Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight elites Chris Weidman and Ronaldo Souza will collide this Saturday (Nov. 3, 2018) at UFC 230 inside Madison Square Garden in New York, New York.
Weidman spent the first six years of his professional mixed martial arts (MMA) career undefeated, capturing and defending the Middleweight crown in that time span. The fall came hard, though, in the form of three straight stoppage losses, defeats that raised questions about Weidman’s status as a top fighter. However, Weidman shut down that talk by handling current top contender Kelvin Gastelum, but unfortunately injuries since stalled his comeback. At this point, “Jacare” Souza makes a strong case for the best fighter to never earn a UFC title shot. The former Strikeforce 185-pound kingpin has come very close a couple times, but a pair of pivotal split-decision losses saw the Brazilian passed over.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Anderson Silva (UFC 168, UFC 162), Kelvin Gastelum (UFC on FOX 25), Lyoto Machida (UFC 175), Vitor Belfort (UFC 187)
Key Losses: Luke Rockhold (UFC 194), Yoel Romero (UFC 205), Gegard Mousasi (UFC 210)
Keys to Victory: Weidman reminded us last July that he is still one of the very best Middleweights on the planet. A decorated wrestler with a killer top game, Weidman has underrated knockout power and smart boxing to complement his grappling.
Stylistically, what is Weidman’s path here? That’s the question this section generally seeks to answer, but it’s a particularly difficult question opposite “Jacare.” On the feet, the Brazilian hits plenty hard, and should Weidman look to wrestle, he’ll be dealing with arguably the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu player in UFC. Personally, I give Weidman much better odds in a kickboxing match. Souza is powerful and experienced on the feet, it’s true, but his arsenal is not particularly deep or shocking. Weidman will have to mind his defensive P’s and Q’s, but he likely has the ability to outbox “Jacare” and maintain a higher output.
In addition, Souza is known to take bad shots when getting touched up, and that could be an opportunity for Weidman to gain momentum.
Record: 24-6 (1)
Key Wins: Derek Brunson (UFC on FOX 27), Gegard Mousasi (UFC Fight Night 50), Yushin Okami (UFC Fight Night 28), Francis Carmont (UFC Fight Night 36), Tim Boetsch (UFC 208)
Key Losses: Robert Whittaker (UFC on FOX 24), Kelvin Gastelum (UFC 224). Yoel Romero (UFC 194), Luke Rockhold (Strikeforce: Barnett vs Kharitonov)
Keys to Victory: One of the most physically dominant fighters at 185 pounds, Souza’s general approach involves throwing his opponent to the mat and wrenching off a limb. If needed, Souza can definitely strike, a skill most recently shown in a first-round shellacking of Derek Brunson.
As outlined above, I expect Weidman to attempt to deny Souza any grappling — at least until he’s tired — and make this a kickboxing match. While volume and reach are in Weidman’s favor, Souza does have the pure power edge, and I’d favor him in a pocket brawl.
As such, I’d like to see Souza pressure with the goal of getting Weidman’s back to the fence. From that position, Souza is at a great advantage: He can either look to duck down into a powerful double, or Souza has a very good shot at reversing Weidman’s takedown if it’s not set up expertly. If Souza puts Weidman on his back, the wrestler is in serious trouble.
All that said, Souza has to be careful with his conditioning. Both men have solid gas tanks, but Souza does have something of a history of pushing too hard early and suffering for it later in the bout.
Bottom Line: With Romero gone and Rockhold injured, this is possibly a No. 1 contender title eliminator match.
Weidman would have a strong case with a victory against Robert Whittaker and especially Gastelum, whom he submitted recently. It may not be a rematch with Rockhold, but this is still an absolutely pivotal win for “All-American,” one that would really make fans forget about his previous losing streak.
Meanwhile, this is actually a much more opportune fight for “Jacare” than his originally booked battle with David Branch. A win there would have been helpful, but that fight largely served the potential purpose of getting Souza back in the win column and proving he was still elite. A win over Weidman does all that and more, likely setting up Souza for a title eliminator against someone like Rockhold or perhaps Israel Adesanya next.
The consequences are similar for both fighters. At 34 and 38 years of age, respectively, and with plenty of significant injuries over the years, the two athletes are face a serious uphill climb toward the title if they come up short this weekend.
At UFC 230, Chris Weidman and Ronaldo Souza will go to war in the co-main event. Which Middleweight will remain standing when the dust settles?