An overview of the MMA career of Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza dos Santos, one of the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters in mixed martial arts. Hailing from the jungles of Manaus, Brazil (also the home of BJJ legend Wallid Ismael), Jacare is a jiu-jitsu black belt, judo black belt, and multiple-time World BJJ and ADCC champion. He’s also one of the few to defeat Roger Gracie in Brazilian jiu-jitsu competition (Jacare vs. Roger Gracie match from the 2004 Mundial). At the time of writing (March 10, 2013), Jacare’s MMA record is 17 wins (13 submissions, one KO), three losses (two by KO), and one no-contest.
I’m a big fan of picking an MMA fighter and watching their evolution by tracking down all of their fights and watching them in sequence. A few months back The Jiu-Jitsu Vortex published an overview of Demian Maia’s MMA career up to his brutal “twin blood jets” neck crank victory over Rick Story on October 13, 2012. This time Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza gets the treatment.
One of the coolest elements of witnessing a master at work – whether it’s Miles Davis playing a trumpet solo, Malcolm X addressing a crowd, or Tony Trujillo reducing a skatepark to rubble – is watching them improvise in a dynamic situation. Seeing Jacare effectively adapt his BJJ skills to the organized chaos of an MMA match is no different. There are a lot of fights here, and some of them are long, but if you have any interest in Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a combat art, they’re well worth your time (and you don’t want to miss the “falling backfist” guard pass).
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Jorge “Macaco” Patino
September 13, 2003. Jungle Fight 1 – Manaus, Brazil
Most top MMA fighters do not start their career by getting KOed in round one. Jacare’s mixed martial arts debut was a pretty wild clinch war / slugfest with Jorge Macaco in which he got dropped by two subsequent right hooks.
Jacare Souza vs. Victor Babkir
May 15, 2004. Jungle Fight 2 – Manaus, Brazil
This is a classic Brazilian jiu-jitsu victory. Immediate takedown to side control, to mount, and submission by strikes in less than a minute. Notable spectator alert: grappling legends Wallid Ismael and Antonio Inoki. (fight starts ~3:15 of video)
Jacare Souza vs. Victor Babkir fight video
Jacare Souza vs. Alexander Shlemenko
April 29, 2006. Jungle Fight 6 – Manaus, Brazil
Open with a few strikes, get the clinch, takedown, side control, mount, side control, set an arm triangle, tighten it by switching sides, and it’s another textbook BJJ win at a shade over two minutes. Note the curious “double ankle lock lift” technique employed by Shlemenko’s corner, presumably to bring him back to consciousness.
Jacare Souza vs. Alexander Shlemenko fight video
Jacare Souza vs. Alexaey Prokofiev
September 27, 2006. Fury Fighting Championship 1 – Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Immediate takedown to side control, lands a few shots from mount and back mount before trapping the arm and setting up an s-mount triangle. Jacare’s triangle technique is straight out of a jiu-jitsu textbook – note how he underhooks Prokofiev’s arm to fix his angle, then switches to underhooking his leg and getting the sweep. Even Profokiev’s mullet can’t save him from the power of Jacare’s mounted triangle and he taps at 2:30.
Jacare Souza vs. Haim Gozali
December 17, 2006. Jungle Fight Europe – Ljubjana, Slovenia
A few seconds of feeling out leads to a big double leg slam to side control. Jacare works the arm triangle, which Gozali defends by clinching onto his thigh. Souza methodically works his way to back mount and sinks a rear naked choke at 1:34.
Jacare Souza vs. Haim Gozali fight video
Jacare Souza vs. Bill Vucick
May 19, 2007. Gracie Fighting Championshiops: Evolution – Columbus, Ohio, USA
Once again, the fight goes straight to the ground with Jacare landing a barrage of punches and elbows from side control before getting to mount and pounding out a submission at the three-minute mark.
Jacare Souza vs. Bill Vucick fight video
Jacare Souza vs. Jose Gomes de Ribamar
September 29, 2007. Amazon Challenge – Manaus, Brazil
No video found. Jacare wins by armbar at 3:28 of round one.
