Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the main event of UFC on Fox 27 as Jacare Souza returns to the cage to take on fellow top ten middleweight Derek Brunson.
Derek Brunson (Record: 18-5, +120 Underdog, Power Ranking: B+)
The Jackson’s MMA fighter has rebounded well since getting knocked out by Robert Whittaker in November 2016. He went toe to toe with Anderson Silva losing a controversial decision in February and then followed that up with knockout victories over Daniel Kelly and Lyoto Machida.
Derek Brunson is certainly a formidable middleweight in the UFC. At 6’1” tall and a 77 inch reach he’s one of the best athletes in the weightclass. For Brunson, it all starts with his wrestling. At the University of North Carolina Pembroke, Brunson was a three time Division II All American. That ability in collegiate wrestling has translated over to MMA as he’s secured a whopping 3.00 takedowns per 15 minutes in the octagon and has been successful in 32% of his takedown attempts. That includes three takedowns of Olympic silver medalist Yoel Romero. Defensively he has 100% takedown defense as he has never been taken down by an opponent inside the Octagon. In short, Brunson has dominated the grappling in his fights. In order to beat Brunson, his opponent must beat him on the feet. Brunson has made significant strides over the last few years to improve his striking. Boxing has become a major weapon for him and he has certainly built confidence knocking out some quality opposition in the last couple of years. With that said, if there’s an area where Brunson is vulnerable it is in his defensive striking. He has been knocked out in three of his five career losses and needs to protect his chin better if he’s going to contend for UFC gold one day.
Jacare Souza (Record: 24-5, -140 Favorite, Power Ranking: B+)
The Team Black House / Team Nogueira trained fighter enters this bout on the heels of his only knockout loss this decade when he was finished by current champion Robert Whittaker. The perennial contender has beaten some of the division’s top talent over the years including Vitor Belfort, Gegard Mousasi, as well as his opponent at UFC on Fox 27, Derek Brunson.
Jacare’s game begins and ends with his submission grappling. Jacare has perhaps the highest level of jiu jitsu of anyone in high level MMA. He’s a two time ADCC submission wrestling gold medalist and a 4 time gold medalist in the absolute division of the World Jiu Jitsu Championships. Going to the ground with Jacare is not an option; as he’s as good as anybody with locking in a submission and ending the fight. Of Jacare’s 24 career wins, 17 of them have come by submission. Over the years, Jacare has improved his hands a lot. In just the past few years, he’s earned first round knockouts of longtime contender Vitor Belfort and Derek Brunson. Jacare has been a durable fighter having only been finished three times in his career. However, he has shown vulnerabilities in his past few fights as he’s closing in on the end of his career.
The main event of UFC on Fox 27 is a rematch of a 2012 Strikeforce bout between middleweights Derek Brunson and Jacare Souza. The Brazilian is a slight favorite (-140) in this matchup mostly based on him holding the victory in their previous bout. The circumstances are much different heading into this fight than their previous encounter. Brunson is surging up the rankings behind his knockout power, while Jacare is coming off perhaps the worst knockout loss of his career. At this point in Jacare’s career it is imperative for him to be able to get his opponents to the mat to have success. At 38 years of age, he’s now vulnerable on the feet against most decent punchers. That’s the problem I foresee for Jacare in this bout. Brunson has stellar takedown defense and will be able to keep this on the feet. While both fighters can be caught, the athleticism gap is critical in this fight. Look for Brunson to be able to push forward and use his athleticism / movement to land against Jacare. Brunson has fought some great strikers since he lost to Jacare and that experience will really help him here. Expect Brunson to buoyed by his hometown crowd in North Carolina and add a knockout victory to his resume. Brunson wins inside the distance (+170) is the best way to play this fight.