Ronaldo Souza is one of those fighters whose jiu-jitsu is so well-developed that opponents dread chasing him to the canvas even if they've hurt him with a punch.
Souza is one of the most decorated jiu-jitsu players in mixed martial arts and won two gold medals at the world championships and one at Abu Dhabi.
He also has a black belt in judo. But despite the spectacular success UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey has had using judo as her base, there are few fighters who regularly use judo in the cage.
But it's a weapon for Souza and, he believes, will be for more fighters as time goes on.
"The top judo fighters around the world have regularly trained so hard that they set an example for MMA fighters," Souza said. "Ronda has taken it to another degree. She shows by the way she performs in the Octagon that other fighters can use judo successfully in their strategy.
"She's motivated me to incorporate more judo. It gives me another weapon and she's shown that it can work at a very high level. I've been using more judo techniques and I think I'll be using it more."
He needs to be at a high-level in all aspects of his game on Friday when he meets Gegard Mousasi in the main event of a loaded fight card at the Foxwoods Resort which will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.
Souza was knocked out by a vicious up-kick from Mousasi during a fight for the DREAM middleweight title six years ago.
Mousasi is one of the UFC's hottest fighters, and Souza said, "It's incredible how much his jiu-jitsu has improved."
Mousasi lost a close Fight of the Night battle to former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida on Feb. 15 in Brazil but rebounded with an impressive submission of Mark Munoz on May 31 in Germany.
The Souza-Mousasi winner will take a giant step forward in the middleweight rankings and perhaps be in line for a title shot against the winner of the Dec. 6 match between champion Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort.
Souza plans to ask for a title shot if he turns the tables and defeats Mousasi, though he admits he has no guarantees.
UFC president Dana White said it is difficult to guarantee the winner a title shot when it is still several months before the Weidman-Belfort bout.
"It usually causes us headaches when we lock [a fight like this] into a title shot," said White, who said it "makes sense," that the Souza-Mousasi winner would be in line to fight for the belt. "What if Weidman gets hurt and we need Jacare to fight before then? He'll say, 'No, I'm waiting for my title shot.' "
So there will be no guaranteed shot, no matter how good the winner looks on Friday.
Souza, though, has made White into a fan with his recent performances. He's become one of the most well-rounded fighters in the world. The respect opponents have for his jiu-jitsu has opened other areas for him to exploit.
"There is no question that my jiu-jitsu game has helped me when I'm on my feet," Souza said. " … It's really made a difference in my striking. I've worked on my striking a lot and I've put in a lot of time on it. Inside the Octagon, they know what I want to do because of my background in jiu-jitsu, and that makes my striking available.
"As I develop my other weapons, I have more to offer and even though I know how they're going to try to defend against my jiu-jitsu, that allows me to do other things."
A lot of that will be judo. He said Rousey's success has caused many fighters to examine judo. Its use in MMA far trails boxing, kick boxing, Muay Thai, wrestling and jiu-jitsu.
Some fighters, like Karo Parisyan, have had a limited amount of success with it. Parisyan's 2006 bout with Diego Sanchez is so memorable in part because of the number of throws he pulled off.
Souza is going to react, but he's going to have a lot more judo on his mind in the future than he has ever had.
"People know so much about my jiu-jitsu," he said. "If I bring along my judo and get to that level where it's [helping me to win], of course, I have to do that. Ronda is making everyone take a real close look at it."
- Sports & Recreation
- Martial Arts
- Ronaldo Souza
- Gegard Mousasi
- Ronda Rousey