After finishing his Strikeforce career with a win over UFC veteran Ed Herman, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza has an opponent set for his Octagon debut.
On May 18, Souza will meet Costa Philippou in a middleweight matchup that could put the winner near the front of the line for a shot at the UFC's 185-pound title. The bout will take place in Brazil at an event expected to be titled UFC on FX 8 (via Tatame.com, h/t MMAFighting.com).
Souza lost only once in his three years with Strikeforce, and that defeat came in a narrow decision against Luke Rockhold, who stole the Strikeforce middleweight belt away from "Jacare" with that win.
Meanwhile, Philippou has gone on a run of five straight wins since losing to Nick Catone in his first UFC appearance.
Against a world-class grappler like Souza, it will be important for Philippou to keep this fight standing. Despite being a former pro boxer, Philippou has shown some solid takedown defense, stopping 83 percent of his opponents' attempts to take him to the ground.
However, Philippou has not faced an opponent with half the ground game possessed by Souza, a former jiu-jitsu world champion who also holds a black belt in judo.
If Tim Boetsch and Nick Catone could take Philippou down, then Souza should have little problem in doing the same, provided he can get his hands on the Serra-Longo Fight Team member.
Souza began his MMA career as a one-dimensional grappler, but he's grown as a striker and has only been knocked out once in his career. It should also be noted that Souza's lone stoppage defeat came via a Gegard Mousasi upkick and not a typical boxing-style strike like those that will be thrown at him by Philippou.
Though he probably still doesn't have the skill to beat Philippou in a stand-up brawl, Souza is good enough on his feet to evade and lock up with his Cyprus-born opponent. And once he does, this fight will go to the ground one way or another.
While Philippou has not been submitted, he also hasn't spent much time on the ground, and he certainly hasn't rolled with anyone like Souza.
"Jacare" is on a whole other level than most MMA fighters on the ground. As long as he avoids an early flash knockout, which he should, Souza will find a way to catch Philippou on the ground and force him to tap.
After he does, Souza will be right up there with the top contenders in the middleweight division, and a rematch with Luke Rockhold is still a bout that intrigues many who watched that September 2011 title fight between the former Strikeforce champions.