NEW YORK — Throughout a memorable career that has seen him win world titles in multiple promotions, the one thing has eluded Brazilian star Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza is a shot at a UFC title.
The 38-year-old may have finally given himself a chance to secure just that on Saturday when he rallied to stop former champion Chris Weidman in a sensational slugfest that was contested almost exclusively on the feet in the co-main event of UFC 230.
Souza (26-6, 1 NC), who had blood flowing from his nose since midway through the opening round, seemed to fight in bursts throughout the second half as Weidman (14-4), a native of Baldwin, New York, did well to control him on the feet with stiff jabs and right hooks. But “Jacare” caused the pro-Weidman crowd at Madison Square Garden to gasp when he landed a brutal right hand in Round 3 to drop him.
The knockdown was so sudden, it appeared as if a follow up wouldn’t be needed. Souza, out of respect for his opponent, chose not to jump in and throw punches but referee Dan Miragliotta chose not to wave off the fight.
The 34-year-old Weidman, who entered the bout in a must-win scenario after losing three of his last four, began to grapple with the leg of Souza, who protested to Miragliotta. Finally the fight was called off at 2:46.
“It’s sport, this is sport. We need to respect our job,” Souza said. “I can hit Chris and we can face off but we have a lot of respect. I respect him and he respects me. This was a great fight.”
The only thing puzzling about the fight was why Souza, one of the greatest grapplers and submission experts in UFC history, never once attempted a takedown. Although Souza had moments on his feet throughout rocking Weidman with punches, it’s likely he was headed toward a close decision loss thanks to Weidman’s sound boxing and control of distance.
“Thank God my nose was not broken,” Souza said. “I was born on the wrong side of the track and my nose is not broken. I want to say I love Chris and he is a hero and he is a legend of the sport. I feel so bad for him and respect him. He is one of the best in the world.”
Souza must wait to see what happens when middleweight champion Robert Whittaker defends his title against Kelvin Gastelum in early 2019 before potentially realizing his title dreams. What doesn’t necessarily play into the favor of the former Strikeforce and DREAM champion is that he has losses to both over the past two years, which could mean rising star Israel Adesanya — who defeated Derek Brunson on Saturday’s undercard — could steal his spot.
The defeat was a crushing one for Weidman, who entered the cage following a 16-month layoff due to injury after his 2017 submission win over Gastelum. Before that, he suffered a trio of knockout defeats that began when he lost his title to Luke Rockhold in 2015.
For complete results from UFC 230, please click here.
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