Jan Blachowicz and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza | Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Saturday marked the UFC’s return to Sao Paulo, Brazil, an ESPN+ show headlined by Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza moving to light heavyweight to take on title contender Jan Blachowicz.
Blachowicz (25-8) was awarded a split decision in a boring fight that could have gone either way. After winning, he aimed high, calling out Jon Jones.
He may have aimed too high, as coming off a close win in that type of match is nothing that will convince fans to want to spend money on a pay-per-view title challenge. Media scores were pretty much undecided, with Blachowicz having a 56/44 percentage edge. In reality, the fight came down to a close round three, as the three judges that counted had Souza winning the first two rounds and Blachowicz the last two.
Wanting to wait things out rather than fight, and expecting a title shot also neglects the fact that in this game, you’re as good as you’re last fight. When you’re looking for a title shot, it’s not just the win, but the nature and quality of the win. An exciting or dominant win would be one thing, but when there are multiple contenders in the division.
A more memorable perfromance against Souza—coming off of Blachowicz’s knockout win over Luke Rockhold—would have put Blachowicz in line, although not at the head of the pack for Jones. Dominick Reyes is in the best position for Jones after recently making short work of former middlweight champion Chris Weidman.
Blachowicz talked of waiting for a big fight, but if he’s going to get it, it would have to come by default if others fall out.
In this sport, while winning and losing are the primary goals, the real key is to make the fans care about you winning and losing. For example, Nate Diaz a few weeks ago got destroyed by Jorge Masvidal in what was really a one-sided fight. While it wouldn’t be fair to put Diaz in a championship fight, because the fight was exciting and the fan-friendly demeanor he carries, the loss really didn’t hurt his star power.
Blachowicz, gunning for a title shot, had the worst kind of win. It was close, which is okay in a great fight. But this was a forgettable one where neither guy put their foot on the gas in the last round where there was every reason to believe—and turned out to be the case—that the fight was up for the taking.
Let’s look at how fortunes changed for five on that show.
JAN BLACHOWICZ – Reyes looks to be the top contender for Jones, followed by Corey Anderson, based on the “What have you down for me lately?” principle. For Blachowicz, he should face Anderson (13-4) to wipe away the memories of people who saw the Souza fight.
RONALDO “JACARE” SOUZA – The bad news was that he lost a fight that had no fireworks. The good news is that, unlike the other two big-name middleweights who moved to light heavy, Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman, he emerged somewhat unscathed. At least when it was over there weren’t people discussing whether Souza should retire.
MAURICIO “SHOGUN” RUA – Rua (26-11-1) ended up with a draw against Paul Craig (12-4-1). It was a surprise given it appeared Rua won rounds two and three. But one judge gave Craig a 10-8 first round, meaning a 28-28 score, and another gave Craig round three, where he was on his back for most of the period, but did reverse in the closing seconds. Media scores were 88 percent in favor of Rua.
Both fighters seemed to be okay with a rematch, and that makes sense. The first fight was exciting, and there is unfinished business from both sides. For Craig, in particular, he gets a second chance to beat a major name.
CHARLES OLIVEIRA – Oliveira (28-8, 1 no contest) is quietly moving up on some pretty impressive lists. Oliveira already holds the UFC record for most submissions. By winning a 15th performance bonus for his 1:26 win over Jared Gordon (15-4), he is now tied with Nate Diaz and Joe Lauzon for second place in UFC history behind Donald Cerrone’s 16. His 15 career finishes also puts him one behind Cerrone with 16.
Oliveira is also 30, as compared to Cerrone being 36, meaning his odds of breaking those records are strong. And those records would indicate a good next fight, possibly a rematch with Cerrone (36-13). Oliveira himself called out Conor McGregor, which is very unlikely to happen, or Paul Felder (17-4), who handed Oliveira his most recent loss almost two years ago. If not Cerrone, which is a higher profile fight, Felder does make the most sense for him.
RICARDO RAMOS – Ramos (14-2) moved up to featherweight and beat Luiz Eduardo Garagorri (13-1) via choke at 3:57 of the first round. It’s a strong enough win, and he’d previously looked good at bantamweight as well. As a featherweight, he could next face Andre Fili (20-6) or Darren Elkins (24-8).