UFC on Fox: Jacare vs Brunson 2 (January 27th at the Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC) may not be a night of stars, but it’s not bad compared to some of the other UFC events coming down the pipe (*cough* UFC Fight Night 125 *cough*).
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Derek Brunson meet for the second time in the headliner, while the undercard features a zesty scrap between featherweights Dennis Bermudez and Andre Fili.
Ronaldo Souza (-164) vs Derek Brunson (+130)
This will be the second time that Brunson (18-5) and Souza (24-5) touch gloves, but don’t expect the first meeting to be too much help when you’re handicapping the rematch. It took place almost six years ago, back in the old Strikeforce promotion, and that fight was all Jacare. He dropped Brunson with a clean right hand early in the first round and ended the fight within 41 seconds.
The upcoming clash should be much closer. The 38-year-old Jacare is coming off a brutal loss to Robert Whittaker and his timing and speed are noticeably depleted. Brunson, on the other hand, has matured and developed as a fighter since his KO loss to Souza back in 2013.
At 34, Brunson knows that if he’s going to become champ, it needs to happen soon. In the last two years, he’s fought six times in the UFC — wasting no time in his bid for the belt. He suffered back-to-back losses to Whittaker and Anderson Silva, but rebounded with more recent KO wins against Dan Kelly and Lyoto Machida, placing him back within the top ten of the middleweight division.
Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero are the two middleweights most likely to be granted the next title shot (and they’re expected to square off for the Interim title at UFC 221), and next in line would be Souza. The third-ranked middleweight has waited a very long time for a title shot, and a win against Brunson puts him in good standing for a chance at the strap.
Both fighters are known for their early stoppages. Of Brunson’s 18 professional wins, 14 have been by first round stoppage. Jacare boasts an impressive record as well, with 16 first-round stoppages in 24 wins, though the vast majority are by submission. If you’re reluctant to pick a winner, then picking the under on total rounds (under 1.5 at +115) could prove to be a savvy bet.
Brunson’s chances against the best of the middleweight division are not great. He’s a talented wrestler and packs a ton of power, but his technique isn’t polished enough to go toe-to-toe with the top-ranked fighters (as his fight record shows). So the question boils down to: is Souza in that class? The Brazilian is one of the best submission grapplers to ever grace the UFC and he’s shown, on numerous occasions, that he can also stand and bang. However, he has battled a handful of injuries in the last few years and his age is clearly starting to show, especially in his recent, devastating loss. The stars are aligned for a Brunson upset.
Pick: Derek Brunson (+130)
Dennis Bermudez (-159) vs Andre Fili (+125)
Two aggressive fighters with a nice contrast of styles going head-to-head on the undercard this Saturday as Dennis Bermudez (16-7) meets Andre Fili (17-5) in what should be a pretty entertaining scrap.
Bermudez is looking to snap out of his two-fight losing streak and eventually climb back into the top ten of the featherweight division. He’s lost four of his last six fights, which includes nasty KOs at the hands (and knees) of Jeremy Stephens and Chan Sung Jung.
Fili has a checkered record in the UFC, with his fights following a win-loss-win-loss pattern since he signed in 2013. He’s an extremely inconsistent fighter, capable of a great showing on a good day and a woeful one on a bad day.
Both fighters are adept wrestlers, and that should be what determines the fight. Bermudez is a former NCAA Division I wrestler, so his pedigree is obvious. Fili, on the other hand, does not have a wrestling background, yet is actually quite good in the clinch and also has great takedown defense. One thing that stands out is the size difference. Fili has a five-inch height advantage and an eight-inch reach advantage over Bermudez. If he can control the distance against his shorter, stockier opponent, the fight is his for the taking. There’s value in picking the underdog here.
Pick: Andre Fili (+125)