Middleweight contenders Jan Blachowicz (24-8, 6 KOs, 9 SUBs) and Ronaldo Souza (26-7, 8 KO, 14 SUBs) at UFC on ESPN+ 22 on Saturday, November 16, 2019 at the Ibarapuero Gymnasium in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The card streams live on ESPN+ at 5pm ET.
Ronaldo Souza might go down as one of the best middleweights to never fight for the title. For years, the Brazilian grappling phenom was seen as a legitimate title contender, but repeated losses in high profile matchups have left him in a tough spot. “Jacare” was in three title eliminators and fell short in all of them, losing split decisions to Yoel Romero and Kelvin Gastelum, and getting knocked out by Robert Whittaker.
Most recently, Jacare was bested by rising contender Jack Hermansson in a main event matchup this past April. Even worse, Hermansson was beat by Jared Cannonier in his next outing. That puts Souza even further away from the title mix, even though he’s the No. 7 middleweight. At 39, Souza is at an age will doubters will constantly question whether he’s got enough left in the tank.
This Saturday marks an important matchup for Souza: fighting in his native Brazil, Jacare will headline a matchup against the No. 5 light heavyweight Jan Blachowicz. Souza is hoping that a move up in weight class can rejuvenate a flagging career, but that 20-pound weight jump has produced some spectacular failures: both Rockhold and Chris Weidman were finished early in their light heavyweight debuts. Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos are examples of former middleweights who successfully transitioned, even earning title shots against Jon Jones.
If Souza can pull off the win, he instantly earns entry into the top tier of 205 - Blachowicz is no joke. However, if the Brazilian fails to make a mark, he’ll join Rockhold and Weidman in no man’s land. Let’s take a look at the UFC odds at BookMaker.eu and break down your best betting options. Live UFC betting at the online sportsbook lets you make bets during the fight as needed.
UFC Odds at BookMaker.eu
Ronaldo Souza +168
Jan Blachowicz -215
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: +175 / -245
Significant Striking Stats
Strikes landed per minute: Blachowicz 3.54 / Souza 3.16
Striking accuracy: Blachowicz 50% / Souza 53%
Strikes absorbed per minute: Blachowicz 3.11 / Souza 5.43
Striking defense: Blachowicz 53% / Souza 63%
Takedown average per 15 minutes: Blachowicz 1.39 / Souza 1.91
Takedown accuracy: Blachowicz 52% / Souza 29%
Takedown defense: Blachowicz 60% / Souza 53%
Submission average: Blachowicz 0.32 / Souza 1.18
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Souza has always been a big middleweight, but he’s never had trouble making the weight cut to 185. It’s easy to make the assumption that he’ll be a smaller light heavyweight. As he was never a fast 185er to begin with, it’s difficult to see where he’ll gain advantages in a bigger division. There’s a chance that his cardio will improve, which could lead to higher volume from a low out-put power puncher.
But it’ll be even harder for Souza to impose his world-class grappling against bigger fighters. While he’s a beast on the mat, Souza’s 29% takedown accuracy was a problem even at 185 pounds. Blachowicz doesn’t possess airtight takedown defense, but it’s passable against all but the best wrestlers.
Blachowicz has never really stood out as an elite fighter, but he’s improved his all-around skillset to the point where he’s legitimately a top 5 guy. Of course, that also speaks to the shallow nature of the division overall, but the improvements that the Pole has shown are absolutely for real: solid technical boxing, savvy submissions and a good fight IQ.
UFC Odds Pick: Blachowicz to win at -215
When it comes to middleweight who have made the jump to light heavyweight, Souza profiles much more closely to the ones who have failed. Blachowicz is slightly bigger and significantly more mobile, and his patient boxing style will likely foil the slower Souza. We’d also recommend picking that the fight doesn’t go the distance.
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