The co-main event of UFC Fight Night 36 sees the first of two big middleweight match-ups immediately relevant to the top of the division. Decorated BJJ black belt and grappling sensation Ronaldo Souza (19-3, 1 NC MMA; 2-0 UFC) looks for another win in his home country of Brazil as he takes on Frenchman Francis Carmont (22-7 MMA, 6-0 UFC).
"Jacare" has been brilliant in his two UFC fights, and now opponents have to worry about both his vaunted ground game and improved, powerful striking. Carmont is still undefeated in the UFC, and while he's had his share of critics for his unappealing style, he continues to rack up the wins as he's made his way into the top 10 of the UFC's rankings. The UFC Fight Night 36 main card airs live on Fox Sports 1 at 10:30 PM ET/7:30 PM PT from Jaragua do Sul, Brazil.
How do these two stack up?
Souza: 34 years old | 6'0" | 74" reach
Carmont: 32 years old | 6'3" | 78" reach
How have these two done lately?
Souza: W - Yushin Okami (TKO) | W - Chris Camozzi (SUB) | W - Ed Herman (SUB)
Carmont: W - Constantinos Philippou (UD) | W - Lorenz Larkin (UD) | W - Tom Lawlor (UD)
How did these two get here?
Souza is a former Strikeforce champion whose two fights in the UFC have lasted under 3:40. He easily arm-triangled Chris Camozzi, who took the fight on short notice, but Jacare's next bout, a co-main event showdown versus former title challenger Yushin Okami, proved to be tremendous. In a fight that was expected to go to the ground, Jacare battered Okami on the feet and won by TKO, just his 2nd KO/TKO win of his career. While a win over Carmont doesn't guarantee him the next title shot, it would put him in a highly promising position.
Carmont came into his UFC 165 bout against Costa Philippou having been heavily criticized for his drab showings against Lorenz Larkin and Tom Lawlor. Beyond his control, the judges awarded him both fights, with the Larkin one in particular seen as a clear robbery. He made no doubt who was the victor against Philippou, as he used his wrestling abilities and smothering size and top control to win a dominant unanimous decision victory. The Frenchman, who trains at Tristar MMA in Quebec, now goes into enemy territory as a significant underdog as he aims for another upset win.
Why should you care?
I can't lie, this could be a crummy fight based on Carmont's own history of less-than-exciting battles, but this is a very important fight and the winner will inch closer to a title shot.