UFC 198 Breakdown: Vitor Belfort vs Jacare Souza

Ronaldo Jacare SouzaPrior 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 a bout between two legendary Brazilians as Vitor Belfort takes on Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza at UFC 198 in Curitiba, Brazil.   Vitor Belfort (Record: 25-11, +260 Underdog, Fighter Grade: B+) The 39-year old Brazilian returns to the octagon for the first time since a quick finish over American Dan Henderson. Belfort looks to once again to enter the title picture. He’s never been UFC Middleweight Champion; having fought for the championship losing on two separate occasions. A veteran of MMA for 20 plus years, Belfort is the gold standard for longevity in the sport. He trained extensively at Blackzilians in Florida for several years, but now has opened his own gym, FORT Fit, in Rio de Janeiro where he currently trains. “The Phenom” is one if not the best blitzer in the sport. After a short feeling out process, Belfort looks to utilize speed and an aggressive blitz to quickly finish his opponent and get a knockout finish. He’s beaten some excellent opposition in this fashion such as Michael Bisping and current middleweight champion Luke Rockhold. The difference between those wins and where Belfort currently stands today is TRT. With further regulation added to the sport, the Brazilian is not the same fighter he was when he knocked out those elite opponents. Speed, strength, and physique are simply not at the same level as they once were. Belfort still has great hands and a strong switch kick. He’s certainly capable of catching top level opponents, but his window to do that has lessened over time.   Jacare Souza (Record: 22-4, -320 Favorite, Fighter Grade: A) The Team Black House/Team Nogueira-trained fighter enters this bout on the heels of a controversial loss to fellow title contender Yoel Romero. Jacare lost the first round, but many thought he won the final two rounds. However, judges gave the split decision to Romero. Prior to that, Jacare had been on as good of a run as anybody in the division with his last loss to Luke Rockhold in 2011. When it comes to Jacare, his 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 22 career wins, 16 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 Yushin Okami and number 11 ranked middleweight Derek Brunson. Jacare is a durable fighter having only been finished twice career. He’s certainly very much in the mix for the middleweight championship.   Match-up It’s rare to see a match-up between well-known and established Brazilian fighters, so Saturday’s co-main event between Belfort and Jacare is a rare treat for fight fans.  This is a key fight in a division in which there is no clear number one contender once Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman square off in June, so this is a big fight in helping to develop a more clear title picture in the division. Belfort’s key to success in this match-up is a quick blitz trying to become the first fighter since 2008 to finish Jacare. In his last fight, Jacare was clipped on the feet by Romero so there is some precedence to think Belfort could do the same. Jacare recovered very well from losing the first round and really took over the fight as the bout wore on. Durability certainly bodes well for Jacare and I expect him to be able to fend off Belfort’s blitz. By doing so, I don’t see him being threatened much as the fight progresses. Look for Jacare to dominate the exchanges and take the fight to the mat. On the ground, Jacare should have his way with a tired Belfort and will look to threaten for a submission in the later stages of the fight. This is Jacare’s fight and I expect to see him get his hand raised on Saturday night.

Written by Jay Primetown

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