The UFC returns to Brazil this weekend for the first time since May, heading to Sao Paulo for UFC Fight Night 164: Blachowicz vs. Jacare. As always with the UFC’s Brazilian cards, it’s a very mixed bag; the top of the card sounds decent and has some name value, albeit with a former champion far past his prime in the co-main event.
The preliminary fights also sound pretty strong, but really they’re not going to pique the interest of the casual fan. Not many of these Fight Nights do, though, so all we can hope for are some exciting fights.
Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC Fight Night 164: Blachowicz vs. Jacare.
#1 Jan Blachowicz vs. Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza
Fighters moving up to 205lbs from 185lbs has become quite common recently; it probably stems from a couple of things. Firstly, that the Middleweight division has quite a stacked title scene while Light-Heavyweight simply doesn’t due to the dominance of Jon Jones.
And secondly, that Jones’ last two challengers – Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos – were recognised more as journeymen than contenders at 185lbs prior to their move.
Essentially then, the logic suggests that if Smith and Santos could succeed at 205lbs, then better 185lbers should be able to succeed too. Up to this point though, that hasn’t been the case. Former champions Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman were both violently knocked out in their debuts at 205lbs – so can the latest man to make the move, Brazil’s ‘Jacare’ be the one that bucks the trend?
He’s certainly not faced with an easy task in his first fight in his new division. Poland’s Blachowicz was just one fight away from a shot at Jones at the start of 2019 following a four-fight winning streak, but was knocked out by Santos at the final hurdle. He’s since bounced back by knocking Rockhold out, though, and a win here would put him in good stead for at least a top contender’s match in early 2020.
A powerful striker, Blachowicz tends to use more of a boxing style in his fights. He has been known to make use of violent body kicks – he used one to stop Ilir Latifi back in 2014, for instance – but against the likes of Jimi Manuwa and Rockhold it was his hands that did the work.
Manuwa was largely beaten by a ramrod jab that allowed the Pole to set up his heavier shots, while Rockhold fell victim to a brutal counter left hook that turned his lights out immediately.
In terms of weaknesses? You can’t question his chin as the Santos KO was the first one he’d suffered in his career, and it’s rare to see him stunned or rocked in his fights. His ground game was once a major Achilles heel; he had nothing from his back in losses to Corey Anderson and Alexander Gustafsson, but he’s since developed greatly in that area and even tapped Nikita Krylov in 2018.
He’s not the fastest fighter out there at 205lbs, especially compared to the more explosive athletes like Jones, Santos and Dominick Reyes – in fact, he comes off as plodding at times, but his boxing technique and chin means that he hasn’t really fallen foul of that issue recently.
Everyone knows exactly how Jacare operates at this point, as he’s been around in the UFC since 2013 and has only made tweaks to his game rather than huge leaps forward in technique.
He’s one of the very best grapplers on the planet and is as dangerous as anyone in the UFC on the ground, particularly from top position. On the feet he’s extremely powerful with his punches and is a solid boxer, but technically he’s not the greatest as we saw when Chris Weidman was able to take two rounds from him with a long jab before Jacare came back to knock him out.
For me this fight is pretty simple; if Jacare can get Blachowicz down then there’s every chance he can get him out of there with a submission. For all of the Pole’s improvements on the ground he just hasn’t fought a grappler as good as Jacare before, and he still doesn’t seem to be the most natural on the mat despite picking up a couple of recent submissions. That’s contingent on a couple of things, however, which could make it difficult.
Firstly, fighters moving up in weight usually tend to bring a speed advantage with them, but I’m not sure that’ll be the case with Souza – he’s an explosive athlete, but was never the fastest man at 185lbs and as we saw against Jack Hermansson in April, that’s even more evident as he approaches his 40th birthday. The fact that Jacare’s cardio is no longer what it was also suggests he can’t afford to make too many explosive bursts.
What worries me the most for him here though is the fact that he’ll be giving up a substantial amount of reach to Blachowicz, who is only one inch taller, but has a 78” reach to Jacare’s 72”. That’s identical to the reach of Weidman, who was able to piece Jacare up with his jab – and I’d argue that Blachowicz is more adept at boxing than Weidman and hits harder too.
This move to 205lbs might pay off for Jacare at some point in the future; as he gets older the weight cut to 185lbs won’t get easier and he will come across potential opponents who he matches well with stylistically. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of them in my opinion, particularly over five rounds.
I expect Blachowicz to jab him continually from the off with Jacare struggling to get inside the reach, and in the later rounds a heavy shot from the Pole will do its job and silence the Brazilian crowd.
The Pick: Blachowicz via fourth round KO