Jacare Souza vs. Wendell Santos
October 13, 2007. Hero’s The Jungle – Manaus, Brazil
No video found. Souza scores a submission by punches in one minute, 40 seconds.
Jacare Souza vs. Ian Murphy
April 28, 2008. Dream 2 – Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan.
Jacare starts this with with some kind of crazy flying knee, which Murphy catches, dumping Souza onto his back. Jacare reverses quickly lands some knees to the head, scores a takdeown, works for an armbar and makes a cool backstep move to back mount move (check 2:25 of the video). From there he flattens Murphy out and pounds away until he sinks a rear naked choke. If you’re going to lose your first fight by first-round KO, you might as well follow it up by scoring first-round submissions in your next seven consecutive fights.
Jacare Souza vs. Jason “Mayhem” Miller
June 15, 2008. Dream 4 – Yokohama, Japan.
This fight was referenced in a previous Jiu-Jitsu Vortex leglock article because of Jacare’s strong heelhook attempt (which apparently claimed Miller’s ACL). This is a classic Dream battle with a 10-minute first round. The story of the fight: Jason Miller is better on the feet, Jacare has stronger takedowns and ground game. Miller is also the first fighter to go the distance with Jacare – listen to Bas Rutten’s commentary during that heel hook (“how is he not tapping out?!”) The only other close call happened when Jacare got Miller in a body triangle but couldn’t finish the choke or successfully switch to an armbar. Jacare wins the decision.
Jacare Souza vs. Zelg Galesic
September 23, 2008. Dream 6 – Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan.
Jacare starts by backing Galesic up with jabs. Galesic throws a front kick, Souza catches it, and it’s all downhill from there. Big slam, guard pass to side control, transition to mount, and Galesic reverses Jacare… straight into an armbar at 1:27.
Jacare Souza vs. Zelg Galesic fight video
Jacare Souza vs. Gegard Mousasi
September 23, 2008. Dream 6 – Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan.
This fight was for the vacant Dream Middleweight Championship, but you wouldn’t know it by Mousasi’s expression – he looks like he just woke up. After scoring a takedown and landing in half guard with a wizzer, Jacare rears up to throw some bombs – diving in like a condor at full wingspan – at which point Mousasi catches him on the chin with an upkick and puts out the lights. The finish is reminiscent of Renzo Gracie’s win over Oleg Taktarov at MARS in 1996.
Jacare Souza vs. Jason “Mayhem” Miller
May 26, 2009. Dream 9 – Yokohama, Japan
This rematch is another fight for the vacant Dream Middleweight Championship. Miller and Souza feel each other out on the feet before Mayhem times a slick ankle pick. But the fight is ruled a no contest only a few minutes in after Jacare is cut by an illegal soccer kick.
Jacare Souza vs. Jason Miller 2 fight video
Jacare Souza vs. Matt Lindland
December 19, 2009. Strikeforce: Evolution – San Jose, California
Here we have Jacare facing off against Olympic Greco-Roman silver medallist Matt Lindland. Souza’s striking is looking way cleaner, but Lindland scores a takedown, which may not have been a good thing. Jacare attacks with a triangle, then secures omoplata control and lands a few shots. Lindland comes back with his own omoplata and triangle attempts, but Jacare gets back to his feet and pulls off the only “falling backfist” guard pass that I’ve ever seen (do not try this in IBJJF competitions) before securing an arm triangle choke and ending the fight at 4:18.
Jacare Souza vs. Joey Villasenor
May 15, 2010. Strikeforce: Heavy Artillery – St. Louis, Missouri
A three-round war with an MMA veteran. Joey Villasenor’s standup is better and he consistently backs Souza up, but Jacare has stronger takedowns (check the dolphin-esque diving takedown in round two) and controls the action on the ground. Villasenor’s MMA experience is evident in his strong defensive closed and half guards as he lands short punches and elbows and stays in constant motion, using his legs, underhooks, and crossfaces to alternately create and close distance – that’s how it’s done, kids. However, while avoiding damage in impressive fashion is the cornerstone of the Frustrate & Annoy BJJ strategy, it doesn’t always win MMA fights. Jacare Souza takes the decision.
