Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
MMA Record: 25-5, 1 NC
UFC Record: 8-2
Notable Wins: Derek Brunson, Tim Boetsch, Vitor Belfort, Gegard Mousasi
Notable Losses: Robert Whittaker, Yoel Romero, Luke Rockhold, Gegard Mousasi
Last Fight: KO win over Derek Brunson
Fighter Profile: One of the most well-rounded fighters in the UFC middleweight division, Souza is still fighting at an elite level despite being 38. He is coming off of a destructive KO over Brunson to bounce back after losing via TKO to the now-champion Whittaker, but otherwise has looked amazing in the UFC aside from a controversial split decision loss to Romero. Souza has an amazing ground game and has terrific striking as well making him dangerous anywhere the fight goes. His only one flaw is perhaps his chin as he’s been knocked out a few times in his career but overall is a terrifc fighter and a win over Gastelum here would put him back in title contention.
MMA Record: 14-3, 1 NC
UFC Record: 9-3, 1 NC
Notable Wins: Michael Bisping, Johny Hendricks, Tim Kennedy
Notable Losses: Chris Weidman, Neil Magny, Tyron Woodley
Last Fight: KO win over Michael Bisping
Fighter Profile: A former winner of The Ultimate Fighter, Gastelum has turned himself from prospect into contender quickly. The youngster is an extremely well-rounded fighter with KO power, solid grappling and a good chin and cardio who has had success at both 170lbs and 185lbs. After missing weight numerous times at welterweight Gastelum seems to have settled into his role as a middleweight nicely and has won three of his four fights in his new weight class by knockout (though a KO win over Vitor Belfort was overturned due to a positive drug test for mariuana), including a huge KO win over former champion Michael Bisping in his last outing. Just 26, Gastelum still has championship potential and looks better and better every time we see him fight. A win over Souza, and Gastelum would enter the top-five and have a legitimate argument to ask for a title fight.
Fight Breakdown: This is one of the best fights on the card, and a tough one to call as each fighter has a likely path to victory. For Souza, he’ll be looking to take Gastelum to the ground and try to choke him out just like Weidman did. For Gastelum, he will be looking to keep the fight standing and land the big knockout blow on the feet just like he did to Bisping in his last fight and just like Whittaker did to Souza. So it’s a bit of a coin flip fight in that sense. That being said, I feel like Gastelum has several advantages in this fight. I like the fact he’s 12 years younger. I like that he has a strong chin and can take a shot. And I like his speed advantage. Souza is an amazing fighter, but he’s not unbeatable. I think it’s Gastelum’s time to be a top-five middleweight, and I think this is a fight he can win. I see Gastelum just beeing a bit too fast for Souza on the feet and I see him landing a huge punch that Souza doesn’t see coming, then following it up with strikes to take home the biggest win of his young career to date.
Prediction: Kelvin Gastelum via TKO