Chris Camozzi will have a huge opportunity to boost his standing in the middleweight division when he meets former Strikeforce champion Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza in the co-main event of UFC on FX 8.
Originally, Camozzi had been booked to fight Rafael Natal on Saturday. However, an injury to Souza's initially scheduled opponent—Costa Philippou—provided Camozzi the chance to step up and appear in an even bigger matchup.
Natal will now meet UFC newcomer Joao Zeferino.
A bout with Philippou was supposed to give Souza a chance to prove himself as an elite 185-pound fighter in his Octagon debut. Coming off of a win over Tim Boetsch, Philippou is the No. 6 contender in the official UFC middleweight rankings, so an impressive victory in that contest could have boosted Souza into title shot consideration.
Still, Souza will have to bring his best to the lower-ranked Camozzi at UFC on FX 8 in order to maintain his position as a top-10 middleweight. Let's break down the matchup and take a look at the areas Camozzi may have to focus on in order to upset Souza.
Having thrown over 250 strikes in his past two fights, Chris Camozzi is a scrappy fighter who will attempt a high volume of punches.
When a fighter throws that many strikes, though, they are bound to miss frequently and leave themselves open for counters. Camozzi only landed 27 percent of his strikes against Nick Ring, and he was hit with 86 significant strikes as a result, though he did find a way to earn a controversial decision win.
Though he's a top-10 UFC middleweight, Ronaldo Souza also has some work to do on his striking. The Brazilian has only won two fights in which he didn't score a takedown, and one of those saw him reverse positions and secure a submission from the top.
In eight UFC bouts, Chris Camozzi has not landed a significant strike on the ground. The main reason for that being that he rarely finds himself on top, having not scored a takedown inside the Octagon.
While Camozzi may eventually look to beat an opponent with ground-and-pound, it's not going to happen for the first time against Souza, a world-class jiu-jitsu practitioner.
Souza is more likely to work toward submissions than strike on the ground, but his ground striking will be a much bigger factor in this fight than Camozzi's.
Power and Durability
Camozzi's only UFC knockout win came by way of a doctor stoppage due to a Nick Catone cut, so he still has not shown the ability to put away top-notch competition with one shot. Facing an opponent in Souza who has not been knocked out since September 2008, Camozzi is unlikely to finish this fight with strikes.
Likewise, Camozzi has never been knocked out, so it'd be surprising to see Souza score his second career knockout victory in this matchup at UFC on FX 8.
Overall Striking Edge: Souza
Takedowns and Takedown Defense
This is where things start to get especially ugly for Chris Camozzi.
The former TUF participant has been taken down by six of the eight UFC opponents he's faced. The two adversaries who didn't take him to the ground, Nick Ring and Dustin Jacoby, combined for one takedown attempt over nearly six full rounds of action.
A far superior grappler to anyone Camozzi has faced in the past, and having taken down former Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold five times, Souza is sure to drag his opponent to the ground in this matchup.
Control and Escapability
Against Luiz Cane and Nick Catone, Camozzi showed improvement in his escapes from the bottom position.
However, you don't have to go back far to see how much trouble Camozzi would be in should he find himself underneath Souza. Kyle Noke needed only one takedown to finish Camozzi on the ground, and Francis Carmont scored a takedown in three straight rounds to ride his way to a decision win over the TUF veteran.
One of the top jiu-jitsu practitioners in the world, Souza would perform much more like Noke and Carmont than Cane and Catone did against Camozzi.
Submissions and Submission Defense
Camozzi has six submission wins in his MMA career, but Souza's not getting submitted in this fight and will probably never be submitted inside the Octagon.
Defensively, Camozzi's jiu-jitsu has not been as strong. Kyle Noke bounced Camozzi from the UFC roster briefly with a rear-naked choke, and "Jacare" is a much more experienced submission artist than the Australian.
Two others submitted Camozzi prior to his UFC career, so Souza wouldn't need much time on the ground at all to smash Camozzi's upset hopes.
Overall Grappling Edge: Souza
Chris Camozzi has more MMA fights and many more UFC appearances than Ronaldo Souza, but "Jacare" is much more familiar with the spotlight than his opponent. Souza has competed under notable promotions in Strikeforce and Dream for years, and he was a champion with the former organization for 13 months.
Though there will be some pressure on Souza to perform well in his Octagon debut, Camozzi will have more trouble dealing with nerves leading into this matchup. the biggest of his MMA career.
The 6'3" Camozzi often has a significant reach advantage to work with in the middleweight division, but he will only have an edge of one-and-a-half inches against Souza.
While both fighters appear to possess comparable strength and speed, Souza's technique in the grappling department will have him looking like the more explosive fighter in the clinch come fight night.
Neither Camozzi nor Souza should have any issues going the distance in a three-round fight.
Camozzi threw a whopping 102 strikes in the third round of his recent bout with Nick Ring, showing he has the ability to dig deep in the later frames.
Souza, meanwhile, has gone five rounds on two occasions in his career without much issue.
Overall Intangibles Edge: Souza
Ronaldo Souza already proved himself against mid-level UFC middleweights when he met and submitted Ed Herman in his final Strikeforce bout.
That's why Souza was originally set to meet a top-10 fighter in his Octagon debut, and that's why he should have no problem picked up his first UFC win against Chris Camozzi on Saturday.
Without one-punch knockout power or the takedown defense to prevent even low-level middleweights from grounding him, Camozzi is going to have a rough time trying to keep this fight with "Jacare" standing. Once it does go to the ground, because it will at one point or multiple points, Souza will be looking to make an example out of Camozzi so that he is initially booked for another big fight next time around.
Souza defeats Camozzi by submission in the first round.
Statistics via FightMetric.com.