fight that fails to entertain. Winging wild haymakers is nice when you get some Just Bleed money, and Uncle Dana pats you on the back for "being a man" and letting it all hang out, but losses are more likely to accumulate with that style until unemployment is on the horizon.
Carmont is 6-0 in the UFC. I'm not saying he's entertaining, but he's getting the job done. Ultimately I want my champions successful more than I want them to be aesthetically pleasing. That's who the champ is: the man you have to accept, and respect because being the best is a great rebuke against most criticism.
Carmont's not there yet, but he's better than how he's perceived.
What both men can do: Souza is the guy you wanted in MMA from day one. But unlike people like Marcelo Garcia or Roger Gracie, his potential was always more apparent. Why? Because he's an athlete. He's quick to respond, and has the general instincts required to be a successful mixed martial artist.
We all know Souza is a brilliant grappler. One of the absolute very very best in his own domain. But he's made incredible night and day strides with respect to his striking. Many specialists, be it in grappling or wrestling, always develop a sort of go-to strike; one weapon they can rely on not to win with, but to compliment the game that brought them here.
And usually it's the same punch we always here Joe Rogan scream into the mic: "(big) right hand!!'.
But unlike most of those fighters, Jacare has developed actual technique and craft. He has a blistering, quickly chambered right hand, and his footwork and movement assists in the power he's "developed" over the years. I agree power is something 'natural', but technique inspires accuracy, and accuracy is a prerequisite for a punch powerful enough to separate another man from consciousness.
As for Carmont, well...as many know by now, he has very good, and strong takedowns. But his strong kicks to the body and general size are still factors Jacare will need to contend with. Carmont's top control is frankly, marvelous, but this bout will not be a good time to exploit Jacare's lack of a sprawl.
What both men can't do: Jacare is truly well rounded at this point. Of course, that doesn't make him perfect. And I feel the jury is still out on his post-fight celebration. It's so unique you can't hate it, but it doesn't make me want to drunkenly imitate him around the flat screen either.
Still, there will always be questions about his chin. A bad chin is basically like a bad goalie: it's only a detriment when you have limited offense, and swiss cheese defense. You can mask it well. Not only am I not worried, but he took monster shots from Patino in is debut before getting fully KO'ed.
Carmont has very few options here. Going for takedowns is not a good idea. Not all great grapplers have good hips from the bottom. Jacare is great off his back. On the feet I might be a little worried. Carmont throws big thudding shots, and going to the body is something Jacare should prepare for. Nonetheless, Jacare's offense will overwhelm Carmont.
X-Factor: Body work. Never underestimate a well placed shot to the body. Carmont still loses though, just in case I wasn't clear.
In-Fight Soundtrack: There's a good chance critics of Carmont will have the words from this chorus in their minds...just a guess...
Prediction: Ronaldo Souza by Guillotine, round 2.