A light heavyweight main event between Jan Blachowicz and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza failed to impress the crowd on Saturday in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but the result of the fight will nevertheless have an impact on the 205-pound weight class.
Jan Blachowicz, light heavyweight
Result: Defeated Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza via split decision
Who should be next: Anthony Smith
It was a slow five-round fight, not exactly a crowd-pleaser. And Blachowicz barely won. Had the scorecards gone to Souza, I don’t think there would have been a ton of outrage. Now, all that said, you could still make a case that Blachowicz deserves a title shot. He’s 6-1 in his last seven, and that includes wins over the likes of Souza, Luke Rockhold, Jimi Manuwa and Jared Cannonier.
The problem for Blachowicz is there are other names clearly ahead of him. Dominick Reyes, for one. Corey Anderson, for two. Blachowicz is going to be forced to cement his title shot with a big win. That’s just reality. And right now, Smith is the big name at the top he needs to beat. It’s either Smith or Anderson for his next bout. Either will do. I think Smith might be more open to accepting it.
Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza, light heavyweight
Result: Lost to Jan Blachowicz via split decision
Who should be next: Johnny Walker
Look at the bright side first: Souza held his own on his feet with one of the better strikers of the light heavyweight division. He couldn’t get this fight down (he certainly tried), and he still almost pulled it off. That’s a positive sign, right? Now the flip side of that: He couldn’t get this fight down.
Souza’s best weapon is his offensive grappling — and on Saturday, we found out it’s going to be hard for him to implement it in this weight class. Even with that being true, though, I don’t think he should consider going back to 185 pounds. It’s not as if his path to a tittle shot is any easier back there. Walker is coming off a disappointing loss to Anderson earlier this month. If he were to beat Souza, he’d regain a lot of his lost momentum. And if Souza beats him, it would prove “Jacare” still has something in the tank and at least has the potential to shake some things up at 205.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is trapped in the corner but survives a flurry of strikes from Paul Craig in the first round of their co-main event bout at UFC Fight Night. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, light heavyweight
Result: Split draw against Paul Craig
What should be next: Retirement
Look, anyone can point to Rua’s record of 4-1-1 since 2015 and say, “Why would a guy who is still winning fights hang them up?” And I guess the simplest response I would have to that would be, “Why does a guy have to lose in order to retire?” Anyone who has watched Rua at all over the course of his career knows he’s past his prime. Craig nearly knocked him out in the first round on Saturday. Craig. A guy who has recorded one knockout in his career and took this fight on short notice.
There is just no reason for Rua to fight again. Literally, the only thing I can even slightly wrap my head around is that it’s kind of weak to end such a legendary career in a split draw. But you know what? That’s better than a knockout loss, which we see all too often. There is no “right” fight for Rua to go out on. He’s already fought everyone under the sun. And I certainly don’t need to see him sacrificed to a young, up-and-coming contender who is looking for a name to put on his resume.
Rua said he would like a rematch against Craig because he thought he deserved the decision.
Michael Bisping is impressed with how quickly Charles Oliveira was able to take care of Jared “Flash” Gordon at UFC Fight Night in Brazil. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Charles Oliveira, lightweight
Result: Defeated Jared Gordon via first-round KO
Who should be next: Dan Hooker
That’s six in a row for Oliveira — all of which he has finished, and three of which he has finished inside the first round. Oliveira said he was going to call someone out on Saturday and he did: Conor McGregor. I respect the ambitious approach, but if I’m honest, I would have preferred to see something a little more, shall we say, realistic? Such as Hooker.
Hooker is ranked higher than Oliveira, but their resumes are similar in recent years. Hooker has won six of his last seven. He’s probably fought tougher competition than Oliveira has during that stretch, but these two should be close in rank. There would be upside here for Hooker, to halt Oliveira’s streak. In general, the lightweight division remains relatively log-jammed. It’s not like other weight classes, where one signature win can jump a guy up the ranks. Streaks are necessary, and Oliveira and Hooker each have good ones to put on the line against the other.