The light-heavyweight division will have one more top contender after Saturday as Poland’s Jan Blachowicz will welcome “Jacare” to the weight class at UFC Sao Paulo.
Before Jon Jones pencils in a date with either Dominick Reyes or Corey Anderson in 2020, Jan Blachowicz is hoping to throw his hat in the ring for a possible shot at the light heavyweight title. The “Prince of Cieszyn” is 5-1 since 2017 with victories against the likes of middleweight contender Jared Cannonier and light heavyweight striking phenom Nikita Krylov. While Reyes and Anderson have set the bar high with first round knockouts in the last month, Blachowicz could have the chance to close out the year with the best back-to-back performances in the division.
— UFC (@ufc) November 11, 2019
In July at UFC 239, Blachowicz welcomed former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold to the division. Rockhold’s name value and history as a teammate of Jon Jones’ rival Daniel Cormier made it seem as if he needed only a victory in any form to secure a shot at the title. Instead, Blachowicz overwhelmed Rockhold with his power before landing an obliterating left hook that would have stolen the show had Jorge Masvidal not landed his flying knee on Ben Askren less than a half-hour later. When considering that his only loss in six fights was to knockout artist Thiago Santos in a title eliminator, another impressive stoppage for Blachowicz would put him in prime position going into 2020.
Earlier this Spring, it was believed that Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza’s UFC career might have already reached the final page. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace came up short against Jack Hermansson after saying he was prepared to retire if he was not given a title shot with a victory. In an interview with MMAFighting’s Guilherme Cruz, Souza discussed not training for months afterward and seeing a psychologist to address what he had going on in his life. Now making his return, he is taking full advantage of the opportunity to headline a card in his native Brazil at nearly 40 years old.
His credentials at middleweight speak for themselves with victories over the likes of Gegard Mousasi, Chris Weidman, and Vitor Belfort, and that is not mentioning his razor-close fights against former title challengers Yoel Romero and Kelvin Gastelum. While the door is not closed on a return to 185 pounds, he enters the light heavyweight division with an opportunity to get right into the title mix with a win over Blachowicz. Although a title shot is not as assured for Souza with an impressive showing, it does put him in the conversation for bouts against the elite in the division.
“Jacare” is known for being one of the most physical athletes at 185 pounds, usually forcing his way to the clinch and loading up on heavy shots. In moving up, he should take advantage of being the lighter and faster fighter by getting inside behind a jab. He gives up several inches of reach to Blachowicz so he should diversify his strikes to make it easier throw the Polish contender off his rhythm. Furthermore, he should try to stay on the outside and force Blachowicz to over-extend himself, creating an opening for a takedown.
— UFC (@ufc) November 13, 2019
For Blachowicz, the key is to use his physicality and force Souza to fight off his heels. He has shown a well-rounded skillset but does his best work when he’s able to wear down opponents and dig in with powerful shots. By pressuring the local hero against the fence, he gives himself the most openings to dictate the fight with his pace and shot selection. In the center of the Octagon, he has shown excellent footwork and head movement and his biggest threat should be getting into a careless exchange with Souza.
Should there be a major shake-up in the light heavyweight division, Blachowicz has the credentials to step up if Reyes or Anderson are unable to make it to a fight with Jones. Regardless, a victory for the Polish contender likely sets up another title eliminator in 2020 with another surging contender in the division. By comparison, “Jacare” would also find himself in a great position in the top ten with a victory over Blachowicz and have options at both 205 and 185 pounds next year.