UFC Sao Paulo: Blachowicz vs. Jacare Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card, set to take place in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Updated: Nov. 14, 2019 • 5:46 PM ET

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Jacare Souza will fight his first bout at light heavyweight this weekend.

The UFC will be back in Brazil for UFC Fight Night 164 this Saturday with a main event featuring a light heavyweight bout between No. 6 Jan Blachowicz and No. 8 ranked middleweight Jacare Souza.

Saturday’s bout will be Souza’s first at light heavyweight since making the decision to move up from middleweight in September. He began his UFC career in 2013 and immediately won five straight fights, but he’s lost four of his last eight bouts since the impressive start, including his last outing that was a unanimous decision loss to Jack Hermansson in April.

Had Souza not lost to Hermansson, he may have been next in line for a middleweight title shot. Now, the Brazilian is going home to find new life in a new division against a top contender.

“A victory could put me really close to the belt, just like I’ve always been at middleweight,” Souza recently said via MSN. “But I’m not thinking about it, I’m only thinking about winning and moving forward. It’s no use to talk before putting in the work, first I have to work before I can talk.”

Despite the recent inconsistency, Souza still remains a top contender in any division. The 39-year-old has victories over Chris Weidman, Derek Brunson (twice), Vitor Belfort, Gegard Mousasi and Robbie Lawler. Also an eight-time world jiu-jitsu champion, Souza is one of the most dangerous submission specialists in MMA.

After unceremoniously welcoming top middleweight contender Luke Rockhold to the light heavyweight division in his last fight at UFC 239 in July, Blachowicz will attempt welcome Souza in a similar way. Blachowicz knocked out Rockhold in spectacular fashion in the second round of their fight, spoiling Rockhold’s attempt to breakthrough at 205 pounds. For Blachowicz, the win was a big rebound after losing to Thiago Santos by third-round TKO in a main event in February, a fight where a win could have resulted in a title shot.

“I see that I finish him in the second round,” Blachowicz said via MMA Junkie. “Right hand. Right hook, this is what I see.”

“I keep fighting stand up, but we’ll see what Jacare is going to do,” Blachowicz added. “I think he’ll just use his boxing, to try to take me down and finish the fight on the ground and I’m going to be ready for that of course. I’m also going to be ready in the stand up game because he also does that in the fight so I have to be ready for everything. I will try and keep the fight in stand up, but also, I believe I have good jiu-jitsu so if we go to the ground, I will be prepared also.”

The 36-year-old Blachowicz is 7-5 in the UFC, but 5-1 in his last six fights. Including Rockhold, he has big victories over Nikita Krylov, Jimi Manuwa, Jared Cannonier and Ilir Latifi. A win over Souza would put him right back in the mix with names like Dominic Reyes and Corey Anderson to challenge Jon Jones for the title.

Blachowicz, however, isn’t looking ahead to a possible fight with Jones.

“I think nobody knows what he wants to do right now,” Blachowicz said about the champion. “Maybe he have different class, I don’t know, maybe he wants to fight against DC (Cormier) or (Stipe) Miocic in heavyweight, I don’t know. I don’t think about this, I focus right now on Jacare, my fight and after that I will try and catch the belt. I have to win against Jacare.”


Co-main event

Saturday’s co-main event will be a light heavyweight fight between future Hall of Famer and former champion Mauricio Rua and Paul Craig.

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Coming off a big TKO victory over rising contender Tyson Pedro in December, Rua was originally scheduled to face Sam Alvey on Saturday. A broken hand, however, forced Alvey out of the fight, and Craig will step in on short notice.

Rua is 4-1 in his last five fights and at 37 years old, he’s still as dangerous as ever. Although his professional career dates back to 2002, Rua is still ranked in the top 15 with wins over some of the best fighters in the history of the sport, including Quinton Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (twice), Alistair Overeem (twice), Ricardo Arona, Kevin Randleman, Kazuhiro Nakamura, Mark Coleman, Chuck Liddell, Lyoto Machida, Forrest Griffin, Brandon Vera and Corey Anderson.

Meanwhile, Craig is coming off a first-round submission victory over Vinicius Moreira Castro in September. He entered the UFC with a 9-0 record, but is 4-4 in the promotion. Saturday represents the biggest opportunity of his career to convince everyone that he belongs in the UFC fighting the best in the world. A win over a legend and former champion would be what the 31-year-old Scottish fighter needs to stay active in the light heavyweight division and most importantly, keep his job.

Craig has shown that he has great finishing ability when he’s not standing and striking, as 11 of his 12 wins have come by submission. His weaknesses arise when fighters are able to keep the fight on the feet, as shown against better competition such as Tyson Pedro, Khalil Rountree, Jimmy Crute and Alonzo Menifield (all loses). If Craig wants to get past Rua, his best chance is getting the fight to the ground and not standing with the seasoned Brazilian striker.


The rest of the main card on ESPN+

Lightweight bout - No. 13 Charles Oliveira vs. Jared Gordon

Middleweight bout - Antonio Arroyo vs. Andre Muniz

Middleweight bout - Markus Perez vs. Wellington Turman


ESPN+ Prelims

Welterweight bout - Sergio Moraes vs. James Krause

Featherweight bout - Ricardo Ramos vs. Eduardo Garagorri

Lightweight bout - Francisco Trinaldo vs. Bobby Green

Welterweight bout - Warlley Alves vs. Randy Brown

Featherweight bout - Douglas Silva de Andrade vs. Renan Barao

Women’s flyweight bout - Ariane Lipski vs. Veronica Macedo

Women’s bantamweight bout - Vanessa Melo vs. Tracy Cortez