Ronaldo Souza vs. Gegard Mousasi: A Full Head-to-Toe Breakdown
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Gegard Mousasi first met in the Dream 6: Middleweight Grand Prix final in 2008.
Souza, predominantly known as a submission artist at the time, didn't have much to offer against Mousasi in the striking department and fell victim to a TKO just two minutes into the bout.
The loss would go on to fuel Jacare enough to go undefeated in his next six bouts. The win would merely cement Mousasi as one of the better strikers the middleweight division had to offer.
Set to rematch almost six years later, the two middleweights look to capture another victory before making a case to challenge for the middleweight crown.
The first bout was fairly one-sided, but the sequel might not be.
Read on to see how this fight breaks down.
Six years later and a lot has changed.
Jacare is no longer the one-trick pony who seems like a fish out of water when forced to stand on his feet and knuckle up—he's a striker, too. He proved his worth as a complete mixed martial artist last year after a brutal knockout against Yushin Okami in the first round of their middleweight tilt.
Leaps and bounds of improvements in the stand-up department won't mean all that much against a savvy striker like Mousasi, though—he knows how to avoid a heavy-handed striker. Even in a losing effort against Lyoto Machida, Mousasi was able to remind folks why he has an unblemished 18-0 record in the T(KO) department.
Two men, two black belts in judo and one black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
A brief thought of how much high-level grappling these two can accomplish in five rounds should leave you cursing the distance between now and Friday.
It may not be in Mousasi's best interest to engage in any sort of close combat with the man known as the alligator, but he may not have a choice this time around. One mistake—like the ones he made against Machida—and Mousasi could find himself on his back, treading water as Jacare starts working that Jacare magic.
Slight edge: Souza
It's safe to assume that Souza would rather be twisting somebody's arm or cutting off brain circulation than swinging at somebody's head for any extended period of time. With 14 of his 20 wins, and zero of his three losses, coming by way of submission, Jacare is arguably the best submission artist the UFC's middleweight division has to offer.
Mousasi, on the other hand, is no slouch either. Having seen his hand raised 12 times by the submission route before, it's safe to say he knows a thing or two about bending elbows the wrong way.
While both men are capable of being on the offensive side of things, only one is capable of defending. Mousasi's only fallen victim to submission twice in his MMA career, but that's already two more times than Souza has.
He's walking into this fight knowing how the original fight ended. He knows he's capable of circling around an often flat-footed Souza enough to pepper his opponent with strikes and prevent him from getting comfortable.
He's merely one fight removed from a solid performance against the toughest challenge of his MMA career; a fight against an opponent that he's already beaten should grant Mousasi enough confidence as he walks into a five-round affair.
While Mousasi has the upper hand in the history department, Jacare may just have the advantage in the future one. He hasn't necessarily been promised a title shot with a victory against his former conquerer, but considering few men stand between him and the champion, it's likely that this is the final step before Jacare gets to challenge for UFC gold.
Some fighters may crumble under the pressure of No. 1 contender fights, but Jacare has enough championship experience to supplement any deficiencies in this sequel.
Sure, every fight starts off standing, but almost every single one of Jacare's fights ends up hitting the mat at some point. It's tough to imagine Mousasi defending against all of Jacare's takedown attempts, especially in a five-round affair.
After back-to-back solid striking performances against Yushin Okami and Francis Carmont, Jacare's at least proved he's developed enough to contend against the latest man to knock him out.
Look for Souza to land a heavy strike early, forcing Mousasi to go on the defensive before suffering a takedown that only few men can survive.
Prediction: Souza wins by third-round arm triangle
Kristian Ibarra is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. He also serves as the sports editor at San Diego State University's student-run newspaper, The Daily Aztec. Follow him on Twitter at @Kristian_Ibarra for all things MMA.