When it comes to middleweights making the jump to light heavyweight, the results have been mixed. Famously, former champions in Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman were knocked out in their 205-pound debuts. But then there are guys like Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos, who did well enough to earn title shots against Jon Jones.
This Saturday, Souza will follow in their footsteps, making his light heavyweight debut in his native Brazil. A loss to Jack Hermansson in his most recent outing was the final nail in the coffin for Jacare – it would’ve have taken years to battle back into title contention. After all, Souza did lose in three title eliminators, to Kelvin Gasteum, Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker.
Standing across from him will be No. 5 Jan Blachowicz, who is fresh off ruining Rockhold’s hopes in the division. Should Souza pull off the victory, he’d be in a better spot than he left at middleweight. However, while Blachowicz is as low-key as they come, the Polish fighter cannot be overlooked – Souza will have his hands full in this main event contest.
Any event in Brazil is easy to load up with big names and talented fighters, and this card is no different. Serving on the main card is the legendary Shogun Rua, who will be fighting off the retirement talk against Sam Alvey. At lightweight, Charles Oliveira will fight for his sixth straight victory against the ultra-aggressive Jared Gordon.
At the very least, there should be a lot of action in the cage and at the online sportsbook. Let’s take a look at the UFC odds at BookMaker.eu and break down the best betting options. Live UFC betting at the online sportsbook is available to make bets during any fight on the card.
Main Event, Light Heavyweight
Ronaldo Souza +168 vs. Jan Blachowicz -215
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: +175 / -245
Go Big: Blachowicz to win at -215
We’re not sure how much the move to light heavyweight helps the Brazilian. He was a big middleweight, but is now just an average 205-pounder. It’s not like he was a quick fighter to begin with, so don’t expect him to be faster than his opponents. Everybody recognizes the grappling skills, but he’s never had the wrestling to force it on his opponents – Jacare landed takedowns at a 29% clip at 185 pounds and will have a harder time doing so against bigger fighters.
Blachowicz has never been a guy who’s skills have jumped off the page, but he’s developed into a fine all-around fighter with good boxing, solid submissions and an excellent fight IQ. While his top 5 ranking is partly due to the shallow nature of the division, his development from a mid-card nobody into a legitimate contender is real.
There are just too many question marks here surrounding Souza here. At 39, he’s at an age where you have to start questioning how much he’s got left. The loss to Hermansson shows just how much struggles against active younger fighters, and while Blachowicz isn’t as aggressive, he is every bit as mobile. Expect the Pole to work behind the jab and pick apart Souza for the better part of five rounds.
Mauricio Rua -275 vs. Paul Craig +211
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: +225 / -305
Small Risk: Craig to win at +211
It’s just too risky trying to pick a winner here. We’d lean Shogun simply because of his resume and recent fights, but that would discount just how past his prime the Brazilian is. While he might have pulled together a 4-1 run recently, none of those wins came easy, and in every fight he looked old even for a 37-year old.
The good news here is that Craig isn’t the type of springy fighter that gives Shogun problems. In fact, Craigh is an unathletic grappler who has yet to string together consecutive wins despite eight UFC appearances. It wouldn’t surprise anybody if he got cut with a loss here, but he is more than capable of producing the type of sloppy slugfests that Rua has been willing to engage in.
Still, we just can’t find the conviction to endorse an online bet on Rua – there’s just too good a chance this devolves into a 50-50 trench war. At this point, we’re willing to bet on almost any fighter that’s young with a good gas tank against Shogun. Just don’t go too big.
Charles Oliveira -370 vs. Jared Gordon +273
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: +190 / -270
Go Small: Oliveira to win at -370
There are enough things we like about the Brazilian to recommend a small bet. He has always had a wealth of talent and finally seems to be putting it together. This is a guy that’s earned fights Max Holloway, Anthony Pettis, Paul Felder and Donald Cerrone – while he lost against every big name he’s faced the fact that he was even picked to fight against them in the first place says a lot.
In the past, Gordon would have been an excellent underdog pick as he’s the type of aggressive fighter that Oliveira would crumble against. But Gordon is the type of mid-level opponent that Oliveira has been feasting on during his recent run, and we expect that to continue here. There’s a risk that the Brazilian falls back into bad habits and blows his load or gets into a brawl, which is why we just advise a small play – especially at this price.
Check out the latest UFC fight odds.