With Constantinos Philippou pulling out of this weekend’s fights due a cut in what was supposed to be a fight to see who would go to get in the title mix at middleweight, Chris Camozzi steps in to take on former Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza on fairly short notice.
Fight Breakdown – There’s absolutely no chance in hell that Chris Camozzi is going to want to get this fight to the ground. Why? For all his fairly solid submission and counter wrestling skills, good but not great at that, you don’t want to get on the ground with Ronaldo Souza in any capacity. Why?
Because “Jacare” is probably the best BJJ practitioner in MMA and is one of the best in the sport BJJ as well; he’s got submission wins over the elite of elite guys in that sport. Anytime you’ve got a submission win over Marcelo Garcia you’ve done something special. It’s the one area in the game that no one in the world really wants to go to with Souza; he’s one of the best submission artists in the world, period, and his goal is going to be to drag Camozzi down there.
Guys who aren’t anywhere near Souza’s capacity have tapped Camozzi before and Souza can do it fairly quickly. Souza is at the very high end of high level black belts in that regard: you don’t play BJJ with someone of his capacity unless you’re Roger Gracie, Demian Maia, Garcia, et al. It’s where Souza wants the fight, considering how much better he is at that particular aspect of the game than most anyone else, and his ability to get the fight there isn’t typical from a BJJ player.
He won’t pull guard but Souza’s takedowns are quite good, especially for someone at such a high level in BJJ. He shoots more like a wrestler than a BJJ guy, emphasizing a lot of interesting takedowns you see more from guys with heavy wrestling experience than BJJ experience. He’s worked on that aspect of his game considerably, especially with the wrestle heavy elites of the division at middleweight, but he isn’t strictly a grapple first, second and third type of guy either.
Souza’s been slowly developing some strong striking, most recently out landing Ed Herman in spectacular fashion in his final Strikeforce fight, and is comfortable enough anywhere the fight goes.
Look for Camozzi to keep it standing and turn this into a kickboxing match, sprawling and brawling his way through the fight if Souza goes for the takedown. He can’t stay on the ground for long if it goes there; if he gets the takedown he needs to be defensive on top, grinding it down, as opposed to doing anything fancy. Souza will catch him if he stays down there too long but he can score points with quick takedowns, especially at the end of rounds.
Camozzi’s game plan is to emulate what Luke Rockhold did to Souza in Strikeforce and push the pace from there; his best chance is standing and trading, hoping for the best.
Why it matters – This is essentially a trap fight for Souza. In team sports a trap game is one in which they’re supposed to win, as there’s a tough opponent next, and they could get caught overlooking it. Especially considering this is a fight on five weeks notice Souza, who had been prepping for Philippou and a potential title shot with a win, will get someone tougher with a win. Souza’s a guy who should be fighting for a title sooner than later and this should be a much easier fight than Philippou.
At least on paper it is. The reality is a lot different.
The key word there is “should be” because Camozzi isn’t technically fighting on the short notice he’s been claimed to. He had a fight already scheduled for this card, just a change in opponent, and a month plus to adjust your game plan is plenty to be ready for someone like Souza. This isn’t a couple days, or a week: five weeks, especially when you’ve been training for a fight on the same day, isn’t going to throw him off. He’s just fighting higher on the same card, with a requisite better opponent; this is a huge opportunity and he knows it.
Souza has much more pressure on him than he did before; a win here is something he should do and is expected to. Anything less, including a split decision win, is going to be viewed as a win. Camozzi is a fighter designed to make him look better as his weaknesses, especially on the ground, are almost custom made for a highlight reel tapout win for the Brazilian in his home country.
Camozzi wins and it’s the continuation of a fairly solid second stint in the UFC as well as potentially moving into the same slot Souza is in right now. A win here, especially a spectacular finish, gets him someone in or near the Top Five.
Prediction - Souza