The landscape of the UFC’s middleweight division has rapidly changed over the past year. Within the last 365 days, longtime dominant champion Anderson Silva was defeated by Chris Weidman, two-time title contender Chael Sonnen left for the light heavyweight division, and former 205-pound champion Lyoto Machida decided to jump down to middleweight.

However, quietly while this was all happening, a former Strikeforce middleweight champion has been wreaking havoc in his new promotion and has become an absolute force to be reckoned with. Since losing the title to Luke Rockhold in 2011, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza has gone 5-0 with five finishes, two of which took place in the Octagon. While he may only have two UFC victories, he has three over UFC opponents (don’t forget about his victory on the final Strikeforce card against UFC’s Ed Herman).

Doing a favor to Zuffa, the parent company of both the UFC and Strikeforce at the time, Herman jumped from the Octagon to the hexagonal Strikeforce cage and was submitted in less than four minutes by Jacare. In making his UFC debut, Souza dominated Chris Camozzi and choked him out in the first round. But if you read the headlines the next day, it was all about how Vitor Belfort landed a huge knockout over Rockhold in the evening’s main event. It was a combination of Jacare defeating competition that he was supposed to beat and Rockhold, being the last person to defeat Souza, coming out on the wrong end of a major knockout.

It wasn’t until the first-round knockout and dominant performance against Yushin Okami at UFC Fight Night 28 that the collective jaw of the MMA world really dropped and hit the floor. All of a sudden, the guy that was beating all of the people that he was supposed to beat took down a top-five fighter who was rapidly working his way towards another title shot.

Truly, the MMA world should have seen this coming. Although Jacare didn’t close out Strikeforce as the promotion’s middleweight champion, he did go 7-1 and held and defended the title. He continued to improve and progressively defeat better and stronger opponents. His grappling credentials speak for themselves. He has several jiu-jitsu World titles to his name, along with black belts in jiu-jitsu and judo, but the evolution of his striking and stand-up game have been on display lately, especially against Okami earlier this month.

At the end of the day, Souza is a special fighter. In the modern world of mixed martial arts, a fighter needs to be strong in all disciplines of fighting in order to truly be dominant. About a year ago, Jacare was thought of as a good fighter with a strong ground game. Now, however, he is considered to be in the mix at the top of the 185-pound division due to how his stand-up has vastly improved.

It is all a part of the evolution of how the Brazilian has turned into one of the most feared fighters on the planet. Look for Souza to earn a crack at the title, and look for that opportunity to come soon.

Photo: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (Jerry Chavez/The MMA Corner)

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.

  • whit thomasson

    Good stuff, I absolutely agree with all you said. That dude is absolutely nasty and I would love to him fight Machida. That would be a great test for his stand up to prep him for a title shot. Any thoughts…….?