The bout serves as a rematch for the two 185-pound standouts, as Mousasi previously knocked Souza out with an upkick at Dream 6 in 2008.
Since the loss to Mousasi, Souza has gone 10-1 (1 NC), capturing the Strikeforce middleweight championship and becoming the No. 4-ranked UFC middleweight along the way. With his world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills and ever-improving stand-up attack, Souza established himself as a legitimate threat in the UFC's 185-pound division immediately upon his arrival in May 2013.
After choking out Chris Camozzi in his promotional debut, Souza knocked out Yushin Okami at UFC Fight Night: Teixeira vs. Bader four months later and added a dominant decision victory over Francis Carmont to set himself up for a high-profile showdown.
Against Mousasi, Souza will have the chance to avenge a prior defeat and stake his claim as the No. 1 contender to the UFC middleweight title.
Mousasi, meanwhile, is just 1-1 as a UFC middleweight, but the one defeat was to current title challenger Lyoto Machida, and Mousasi impressed critics in that bout with his well-rounded, polished game. After the loss, Mousasi choked out Mark Munoz at UFC Fight Night: Munoz vs. Mousasi in Round 1, re-establishing his forward momentum in the UFC.
While this UFC 176 co-main event has not been announced as a No. 1 contender's bout, it certainly looks the part at first glance.
The middleweight championship will be contested July 5—less than a month before UFC 176—so it makes sense from a scheduling standpoint that the winner of Souza vs. Mousasi II would fight the winner of UFC 175's main event between champion Chris Weidman and Machida.
Despite the fact that Mousasi won the first bout in emphatic fashion, Souza controlled the ground game nicely and looked strong before the finish. The Brazilian ground ace has improved everywhere since that fight, and I think he'll make it four wins in a row and earn his title shot at UFC 176.
What do you think? Who do you favor in this rematch?
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