MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 22, a five-round light heavyweight bout between Jan Blachowicz and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. The event takes place on Saturday, November 16 at Ginasio do Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Jan Blachowicz (-175)
Blachowicz (24-8) is one of the top-ranked light heavyweights in the UFC. The 36-year-old Pole is 7-5 overall in the UFC, though he has really shown improvements in the last few years with a 5-1 record over his last six fights. Some of his notable victories include Jared Cannonier, Luke Rockhold, Jimi Manuwa and Nikita Krylov. Historically Blachowicz has been known for his technical and powerful striking on the feet as evidenced by his six knockout wins, but he also has an excellent ground game and has won nine fights by submission as well. He is also very durable, having been finished just three times in 32 pro fights. Blachowicz is an excellent fighter and could very well jump into title contention at 205lbs with a big win here over Souza in Brazil. Keep in mind he’s never been five rounds.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (+155)
Souza (26-7, 1 NC) is one of the top middleweights in UFC history to never fight for the title. He is now moving up to light heavyweight in an effort to kick-start his career. The 39-year-old Brazilian has been fighting as a pro since 2003 for promotions such as Strikeforce, DREAM, Jungle Fight, and of course the UFC. The former Strikeforce middleweight champion came to the UFC after the fall of Strikeforce in 2013 and has racked up a 9-4 record in the UFC with eight stoppage wins. Some of his notable victories include Chris Weidman, Gegard Mousasi, Vitor Belfort and Robbie Lawler. He is an extremely well-rounded fighter who can finish his opponents on the floor or on the feet, as evidenced by his eight career knockout wins and 14 submission victories. His ground game is as elite as it gets, though in recent years he’s been more content to stand on the feet and bang it out. That change in tactics hasn’t worked out great for him as he’s just 1-2 over his last three fights, but to be fair to Souza he’s mostly fought elite competition. His last fight against Jack Hermansson was arguably his worst performance to date in the UFC, but before that, he had maybe his best performance when he knocked out Weidman. Many are writing off Souza but I’m willing to do that just yet and I think this move to light heavyweight is going to prove a smart one for him.
Fight Breakdown: This is some solid matchmaking on the UFC’s part, with the winner of this fight joining the list of title contenders for UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Most people are going with Blachowicz here, and I can see why. He is the more proven fighter at 205lbs and he has performed better lately. That being said, I favor Souza to get the job done here and I like him as an underdog. Souza will be fighting in his native Brazil, where he is 9-2 overall in his career. Moving up to 205lbs should rejuvenate him and I think not cutting as much will give him an extra boost in the championship rounds. Blachowicz is a very durable fighter but he has been stopped before, including by Thiago Santos earlier this year. Souza has sneaky KO power and I think if he can tire Blachowicz out he can start teeing off on him and finish him with strikes. My prediction is for Souza to win the fight by TKO and jump into the list of title contenders at 205lbs.
Prediction: Ronaldo Souza wins by TKO