The UFC’s Brazilian Super Bowl, if you will, takes place this weekend at UFC 198. Some of the biggest names from our mixed martial arts neighbors to the south will compete on this stacked card, including two who will square off to likely be considered the no. 1 contender for the middleweight title.
It’s hard to believe that Vitor Belfort and Jacare Souza haven’t faced each other before, since they’re two of the most skilled and well-known Brazilian fighters in all of MMA. But UFC 198 presents their first-ever meeting in what should be an exciting bout with two guys with similar skills. Who do I think wins? I have all your details right here.
Strengths: Belfort is one of the most dangerous strikers in MMA. You hear that description used for a lot of fighters, it’s true. But go ask Michael Bisping what they think. Or Luke Rockhold. Or Dan Henderson. Or Wanderlei Silva. Those guys and numerous others have felt Belfort’s blitzkrieg offense with his fast strikes, and it’s his striking and knockout power that gave him a first-round knockout victory in the rubber match with his old rival Henderson and gave him this likely no. 1 contender bout with Souza.
Of Belfort’s 36 career fights, half of them resulted in him achieving a knockout or TKO victory. But his ground game is not to be underestimated. He nearly dethroned then-light heavyweight champion Jon Jones in 2012 with a keylock and choked out Anthony Johnson earlier that same year.
The stand-up game is Belfort’s bread and butter, as is his penchant for wanting to end fights early. His last four wins haven’t lasted longer than early into the second round. There is no wasted motion with Belfort. He wants to hit hard, hit early, hit often and finish you quick.
Weaknesses: While Belfort has looked ageless at the age of 39, as the old saying goes, Father Time is undefeated. The one time Belfort looked vulnerable lately was when he was demolished in the first round by then-middleweight champion Chris Weidman – a dominant wrestler and fighter who was quickly on the rise at the time. That loss also came as Belfort was coming off use of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) after the practice was finally banned.
Belfort rebounded nicely with his rubber match victory over Henderson, but he was no spring chicken either and was also coming off his own TRT use. Does Belfort have the juice (no pun intended, I promise) to keep up? Also, while Belfort can boast a ground game of his own, Souza is truly one of the elite jiu-jitsu practitioners in the world. Can Belfort handle this dangerous onslaught?
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
Strengths: As I previously stated, Souza is second-to-none when it comes to jiu-jitsu. Some think he’s the best in the world, and you won’t hear much of an argument from me. Of his last eight victories, five have come by way of submission and he boasts 13 submission victories overall (of 22 wins total). Simply put, Jacare is probably the most dangerous fighter in all of MMA on the ground. Roll with him at your own risk.
Jacare is also frighteningly efficient in the cage. Like Belfort, he wants to end the fight quickly During his recent 8-fight win streak, five of those victories came in the first round. There is also no wasted motion with Jacare, and he does not waste time when that cage door closes.
Weaknesses: Whereas Belfort might come up a bit short on the ground, Souza is only 5-2 in fights that were decided by a knockout or TKO, whether it was a victory or loss for him. Belfort’s best chance might be to keep it standing with Souza and mix it up, much like Yoel Romero when he defeated Souza in a closely-contested split decision at UFC 194 last year.
Souza has only lose three times in eight years, so on the surface it seems hard to find holes in his game. But Souza is also not a young man at 36 years of age, so Belfort will not necessarily have to worry about youth winning out over experience.
This fight represents another great contrast in styles between two savvy veterans in Belfort and Souza. Belfort should look to assert his superiority on the feet, while Souza will probably look to take Belfort down early and often for a submission. This battle of wills could end up stealing the show on a card that features a UFC heavyweight title fight and the UFC debut of Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino.
Both Belfort and Souza recently put together very impressive winning streaks. But Souza’s 8-fight win streak was something to behold, as he ruthlessly and efficiently put away his opponents. Souza should be hungry for redemption after his surprising loss to Romero, and I think he achieves it here by adding another name to his list.
Winner: Souza by submission