Middleweight contenders Jan Blachowicz (24-8, 6 KOs, 9 SUBs) and Ronaldo Souza (26-7, 8 KO, 14 SUBs) at UFC on ESPN+ 22 on Saturday, November 16, 2019 at the Ibarapuero Gymnasium in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The card streams live on ESPN+ at 5pm ET.
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Ronaldo Souza is joining a long list of fighters jumping from middleweight to light heavyweight. It’s a treacherous jump: former champions Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman were both knocked out in their 205 pound debuts. But then there are guys like Thiago Santos and Anthony Smith, who each went on to challenge for the title in their new divisions.
This Saturday, Jacare will head to his native Brazil to make his light heavyweight debut against No. 5 Jan Blachowicz. It’s an extremely important MMA matchup for the Brazilian. Like Rockhold and Weidman, he’s getting an immediate opportunity against a highly ranked light heavyweight. At middleweight, Jacare fought in three title eliminators and lost them all - dropping split decisions against Yoel Romero and Kelvin Gastelum, and getting knocked out by Robert Whittaker.
However, losing to rising contender Jack Hermansson in his last outing was the final nail in the coffin for Souza. No disrespect to Hermansson, but the loss would have taken years to recover from, and at 39 it would have been difficult to grind out a few more years to get an elusive title shot. A win over Blachowicz would put him in a better place than where he was at 185 pounds.
Blachowicz is coming off a knockout win over Rockhold and gets another chance to collect the scalp of a big-name middleweight. A recent knockout loss to Thiago Santos put a damper on his title hopes, but he remains a top 5 fighter nonetheless. It’ll take a few more wins to even be considered for a title fight, but beating Souza would be a strong statement.
- Ronaldo Souza +168
- Jan Blachowicz -215
- Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: +175 / -245
Significant Striking Stats
- Strikes landed per minute: Blachowicz 3.54 / Souza 3.16
- Striking accuracy: Blachowicz 50% / Souza 53%
- Strikes absorbed per minute: Blachowicz 3.11 / Souza 5.43
- Striking defense: Blachowicz 53% / Souza 63%
- Takedown average per 15 minutes: Blachowicz 1.39 / Souza 1.91
- Takedown accuracy: Blachowicz 52% / Souza 29%
- Takedown defense: Blachowicz 60% / Souza 53%
- Submission average: Blachowicz 0.32 / Souza 1.18
Souza was a big middleweight, but he’ll just be a normal-sized light heavyweight. There are a few tradeoffs that the Brazilian will make: he was never a fast 185-pounder, and won’t be particularly quick even against bigger guys. Perhaps his cardio will improve, which could lead to a higher striking output. But he’s always been more of a singular power puncher, so it’s hard to assume that Jacare will start pumping out more volume.
While Jacare is recognized as an elite BJJ player, he’s never developed the offensive wrestling to force opponents to roll. At 185 pounds, he’s only managed to land takedowns at a 29% clip, and it’s tough to see that improving against bigger fighters. Blachowicz doesn’t have airtight takedown defense, but he’s managed to stay upright against all but the best wrestlers.
Blachowicz has never really had a “wow” run, but he’s a testament to how far one can get just by improving an all-around skillset. That he’s a top 5 fighter is partly because the division is so thin, but with good technical boxing, savvy submissions and a good fight IQ, Blachowicz is a tough out regardless of opponent.
UFC Odds Pick: Blachowicz to win at -215
While Souza will likely fare better than Weidman or Rockhold, he still has more in common with those guys than successful movers like Smith or Santos. Blachowicz is slightly bigger and will be significantly quicker, and he won’t have to worry about takedowns either. At this price, we’d recommend a fairly significant bet on the Pole to pull off the win in Brazil.