Sao Paulo, Brazil played host to UFC on ESPN+ 22 on Saturday with light heavyweight contender Jan Błachowicz taking on former Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in the main event at Ginásio do Ibirapuera.
Blachowicz entered the bout ranked No. 6 in the 205-pound division and was coming off a knockout win over former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold in his last outing. Souza moved up to the light heavyweight division for the fight looking to establish himself as a contender in the new weight class.
In pre-fight interviews, Souza said that he was going to back his jiu-jitsu and grappling roots and it showed in his game plan. Seconds into the fight, Souza changed levels and looked to get the fight to the ground. Blachowicz defended the takedown attempt but Souza briefly controlled him along the fence in the clinch.
Through the first three rounds, Souza would inch forward and close the distance enough to tie Blachowicz up. The Brazilian effectively nullified Blachowicz’ striking but was unable to get the Polish native to the ground. Following the third frame, Souza’s corner told him that he won the first three rounds.
In the fourth round, Blachowicz pressed forward and took the fight to Souza. Souza looked to be either fatigued or cruising in the final two frames while Blachowicz landed his jab and put together combinations. In the final seconds, both fighters raised their arms declaring themselves the winner.
The outcome was in the judges’ hands and they scored the fight for Blachowicz by split decision. The Brazilian crowd didn’t agree and neither did Souza.
“Every time it’s a tough fight, a close fight, they never give me the decision. They never give me a win. Twenty days ago I had a really bad cough. Ten days ago I almost had to pull out of the fight, but I had to fight here at home. I had to fight in Brazil, so I came,” said Souza following the loss.
With the win, Blachowicz solidified his ranking the division and is eyeing a potential title fight in his next outing.
“I think I won the fight, so that’s good for me but I didn’t feel this fight today. I don’t feel the fight. I felt good cardio. I feel good, but Jacare was a good fight for me. I could not catch him. Anyway, I won the fight so that’s good,” he said following the win.
The 36-year old expects to continue to fight for a few more years, but knows his time in the sport has an expiration date. With that in mind, Blachowicz called for a fight against champion Jon Jones.
“I want someone from the top. Maybe title shot. Why not? I’m ready,” he said. “Jon, let’s do this. Give me the fight. Give me the title shot because I don’t have time, maybe three more years and then I’m going to retire. So, now or never.”