UFC 224 Fight Preview: Jacare vs Gastelum

One of the biggest fights right now in the middleweight division will take place when #2 ranked middleweight Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza faces off against #5 ranked Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 224 in Brazil this Saturday night. Prior to the event, let’s take a closer look at the two warriors who occupy the co-main event spot on the first PPV event in Brazil since June of last year.

Jacare is the definition of a complete mixed martial artist. He has countless Brazilian jiu-jitsu accolades and has been a professional MMA fighter since 2003. Despite being so dominant on the ground, Souza has developed a fantastic wrestling base and has a tip-top stand up game to match. The former Strikeforce middleweight champion has a 25-5 record and has fought, and beaten, some of the best fighters in middleweight’s MMA history, names include Robbie Lawler, Gegard Mousasi and Vitor Belfort. But despite multiple performances of the night awards, the sixth-degree black belt has never fought for a UFC belt. But he’ll be hoping with the right result over Gastelum he will finally get his chance to carry the torch for the UFC’s middleweight division.

Kelvin Gastelum knocks out boxers, submits legit BJJ practitioners, and outwrestles all Americans. Gastelum has surpassed expectations since moving up to middleweight after a troubling time at welterweight cutting weight. Critics always thought that Gastelum seemed too small to trouble the guys at the top of the middleweight division, but the 26-year-old is proving them all wrong. Gastelum has a 14-3 pro record but he possesses all the tools to make it a difficult night for his Brazilian opposition. The Californian impressed in his last fight when he knocked out former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping in an impressive fashion, earning him this fight with the #2 contender of the division.

A few people have asked me who I believe is going to take this fight, I have a sneaky suspicion that Gastelum might upset the apple cart a little bit. I think the Californian has it in him to knock out Jacare early and get the job done inside two rounds. But the unknown outcomes are what makes mixed martial arts so appealing. This fight is there for the taking for both of these gentlemen.

Ryan Cambridge

Breakdown: UFC 224 Gastelum vs. Jacare – Keys to Victory

UFC 224 is quickly approaching. On May 12, 2018, at the Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the co-main event will include two men who have already proved their worth many times over in the Octagon. They have grown to be well-rounded fighters, and both are coming off knockout wins and want their next chance to get that shot at the belt.

 

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza

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Ronaldo Souza (25-5-0 1NC) is known in the UFC for being a submission specialist, with big finishes over Gegard Mousasi (R3 guillotine) back in 2014, and more recently over Tim Boetsh at UFC 208 with a perfectly executed Kimura in the first round. With one submission of the night award under his belt coming from a first round armbar win over Chris Camozzi in 2015; it’s no doubt that the Brazilian has a diverse ground game, that is most definitely not to be slept on.

Souza has also developed a highly respectable striking game in recent years, with two of his last three wins (Derek Brunson and Vitor Belfort) both coming first round knockout, subsequently earning him performance of the night awards.

Everything considered, Souza’s number 2 contender spot is well earned, but with his opponent coming off a big knockout over former champ Michael Bisping, some might feel that Gastelum is coming into this very confident. It goes without saying that Jacare will have to employ all his skills to get the win, but specifically he will need to stay away from the power and explosiveness of Gastelum.

Jacare should look to use feints and footwork to try to close the distance, clinch kelvin against the cage and shoot the double leg. If the fight goes to the mat, his BJJ advantage will show, as Gastelum does have a submission loss to Chris Weidman on his record.

It is also worth noting that due to his experience in the Octagon, Souza is more accustomed to a 5 round fight than Gastelum, bringing the latters’ cardio into question.

Kelvin Gastelum

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Kelvin Gastelum (15-3-0 1NC) started his career with a dominant run in series 17 of The Ultimate Fighter, capping it off with a split decision win over Uriah Hall. He competed in the tournament at middleweight, but soon decided to move down to welterweight after winning. He found success at 170lbs, showing us a strong and aggressive stand up game with a stocky frame and wrestling background.

However, he was too big for the division and ran into problems with the weight cut multiple times; his loss to Tyron Woodley (split decision) at UFC 183, coupled with the fact he came in over-weight, caused the UFC to step in and Dana White announced that Gastelum would have to move back up to middleweight.

Since returning to his original division he has continued to impress, using his strength to charge his opponents down, with a strong chin and wrestling game to back up any holes left by his aggressive style. He has impressive knockout wins over Nate Marquardt, Tim Kennedy, Vitor Belfort (later overturned but some feel that it was controversial) and most recently Michael “the Count” Bisping.

There is no denying this man his number 5 spot, but he will face his biggest test to date in the form of “Jacare” Souza. He will have to focus primarily on keeping the fight on the feet, as he will feel that he has a better chance striking with Souza as opposed to grappling.  To do this he will need his takedown defence and his jab, but mostly he will need to mix things up as much as possible to keep his opponent guessing, possibly using a lot of low kicks to take Souzas’ base away and make it easier to get the finish – we already know kicks work against Souza since seeing the way Robert Whittaker was able to hit him with front kicks, which opened up opportunities for Whittaker to follow it up with punches.

All in all this has the makings of a very technical, competative fight that could go either way on the night. The method of victory is a difficult one to guess for sure as both fighters have legitimate abilities on both ground and the on the mat.

Time will tell but in the meantime, what do you think?