It's a distinct pleasure to watch Strikeforce's middleweight champion Ronaldo Souza grapple.
But aside from being an interesting fighter to watch, Ronaldo Souza bridges that gap between being watchable and being relevant on a competitive level.
Herschel Walker is someone who may draw attention to the Strikeforce product, but even he is willing to admit that at 48 years old, he doesn't really foresee a long and competitive career in mixed martial arts.
Roger Gracie, despite being one of the most accomplished grapplers in the short history of submission grappling, still has gained doubters when it comes to MMA because of his apparent lack of interest in pursuing a well-rounded MMA skillset.
Souza, on the other hand, is a threat to anybody in the 185-pound division, including the UFC.
Many great submission fighters have had trouble adapting to MMA. Marcelo Garcia may be one of the greatest pure grapplers ever, but the X-guard and arm-drags that he employs so effectively in grappling competition aren't effective when strikes are involved.
Dean Lister is another ADCC champion who struggles in MMA when he can't complete a takedown.
Even Demian Maia struggles occasionally when he doesn't have an explosive takedown that allows him to get the fight to where he can win.
How Souza Is Different than Other Elite Grapplers Transitioning into MMA
Souza has at least a few advantages over most other great submission grapplers who have transitioned into MMA.
1. He's Developed A Competent Striking Game
Demian Maia has tried to develop a well-rounded arsenal, but has only had mixed success in those efforts.
Maia was able to out-strike Dan Miller, but against most fighters at Middleweight, he's at a distinct disadvantage while the fight remains on the feet.
Jacare has become good enough of a striker that he could possibly win a standup battle outright against strikers in the division.
While it would be a bad idea for him to strike with the likes of Anderson Silva, having a good striking arsenal would be extremely useful to set up takedowns, or otherwise simply outstrike wrestlers like Chael Sonnen, Yushin Okami or Jake Shields, who might otherwise at least be able to keep the fight standing.
2. He's Got Judo
Souza's Judo background gives him takedowns on a level that most submission fighters just don't have. When two good grapplers fight, the grappler in top position often has an advantage even when the guy on the bottom is the better grappler.
Souza's takedowns allow his grappling advantage to play out.
More than just being a Judo player though, Souza's style of Judo that includes double-leg takedowns is more conducive to MMA than the Judo of a guy who is accustomed to less-effective throws.
3. He's Explosive
While Maia can be effective when he gets deep in on a takedown, Jacare can get takedowns where Maia simply isn't strong enough to do so.
4. It's The Middleweight Division
Unlike the stacked lightweight, welterweight, and to a lesser degree, light-heavyweight divisions, the middleweight division doesn't have a ton of great wrestlers who could keep the fight standing against Jacare.
Compare this to welterweight, where Nick Diaz's success is entirely contingent upon him not facing any of the dozen or so elite welterweight wrestlers who could take him down and pin him to the floor indefinitely.
There is no such clear hole in Souza's game that could be exploited so frequently, especially at middleweight.
Because there are still holes in his standup, Ronaldo Souza can still be beaten.
But he's a serious threat to anybody in the world at middleweight, including Anderson Silva, who would almost certainly get submitted or pounded out if Jacare got on top of him with time on the clock.
It's just a shame that there is almost nobody left in Strikeforce for Jacare to fight.