Middleweight Division Will Remain a Fascinating Mess with a Jacare Souza Win

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2019

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 03:  Jacare Souza of Brazil celebrates his knockout win against Chris Weidman of the United States in their middleweight bout during the UFC 230 event at Madison Square Garden on November 3, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza will battle Jack Hermansson on Saturday in the main event of UFC Fight Night 150 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida. The No. 4-ranked middleweight contender has been promised a title shot with a victory per ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto.

But he should take that promise with a grain of salt. Or many thousands of grains.

There is no doubt Jacare is worthy of a title shot with a victory. He is ranked in the top five and, along with the newly minted interim champion Israel Adesanya, the only fighter coming off a victory. His long UFC tenure is only missing the title opportunity, but Jacare should know this guarantee is fool’s gold.

After knocking out former champion Chris Weidman at UFC 230, Jacare said he would wait for his title shot. He thought he would get the next opportunity. Jacare told MMAFighting.com’s Guilherme Cruz that he would sit out until the title shot came, but we know that is not how things worked out. He was offered, and accepted, the main event slot at UFC Fight Night 150.

The UFC had promised former champion Anderson Silva a title shot had he beaten Adesanya at UFC 234, and in an interview with Brazil’s Protal do Vale Tudo, Jacare was livid after learning about the guarantee (h/t BloodyElbow.com’s Lucas Rezende).

Does Jacare need more proof that this guarantee is written in pencil? He should remember that Colby Covington was guaranteed a unification bout with Tyron Woodley after winning the interim title, but after a December victory, Dana White changed course and gave that fight to Karamu Usman (h/t MMAJunkie.com’s Mike Bohn and John Morgan).

Should Jacare win, his concern should be on the amount of time he will have to wait for his title shot. White told TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter the middleweight unification bout is slated for September. Depending on the damage to the victor, Jacare’s title shot would not come until December at the earliest and possibly not until early 2020.

Other contenders could jump him in that time span.

UFC Middleweight Rankings

  1. Israel Adesanya
  2. Yoel Romero
  3. Luke Rockhold
  4. Ronaldo Souza
  5. Kelvin Gastelum
  6. Chris Weidman
  7. Paulo Costa
  8. Derek Brunson
  9. Jared Cannonier
  10. Jack Hermansson

What happens if Romero returns and picks up a big win or even two? He already holds a win over Jacare, and both of his prior title tries were amazing fights that ended with close decisions. A bout against Adesanya, should The Last Stylebender become the undisputed champ, would be fresh and intriguing.

Kelvin Gastelum is coming off a failed title bid against Adesanya, but it was a Fight of the Year contender that saw Gastelum have his moments. Should he return in dominant fashion, he is a title contender with a win over Jacare on his resume as well.

Chris Weidman would not be too far off with a couple of wins. And what about the undefeated Brazilian Paulo Costa? He, too, is in the mix.

Jacare’s promise is likely eight months, at minimum, in the future. That is plenty of time for the other contenders in the division to steal his thunder. The UFC can be the subject of recency bias because the fervor from fans will help dictate who is the most marketable opponent for the winner of Whittaker vs. Adesanya. The middleweight division is full of exciting fighters who can steal the shine of Jacare.

Should Jacare have to take another fight before getting the title shot he deserves? No. However, life isn’t fair, and there are no true guarantees in the UFC.

The middleweight waters are murky and are not going to get any clearer if Jacare wins on Saturday. The UFC may have made that promise to Souza, but he just needs to look at a calendar and realize just how much can happen while he sits on the sidelines.

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