Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza needed a little more time, but ultimately got the same result as he finished Derek Brunson with a first-round knockout in their rematch in the main event for UFC on FOX 27 in Charlotte, N.C.
It had been nearly six years since Jacare put Brunson away by knockout under the Strikeforce banner, but this time around, the veteran Brazilian was coming back from a loss while also training at a new team in the United States before stepping into the main event bout.
Heading into the fight, Brunson had been talking about title contention while fighting in front of his home state crowd, but Jacare spoiled all of his plans with an impressive outing on Saturday night.
While Brunson was definitely more patient than he had been in the past, the former college wrestler was still struggling to stop Souza’s counter right hand, which is the same punch that put him out in their first fight back in 2012.
Still, Brunson showed poise in the pocket as he fired away with his combinations, trying to break Souza’s defense as they continued launching punches at each other.
Where Souza started to gain an upper hand came in his kicking game, as he continuously peppered Brunson’s lower body before coming over the top with his punches. That bit of deception paid off late in the round when Jacare finally saw an opening to launch a huge head kick that glanced off Brunson’s gloved hand, but simultaneously ricocheted off his head.
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Brunson was wobbled before falling backwards towards the canvas, as Jacare pursued him with punches. Souza landed a few hard shots as Brunson just stumbled on the ground and that was enough for referee Dan Miragliotta to step in to stop the fight.
Afterwards, Jacare admitted he had to gut through some tough injuries to make it to the main event bout on Saturday night, but it all paid off as he got the knockout win against Brunson.
“Four months ago, I was in the hospital,” Souza revealed. “I’m healthy today. I’m happy.”
It was definitely a big moment for Souza as he bounced back from a loss in his last fight, as he fell to current UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker last April. The win put Jacare back in the mix of title contention in 2018, as he proved once again that he remains one of the best 185-pound fighters in the world.
As for Brunson, he falls to 2-3 in his past five fights, while still searching for a marquee win over a top five opponent in the UFC.