A rematch that’s been six years in the making will have major middleweight title implications at UFC 176. Top contenders Gegard Mousasi and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza will battle in the co-main event on the Aug. 2 card with the winner inching closer to a future title shot.
“The Dreamcatcher” is fresh off his most impressive UFC effort as he dominated veteran Mark Munoz recording a first-round submission finish at Fight Night 41 in Germany. Mousasi made it look remarkably easy and was rewarded with a Performance of the Night bonus. It was a strong rebound for the former Dream and Strikeforce champion after dropping a unanimous decision to Lyoto Machida at Fight Night 36 in Brazil.
Mousasi faced Souza in Japan back in 2008 when the pair were fighting in the Dream promotion. He captured their inaugural middleweight title by finishing the Brazilian in the first-round with a perfectly executed upkick. The No. 7 ranked Mousasi has strong technical stand-up skills and has produced 30 finishes by knockout or submission in his 35 career victories. He would definitely have a strong case for a title opportunity if he can get by the dangerous Souza for a second time.
The No. 4 ranked Souza has reeled off three straight wins to begin his UFC career. His most recent effort was a unanimous decision win in February over Francis Carmont. It was the first time in his last six bouts that he was unable to produce a finish. Since that victory Souza has been on the sidelines recovering from elbow surgery.
The former Strikeforce champion made the biggest statement of his Octagon tenure when he demolished former title challenger Yushin Okami in the first round. Souza is a much different fighter now than the one Mousasi originally faced in 2008. ”Jacare” relied solely on his grappling and dangerous submission skills back then, but he has now added an explosive striking game to his arsenal. Souza is one of the more physically imposing fighters in the division.
This shapes up as a tremendous contest in Los Angeles. Mousasi and Souza are former champions who are highly motivated to capture UFC gold. They both possess championship level skills and are well aware that they will need to emerge victorious at Staples Center in order to keep those title hopes alive.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports