Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza overcame Chris "The All-American" Weidman's home-field advantage to win via third-round TKO in Saturday's co-main event at UFC 230.
In a battle between two well-known grapplers, the two middleweights went toe-to-toe in striking exchanges throughout the fight before Souza got the finish in the third and final round at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
In the first round, Jacare stalked Weidman down while The All-American picked his shots carefully. Weidman highlighted the round by wobbling the Brazilian with a straight right:
If the first round was a gentlemanly technical affair, Jacare turned the second round into a rowdy barroom brawl. He came forward with wild strikes in hopes of turning the tide, but Weidman was willing to return fire and scored points as well.
As the second round came to a halt it was surprising to man that two well-respected ground players were more than happy to stand and trade:
Weidman did briefly take the fight to the mat at the end of the second, but made his hay in the striking exchanges.
With the third and final round potentially heading to a decision for Souza all of his early work to the body paid off. The Brazilian landed a fight changing to knee to the ribs and began throwing combinations at The All-American.
A flush punch on the forehead sent Weidman stumbling and Jacare was forced to throw several uncontested strikes before referee Dan Mirgliotta mercifully called an end to the bout.
The victory injects life into the 38-year-old Souza's career. Jacare was close to having his name called in his last fight against Kelvin Gastelum but lost a split decision. Now, he has a former middleweight champion on his resume.
Of course, a win over Weidman doesn't mean what it used to.
The New York native has lost four of his last five fights since he dropped his 185-pound title in December 2015. He's 1-4 since successfully defending his title for the last time against Vitor Belfort in May of that year.
Jacare believes the win should propel him into the title picture despite the loss to Gastelum.
"I want to go up [in the ranking]. I want to get in there, win—and win convincingly—and then say 'brother, I'll sit down and only call me if you're going to talk about the belt,'" the Brazilian told Guilherme Cruz of MMA Fighting in October. "Everyone else is injured; there's no one else to fight. My focus is on this fight [with Weidman], of course, but everybody knows that this fight will take me up there."
Current champion Robert Whittaker is already set to fight Gastelum at UFC 234 in February, per ESPN.com's Brett Okamoto. It's hard to tell if a win over Weidman will be enough to propel Souza to a title shot, but it won't hurt his chances.