Win and in: Souza faces Hermansson with title shot on the line

When Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza lost the Strikeforce middleweight championship to Luke Rockhold in September 2011, no one would have guessed he’d go eight years without a single appearance in a title fight. And yet, here we are — with Souza likely one win away from reaching that exact milestone.

Some of that is on Souza, who faces Jack Hermansson in the main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Sunrise, Florida. Souza is 12-3 since that title loss to Rockhold, but the losses have occurred in key spots against key opponents: Yoel Romero, who went on to fight for a title; Robert Whittaker, who went on to win a title; and Kelvin Gastelum, who also went on to fight for a title.

Some of what has held Souza back, though, has been bad luck. He has had several big fights fall through for various reasons. Even this weekend’s fight was supposed to be against Romero, who pulled out due to pneumonia. And his title aspirations were certainly affected when names like Dan Henderson and Georges St-Pierre jumped to the front of the line in 2016 and 2017.

But the UFC has publicly promised Souza, 39, a title shot if he defeats Hermansson on Saturday. Newly crowned interim champion Israel Adesanya is already on deck for undisputed champ Whittaker, but Souza has been told he’s one win away from guaranteeing himself the winner.

For a perennially top-ranked middleweight going on eight years without a title fight, that has to be especially motivating.

A look back

By the numbers

8: Finishes for Souza among his nine UFC fights, tying him for fourth-most among middleweights in promotion history (Anderson Silva, 11; Chris Leben and Nate Marquardt, 9; Thiago Silva, 8).

28: Days it will have been since Hermansson’s last fight when he steps in the cage Saturday. He defeated David Branch via submission in 49 seconds on March 30.

53.2: Percentage of significant strike attempts landed by Souza in the UFC, seventh-highest ever for a middleweight, according to UFC Stats.

14: Career submissions for Souza (in 26 wins).

0: Bouts that have gone the distance during Hermansson’s three-fight win streak. Overall, 16 of his 19 career wins have been by stoppage (11 KO/TKO, five submissions).

Source: ESPN Stats & Information

Five vs. five

Souza’s recent results

Win: Chris Weidman (KO1), Nov. 3, 2018

Loss: Kelvin Gastelum (SD), May 12, 2018

Win: Derek Brunson (KO1), Jan. 27, 2018

Loss: Robert Whittaker (TKO2), April 15, 2017

Win: Tim Boetsch (SUB1), Feb. 11, 2017

Hermansson’s recent results

Win: David Branch (SUB1), March 30, 2019

Win: Gerald Meerschaert (SUB1), Dec. 15, 2018

Win: Thales Leites (TKO3), May 12, 2018

Loss: Thiago Santos (TKO1), Oct. 28, 2017

Win: Bradley Scott (TKO1), Aug. 5, 2017

Fighting words

“[UFC matchmaker] Mick Maynard was able to find a last-minute opponent, and we know how hard it is to find someone to fight Jacare on short notice. Props to Jack for taking the fight. We are glad that it’s been made clear a win will guarantee Jacare a title shot, something he’s pursued for many years. Even though Jacare is 39 years old, I believe he is at his peak. Jacare is a better fighter than he’s ever been, and everyone will see that on April 27.” — Souza’s manager, Gilberto Faria, speaking to ESPN

And the winner is …

Souza will turn 40 years old by year’s end, and he has battled through several significant injuries. A lengthy title reign is probably not in his future … but I do think a shot at the title is. Brett Okamoto’s pick: Souza via TKO, third round.

What to watch for (beyond the main event)

“Let’s go, man. Redemption!”

Those were the first words out of Mike Perry‘s mouth when he was asked about his main-card fight against Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira during a recent appearance on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show.

Redemption indeed. Perry has lost three of his last four fights. One thing the 27-year-old welterweight has not lost, however, is his confidence.

“I’ve always known how to fight, and then I overclouded my judgment thinking about s— too much,” said Perry (12-4). “And now I think about all the same things, but I just fight way better.”

Win or lose in the Octagon, Perry always gets his arm raised by the fans. He’s aggressive, fearless and wildly entertaining to watch, his seven knockdowns placing him in the top 10 among UFC welterweights. And on Saturday he’ll be met in the middle of the cage by Oliveira, who was one half of ESPN’s 2017 Fight of the Year.

“I’m excited to fight,” Perry said. “I think we’re gonna have an action-packed fight.”

Jim Miller is fighting. So what else is new?

Jim Miller, who faces Jason Gonzalez in a lightweight prelim, has been competing in the UFC since 2008. He has made 31 appearances in the Octagon, more than any other fighter. He has put in over five hours inside that cage, the most by a lightweight and in the top 10 overall.

Longevity and a strong skill set sure will help you build up the numbers. Some examples from the Miller résumé:

  • The 35-year-old out of New Jersey has 18 UFC victories, tied for fifth all-time in any weight class.

  • His 17 lightweight wins are the most in that division.

  • His seven submission wins are tied for the most ever among 155-pounders.

  • His 40 submission attempts place him first overall in UFC history.

Most important to his bank account: Miller has won six Fight of the Night bonuses and cashed three Submission of the Night checks.

Miller (29-13, 1 NC) is coming off a submission loss in December to Charles Oliveira, Miller’s fifth loss in his past six fights. It was a rematch of a bout Miller won by submission way back in 2010. Time flies.

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