UFC Sao Paulo: Blachowicz vs. Jacare — Who has more to gain?
Just as it was beginning to look like Yoel Romero was the likeliest to embark on an adventure into the Light Heavyweight division after two losses to Robert Whittaker, a few other Middleweight contenders took a liking to the idea and pulled the trigger on a move up before “The Soldier of God.” The success rate of the transitions? 0 percent.
Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman learned the light heavyweight power the hard way (both KO’d in their debuts) — but that hasn’t discouraged the next man in line eager to shoot his shot at 205 glory. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza’s future in the Middleweight division was looking rather bleak after going 3-3 in his last six fights. Jacare (26-7, 1 NC) was continuously denied a title shot during his glory days (won seven out of eight fights to begin UFC career) and after experiencing the most inconsistent spell of his career over the last two years, a move up was the only logical option for the 39-year-old in an attempt to revive his title aspirations.
Souza was granted a home field advantage in his LHW debut as he is set to headline UFC’s return to Sao Paulo, but that’s about where the good news ends for the Brazilian, because his dance partner is on a title charge of his own. Jan Blachowicz (24-8) is experiencing a similar situation to his counterpart in that he is also seemingly being left out of any title conversations. And with Dominick Reyes all but officially announced as the next challenger to Jon Jones’ throne, Blachowicz will certainly look to take out his frustrations on another divisional newcomer.
The Pole gladly welcomed Rockhold into the division in July. The two built up some bad blood, particularly during fight week, with Rockhold openly underestimating the pedigree of his opponent. But Blachowicz, not known for his trash talking, responded with his actions in the best way he possibly could. After Rockhold claimed that Blachowicz was his stepping stone to a title shot, the Pole cut his opponents LHW bow short with a vicious second round uppercut which shut the former Middleweight’s champs lights off.
Unfortunately for Blachowicz, his stock didn’t seem to rise as much as it perhaps should have following that victory, and now here he is, ready to step into the dragon’s den and welcome another middleweight into the division. But who has the most to gain from this matchup?
Whatever way you look at it, all arrows point towards Jacare for me.
It shouldn’t feel that way considering what a victory over a former middleweight did for Reyes, but it does feel like a potential win over Jacare will be chalked up as just another win over a middleweight for Blachowicz. Corey Anderson’s emphatic derailing of Johnny Walker has likely also put the American ahead of the Pole in the title pecking order. At this point, it feels like unless Blachowicz decapitates Jacare on Saturday, he will remain stuck in the position that he is in now. A top LHW contender but just not quite there in terms of the title picture.
For Jacare on the other hand, a win over Blachowicz would mean everything. If the Brazilian wins, it would go down as a victory over a legit LHW contender and likely propel the BJJ specialist into the top end of the rankings. It’s very much a low risk-high reward opportunity for Jacare. And although you have to feel like he will still be quite a distance from the ultimate goal which is a title shot, the power of the Brazilian market in the world of mixed martial arts would have him within reaching distance.
So, why would Blachowicz take this fight you might ask? Well, with Anderson having just fought and Reyes seemingly the next in line for a title shot, the high-profile options at LHW are very limited as of right now. Other than Anthony Smith, there are really no fights that jump out at you which could be considered as No. 1 Contender eliminators.
Meanwhile, despite being naturally lighter, Jacare is still a well-known name and a good enough scalp to add to your resume should Blachowicz get his hand raised. Taking that fight is also certainly more effective than sitting out and waiting his turn at a title shot. Taking that route would be the least beneficial for the Pole. His marketability, or lack thereof, means that he will really have to force himself into Dana White’s plans. And the only way he can do that is by continuing to convincingly take out every next man that is put in front of him.
Stylistically, it’s going to be interesting to see how Jacare’s extra weight translates into the Octagon. With his immense grappling abilities, it could very well play into his advantage. But Blachowicz is no slouch in that department either. In fact, he likes to mix fights up and turn them into slugfests himself. On the feet, Blachowicz has shown improvement in his striking as of late, and will likely be favored the longer the fight goes on standing up. But overall, it seems like a pretty evenly matched and intriguing affair.
It feels like a mini title defense for Blachowicz in a way. The Pole really has to protect his stock in the LHW division as a loss could cause irreparable damage to his title hopes. Jacare, as is the case for most fighters who move up in weight, will enter the Octagon on Saturday with no real expectations from the fans. It is a perfect chance for the Brazilian to start over with a clean slate and make an impactful first impression in a new weight class.
Sports journalist based in CA, USA.