UFC middleweight Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza just earned himself his 19th career finish, and he made no secret about who he wants to earn his 20th against.
“First of all, I’m going to finish Luke Rockhold,” Souza screamed in Portuguese after his UFC 198 victory over MMA legend Vitor Belfort.
Luke Rockhold is, of course, the UFC’s reigning middleweight champion. He is also the man who took Jacare’s Strikeforce middleweight championship back in September 2011, a win that Jacare chalked up to bad judging.
“In that fight, there was one of the judges that was their first fight he ever judged and he gave him [Rockhold] five rounds, and that’s absurd,” Souza said through his interpreter.
Such claims are certainly a matter of opinion, but there can be no counter to the claim that Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza made a strong argument for being the next number one contender for the UFC middleweight championship with his recent win over Belfort.
Vitor, known by MMA fans around the world as “The Phenom,” is one of the most well-known faces in UFC and MMA history. He was also the number-three ranked middleweight in the promotion.
Belfort is also notable for being one of only two fighters to hold a win over Rockhold, a status he achieved via a devastating spinning heel kick at UFC on Fox: Belfort vs. Rockhold back in 2013.
Yet, Jacare — whose name means “alligator” in Portuguese — made quick work of his opponent, chasing Vitor around the perimeter of the octagon, bloodying him early, and ending the fight late in the first round via a ground-and-pound-induced TKO.
Granted, some arguments could be made against handing the next title shot to Jacare.
Vitor is not exactly a spring chicken in mixed martial arts. In fact, at 39-years-old, one could argue that the sun is setting on The Phenom’s career.
Furthermore, though his win over Vitor was impressive, Jacare is coming off of a split-decision loss to Yoel Romero at UFC 194. Souza may therefore need to prove himself one more time before he can justifiably claim he deserves the next shot against the champion.
But there are equally good counterarguments to these claims.
Yes, Belfort is almost 40, but he is only three years older than Souza.
Jacare’s last loss to Romero was also riddled with controversy. Not only did Yoel hold on to the cage during one part of the fight, but he was later found to have the growth hormone release stimulator, ibutamoren, in his system.
His loss to Romero was also his one and only loss in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, where he currently holds a 6-1 record.
To make an argument for Jacare’s title contendership even more convincing, four of those six wins have come by way of first-round finishes. In fact, 16 of Souza’s 23 wins were earned in the first round.
But Souza’s achievements are not limited to mixed martial arts. From 2001 to 2005, Jacare won eight gold medals and two silver medals in the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships. He has also twice been awarded a gold medal in the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship.
Of course, despite Jacare’s impressive credentials, there is still no guarantee he will be next in line for the middleweight strap after Rockhold’s match against former champion, Chris Weidman, at UFC 199. Weidman could come out the winner, but Rockhold could put on such an impressive performance that the promotion decides to give him an immediate rematch against Weidman.
There is also the chance that the infamous and annoying injury bug could rear its ugly head and put Jacare’s championship dreams on hold.
But barring any unforeseen injuries and impressive performances at UFC 199, it is hard to argue that anyone deserves a middleweight title shot more than Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.
[Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images]