When Gegard Mousasi started perusing the list of top 10 fighters in the UFC’s middleweight division following his first-round win over Mark Munoz, there were a lot of names for potential opponents. The only one he was hoping wouldn’t get called was Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza.
Mousasi actually fought Jacare back in 2008 while the two of them were competing in Japan, but during that time they became really good friends. Even though they were about to fight the next day, "Jacare" even offered to help Mousasi cut weight to ensure he was in the best possible condition for their matchup.
Years later, Mousasi and Jacare still remain in touch, talk often and even train together when the opportunity presents itself. So of course seeing as Jacare was the one opponent Mousasi didn’t really want to face, it didn’t take the UFC matchmakers long to find a way to schedule that as his next fight.
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"I think (Jacare) asked me before the fight. He’s in the top 10, I’m in the top 10, you can’t really say no," Mousasi said when speaking to FOX Sports. "The matchmaking is up to Joe Silva and the UFC and I’m going to accept the fights that they give me. It’s a good fight for me. It’s going to get me closer to a title shot."
It’s not for nothing that he’s the No. 4 guy. It’s no mistake, but he does have some weaknesses. For me the goal is to win and win impressively and then maybe I can get a title shot.
— Gegard Mousasi
Their first fight ended quickly and violently when Mousasi used an upkick to knock "Jacare" out cold just over two minutes into the first round. Neither fighter held a grudge after the fight, and the way Mousasi looks at it, this is really the first time they’ve ever really faced off.
The original bout was so short and ended in such dramatic fashion, Mousasi barely got to know what it was like to face Jacare in the ring. He’ll get a better chance in Friday night.
"He was tough, he was explosive. He doesn’t have the best takedowns, but he is so committed to the takedown and his jiu-jitsu is so good of course so he’s really dangerous. I didn’t feel weak, I know I have a lot of advantages in this fight. I have no worries," Mousasi said.
"It’s a completely different fight. The last one was too short so you can’t really say anything about that fight. The only thing I felt was his strength and there’s wasn’t a lot that I could take out from that fight."
While Mousasi would love nothing more than to duplicate his performance from the first bout with "Jacare" or even his last fight against Munoz, where he ran roughshod over the former college wrestling champion, he doesn’t expect either of those things to happen.
Mousasi knows how good Souza is in every facet of the game so he’s not expecting a quick fight. He’s anticipating a five-round, grueling war.
"It’s difficult to run out there against Jacare and just demolish him," Mousasi said. "You have to be smart against him, but of course when a guy comes to fight, that’s when I can do more. It depends on ‘Jacare,’ how offensive he’ll be in the fight, if he comes to fight."
Assuming their fight lives up to the headline billing it received for Friday’s UFC Fight Night card, Mousasi knows the entire world will be watching. He also knows that a win over a top-five ranked opponent, just after a win over a top-10 fighter like Munoz puts him back into the conversation for a title shot.
There’s not a day that goes by where Mousasi isn’t holding that as his ultimate goal, and if "Jacare" is the person standing in his way on the road to the title, then he just has to be collateral damage. They’ll be friends on Saturday, but on Friday he’s road kill.
"It’s not for nothing that he’s the No. 4 guy. It’s no mistake, but he does have some weaknesses," Mousasi said. "For me the goal is to win and win impressively and then maybe I can get a title shot. If I win and it’s not as convincing, I’ll probably have to fight someone else. The middleweight division is one of the toughest in the UFC, so it’s tough to get there."