By the end of 2019, Ronaldo Souza (26-7-0 1NC) will be 40-years-old.
However, age won't stop 'Jacare' from stepping into the octagon for his 35th professional fight - his Light Heavyweight debut - this Saturday on home soil in Sao Paolo, Brazil at UFC at Fight Night 164 versus no. 6 ranked Jan Blachowicz (24-8-0).
A win for the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt could put the 39-year-old in title contention. A loss, however, could spell the end of his illustrious mixed martial arts career.
"Jacare is fighting for his MMA career," TSN's Aaron Bronsteter told Let's Talk Sports Radio. "If he loses this fight, it would not shock me if he walked away. He's a title or nothing kind of guy. He wants to stay in the title picture, and if he can't stay in the title picture, there isn't much left for him in the UFC. He doesn't want to be a gatekeeper kind of guy."
Souza has lost three of his last five fights, with a 9-4 record in the UFC overall. The Brazilian is a +150 betting underdog versus Blachowicz, an experienced striker with a pension for beating former middleweights.
"Jacare still has something left in the tank," said Bronsteter. "I think Blachowicz was the front runner to fight John Jones next before Dominick Reyes and Corey Anderson fought. This is the third straight middleweight Blachowicz has fought. He fought Thiago Santos and Luke Rockhold, but Jacare is a different kind of match up than Rockhold. He has never shown he has a suspect chin."
Blachowicz, 36, is 7-5 in the UFC, with wins in five of his last six. Also Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Blachowicz has just nine of 32 career wins via submission - two in the UFC - compared to Jacare's fourteen of 34 submission wins. The Poland native is coming off a highlight-reel knockout off former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold in July - just his second in the UFC and his sixth all-time. For his career, Blachowicz has won nine times going the distance.
"I think Jacare is going to come in motivated," said Bronsteter. "If this gets into any grappling situation, Jacare could find a way to submit Jan Blachowicz, and that's how I think this one will go. Jacare is being very overlooked coming into this spot, given how his last fight went versus Jack Hermansson. He's a pretty sizable underdog, and I don't necessary agree with that."
"Skill set for skill set, striking you have to give a bit of the advantage to Jan, but I also don't think that Jacare will find himself in the same kind of spots as Luke Rockhold. Jacare will try to get inside, grab onto Blachowicz, and if he can do that, he'll be able to find a submission.
"If Jacare does get this win, he puts himself one fight away from a title shot versus John Jones, or a vacant title shot if John Jones decides to move up to heavyweight. This needs to be due or die for Jacare, and I think he knows that not having retirement on his mind, but having wisdom on his mind, and that could make all the difference."
With just one submission loss to his name back in 2007 - his fourth professional fight - Blachowicz best path to victory could be to out point Souza with striking and go the distance.
Prediction: Blachowicz wins via Split Decision
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