Jacare Souza vs. Joey Villasenor fight video Part 2
Jacare Souza vs. Tim Kennedy
August 21, 2010. Strikeforce: Houston – Houston Texas
Once again, Jacare is fighting for the vacant Strikeforce Middleweight Championship. This time, military man Tim Kennedy takes him through five grueling rounds. We see further improvement in Jacare’s kickboxing, but Kennedy is still backing him up with strikes, stuffing his takedowns, and continually landing leg kicks (and one – as called by the ever colourful Mauro Ranallo – “right in the Brazilian barbecue”). It’s a close fight (glad I wasn’t a judge), but by the end Jacare is landing the more effective shots and Tim Kennedy has a cut over his eye. The Alligator squeaks out the decision.
Jacare Souza vs. Robbie Lawler
January 29, 2011. Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg – San Jose, California
Robbie Lawler gives Jacare more than he expected. Jacare has the better takedown, but Lawler escapes his side control and guillotine, blasts him onto his ass with a knee and punches, and lands a solid liver kick. The second round sees Jacare controlling the ground action again. Check Souza’s slick half butterfly pass to side control, backfists from reverse mount, his rolling and step-over armbar setups, and Lawler’s nice escapes. Good stuff. Jacare starts round three with Thai clinch knees and a takedown. Lawler gets back up, but a nice footsweep gives Jacare the opening to take Lawler’s back with a body triangle and sink the rear naked.
Jacare Souza vs. Luke Rockhold
September 10, 2011. Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov – Cincinnati, Ohio
This five-round war for the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship was referenced in a previous Jiu-Jitsu Vortex article about judo footsweeps in BJJ and MMA (Jacare nails a slick one in round two). Luke Rockhold had the perfect gameplan for this fight and his performance is basically the extension of Tim Kennedy’s. Jacare lands some good combos and even half drops him with a right, but Rockhold outstrikes Souza overall and stuffs his takedowns for five straight rounds. Even when Souza finishes a takedown, Rockhold us up like a jack-in-the-box. After five rounds, Luke Rockhold is the new Strikeforce Middleweight Champ and Jacare Souza has recorded his third loss.
Ronaldo Jacare Souza vs Luke Rockhold fight video
Jacare Souza vs. Bristol Marunde
March 3, 2012. Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey – Columbus, Ohio
Jacare does some more cool BJJ improv in this fight with his two spin-to-the-back-clinch-and-push-off-the-cage takedowns. There’s also some strangeness when Souza gets a warning for headbutting Marunde in the back / shoulder. For the most part, the fight is Jacare outstriking Marunde and hitting takedowns for two and a half rounds before finishing an arm triangle choke.
Jacare Souza vs. Bristol Marunde fight video
Jacare Souza vs. Derek Brunson
August 18, 2012. Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman – San Diego, California
No video found. Jacare’s striking continues to sharpen up. Here he catches Brunson with a devastating counter right and he adds a 41-second KO to his list of quick finishes.
Jacare Souza vs. Ed Herman
January 12, 2013. Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Poor Ed Herman has seen some maulings at the hands of BJJ fighters. Remember when he fought Demian Maia? Aiaiaie. Jacare hits a beautifully timed takedown at 1:20 and Herman goes for leglock, then fires an illegal upkick. Luckily for Ed, the ref – who was apparently fresh off the set of Hee-Haw – tosses him a bone “Ah’m not gonna penalize you” (but ah’ll dang well reward ya by standin’ y’all back up?) Jacare comes back with a vengeance – front kick to the face followed by a right cross, then a huge dump takedown to side control and a cranked out kimura.
And that’s Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. 21 fights, 13 submission wins, a 41-second KO, and three decisions. If you’re going to carry the same nickname as Alliance Jiu-Jitsu founder Romero Cavalcanti, you’d damn well better represent. Were his last two wins an indication that he’s fixed the holes in his game that were highlighted by Tim Kennedy and Luke Rockhold? It’ll be interesting to see where his career goes now that Strikeforce is kaput.
Just in case your Jacare Souza craving has not been satisfied, here’s Jits Magazine’s 20-minute documentary about the Brazilian alligator.