Every fighter needs a statement fight. A fight that declares their plan is a run to the top of their division. Former Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza had his statement fight on September 4.
Souza, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, entered his fight against Okami with a record of 18-3-0-1. Of those 18 wins, 14 had come via submission. That number and the fact that he possesses numerous gold medals from Jiu-Jitsu competitions throughout the years could have easily had fans, and perhaps Okami thinking that, at least on paper, Souza was a one dimensional fighter.
That thinking changed early in the first round of UFC Fight Night 28’s co-main event when Souza landed a heavy right hand. Okami covered up against the fence as Souza unloaded left hands that the cowering Okami did his best to block as referee Leon Roberts looked for a reason to stop the fight.
The two eventually separated from the fence and worked from distance, looking to find their range. It was Souza that found his range first, as another right hand found its mark. This one dropped Okami to the mat where Souza finished the fight with additional rights from above.
The end came at the 2:47 mark of Round One. It would be the last fight for Okami in the UFC. Okami, who had fought for the UFC middleweight title in 2011, was recently released by the promotion despite going 3-1 in his last four fights.
It would also lead to Souza finding a spot as the No. 3 ranked fighter in the 185-pound division, trailing only Vitor Belfort (No.2) and Anderson Silva (No. 1).
UFC president Dana White, in Brazil for the UFC 168 media tour, was asked about Souza, to which he responded:
Jacare exploded onto the scene in that last fight. No one has done that to Yushin Okami. He went out there and made it look easy, and I was blown away. Jacare is a bad dude. He is the real deal, and as soon as he’s healthy we’re going to get him a good fight.
White’s exploding onto the scene comment may be a little hyperbolic. After all, Souza is 9-1 in his last ten fights. His only loss being a unanimous decision defeat to Luke Rockhold in September 2011, when Rockhold claimed that promotion’s middleweight title from Souza.
The unfortunate thing for Souza is that he injured his right foot during the Okami bout. That injury has left Souza’s immediate future up in the air.
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