Chris Weidman, Vitor Belfort and the rest of the middleweight division should be on notice because Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza is creeping closer and closer to a title shot and he’s one step closer after defeating previously unbeaten Octagon veteran Francis Carmont.
The 185-pound weight class was on display in both of the featured matchups on Saturday night from Brazil, but ‘Jacare’ Souza wanted to make sure even though he wasn’t in the main event, he left a lasting impression.
Heading into the fight, Carmont was an impossibly tough fighter to get to the ground. With a nearly 86-percent takedown defense to his credit, Carmont was not going to be easy to get to the ground, but Souza was not about to be deterred.
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The multi-time grappling champion dragged Carmont to the mat in the first round, taking his back and locking on a suffocating body triangle while working for a choke. Jacare was able to sink one arm underneath Carmont’s chin and as his airways tightened, the Frenchman appeared to almost go unconscious for a second although to his credit he trapped the Brazilian’s other limb to prevent the full choke from being applied.
Carmont battled back in the second round as he stopped Jacare’s takedown attempts and fired back with a few vicious body kicks as former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre screamed at him from the corner. It appeared after a worst case scenario in the first round, Carmont had managed to find a way to come back and win the second.
The third round, however, ended as almost a carbon copy of the first with Jacare taking Carmont down, sinking in his hooks and continuously fishing for submissions. Carmont found a way to survive almost 10 minutes on the ground with arguably the best jiu-jitsu fighter in all of MMA right now, but defense only helped him reach the final bell.
The judges returned a unanimous decision win for Souza (20-3, 1 NC), who is now a perfect 3-0 since coming to the UFC as he storms towards the top of the division. Following the fight, Jacare let his intentions be known that he’s targeting the winner of Weidman vs. Belfort at UFC 173 in May as his next opponent.
"I want the champ. I want whoever has the belt," Souza said. "If the UFC doesn’t think I’m ready for that, just put anybody in front of me and I’ll get a hold of them."
Souza certainly made his case for the UFC to consider him next in line, and now he begins the waiting game to find out if he will actually get the next shot at the UFC middleweight belt.