Nothing stands in the way of Jacare Souza’s run at the UFC Middleweight Championship. Well, nothing except Lyoto Machida.
Souza, the No. 3 ranked middleweight in the UFC, solidified his status as a title contender with a unanimous decision victory over Francis Carmont in last night’s UFC Fight Night 36 co-main event. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt nearly ended the fight seconds into the first round when he took control of Carmont’s back and sank in a rear-naked choke.
After losing the second round, Souza again tried to end the fight with his second submission attempt that Carmont narrowly escaped.
“He defended the neck pretty well,” Souza said in a post-fight press conference. “I thought I had (the choke), but he’s a tough fighter. I learned a lot in this fight.”
The victory extends Souza’s winning streak to six in a row, dating back to his days as the Strikeforce middleweight champion.
With Machida’s win over Gegard Mousasi last night, the UFC must basically flip a coin to see who faces either Chris Weidman or Vitor Belfort following their UFC 173 championship bout. In the same press conference, Machida, a perennial title contender throughout his UFC career, said he prefers a title fight but would respect the UFC’s decision either way.
If Machida gets the nod, Souza would have to prove himself one more time. A late Fall-early Winter match with the Weidman-Belfort loser is the likely scenario. There also is the possibility that Machida and Souza face off as a way to determining the best suited contender. Both fighters’ are at the top of their game and put together a great fight even if they see the proposed match as an unnecessary hurdle.
“I wouldn’t want to but I’d accept the fight if that’s what the UFC wants,” Souza said.
Luke Rockhold is also a candidate as he is coming off a knockout of Costas Philippou last month. Rockhold has been on a tear over the last three years, winning ten of eleven matches including one over Souza when they fought under the Strikeforce banner.
This ultimately hinges on Rockhold defeating Tim Boetsch at UFC 172. When asked if he would entertain the notion of Rockhold as his next opponent, Souza appeared disinterested. After all, he wouldn’t benefit much for the fight other than to exact a little revenge.
An injury suffered prior to last night’s fight will keep Souza sidelined for the next month. “I have bone fragments in my left arm and I almost pulled out of the fight, but I asked to continue,” he said. With potential opponents booked throughout the Spring, this shouldn’t affect Souza’s training schedule.
UFC 173 is set for Memorial Day weekend, leaving the UFC and Souza have more than enough time to prepare for his next opponent. The only question is whether UFC gold will be on the line.