Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza has quietly placed himself into the upper echelon of the UFC’s middleweight division. However, he still isn’t the clear-cut favorite to be the next in line for a shot at the strap that is currently held by Chris Weidman. As he prepares to face Gegard Mousasi on September 5 the question has come up as to whether or not he should leap frog Luke Rockhold if he gets his hand raised at the end of the night. When comparing the two contenders and their potential impact in the spotlight, the answer to this question is a flat out “no” but the reasoning behind the decision is different than expected.
“Jacare” Souza and Luke Rockhold have two careers that are closely linked to one another. Back in 2011 Rockhold defeated Souza to capture the Strikeforce middleweight title that he would hold until being brought over into the UFC. This would be the last fight that “Jacare” would lose and has put together six straight wins since that fateful night.
Now, both competitors are in the UFC’s 185-pound group and working hard to obtain a shot at the belt. The UFC rankings has Souza listed at No. 4 and Rockhold at No. 5. Souza is set for a rematch against former Dream champion Mousasi in a few weeks while Rockhold does not have a bout scheduled at this moment. “Jacare” is undefeated in three appearances in the Octagon while Luke has gone 2-1. These baseline facts would seem like “Jacare” is the clear cut favorite between the two, but diving deeper into the business of the situation would present a different answer.
Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort are set to face off at UFC 181 in Las Vegas. The winner of that contest should be charged to face Luke Rockhold next. That doesn’t mean that “Jacare” is any less deserving, however this should be a business decision that the UFC makes to present the most interesting fight to the mixed martial arts community. While the UFC is the largest promotion in the MMA business, the importance of entertainment value does play a part in the fights that are made. This is the main reason why Rockhold should be considered the next in line, whether or not “Jacare” gets a win over the “Dreamcatcher” at UFC Fight Night.
Both Ronaldo and Luke have the in-cage abilities to put on exciting fights. Since coming to the UFC they have both stopped two of their three opponents in highlight-reel fashion. The decision as to who should get the next shot at the belt would be tough to make if basing it only upon how well they compete in the cage. Today’s sports-entertainment world places prominence on an individual’s ability to draw attention to their contests and that is where Rockhold stands out in front of Souza.
Rockhold has become one of the more outspoken competitors in the division. He’s been locked in verbal battle with individuals such as Michael Bisping and Belfort for the past few months. Recently, he went on record to question the validity of Belfort receiving another shot at the middleweight title.
“He got caught early for steroids in Nevada, got popped after this whole stint in Brazil. I owned up, I took my loss, no excuses,” Rockhold said as reported by Steven Marrocco of MMA Junkie. “But then he comes back, and the one time he tries to fight in the States, he fails the test. That right there, I’ve got no respect from him.”
That doesn’t mean that “Jacare” doesn’t know how to create a key sound bite when needed. His discussion about Gegard Mousasi with Combate.com (via Youtube) brought out the interesting quote that he was going to “annihilate” Mousasi and then challenge for the title. Fernando Arbex of Bloody Elbow translated the original conversation, which was in Portuguese, where Souza made a very interesting comment:
“Fighting him again it's like just another fight. I'm ready to annihilate my opponent and have another victory in the UFC. I'm going to stop Mousasi. I've come to be undefeated in the UFC to loose for nobody,” Arbex reported via Bloody Elbow. “People have to keep believing in me because I'm going to be the champion of this division. But first I have to beat Mousasi to ask for something and after this fight I'll ask for a title shot.”
While this is a great quote from the former Strikeforce champion, it would have had much more strength if delivered in English during a press event with the UFC.
Luke’s ability to grab the attention of North American fans at this time plays into his advantage of being the top contender once UFC 181 passes. If “Jacare” gets another win on September 5 he may be a step closer to getting a shot at the UFC’s middleweight belt. Yet, he should still be listed behind Luke due to the entertainment factor that the California native will bring into the Octagon.