Ronaldo Souza’s time as a viable title contender in the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight division may have reached its tipping point.
The two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist played the role of unwitting steppingstone in a unanimous decision defeat to the surging Jack Hermansson in the UFC Fight Night 150 main event on Saturday at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida. All three cageside judges scored it for Hermansson: 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47.
A short-notice substitution for Yoel Romero, “The Joker” outstruck Souza by surprisingly wide margins -- 256-120 in total strikes, 148-90 in significant strikes -- and more than held his own on the ground with the grappling savant, as he recorded three takedowns and accounted for the only guard pass and submission attempt of the 25-minute encounter. The setback was Souza’s third in five appearances. He turns 40 in December.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Jacare vs. Hermansson,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Jack Hermansson vs. Yoel Romero: Hermansson has emerged as an unlikely threat to the divisional elite at 185 pounds, as the former Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder has rattled off four consecutive victories since his technical knockout loss to Thiago Santos in October 2017. Since his ill-fated battle with Santos, the Norway-based Swede has beaten Souza, David Branch, Gerald Meerschaert and Thales Leites in succession, slowly but surely climbing the middleweight ladder. The decisive win over “Jacare” puts Hermansson in prime position to make serious waves in the coming months. Romero has not fought since he wound up on the wrong side of a split decision against current champion Robert Whittaker at UFC 225 in June.
Mike Perry vs. Belal Muhammad: “Platinum” Perry posted his second win in three outings and did so with one of his most comprehensive performances to date, as he laid claim to a unanimous decision over Alex Oliveira in a three-round welterweight showcase. The 27-year-old Jackson-Wink MMA representative carried the scorecards with identical 29-28 marks from the judges. Oliveira started strong but faded late while under constant duress from his power-punching counterpart. Muhammad handled his business at UFC 236, where the former Titan Fighting Championship titleholder was awarded a unanimous verdict over Curtis Millender.
Glover Teixeira vs. Nikita Krylov: The venerable Teixeira outwitted, outsmarted and ultimately outlasted the younger Ion Cutelaba in their light heavyweight feature, as he submitted “The Hulk” with a rear-naked choke in the second round. Cutelaba conceded defeat 3:37 into Round 2. Teixeira was reeling at various points in the match but relied on his guile and toughness while he waited for the Moldovan’s gas tank to empty. It was the eighth submission victory of the 39-year-old Brazilian’s stellar career and the fourth by way of rear-naked choke. Krylov avenged a 2014 defeat to Ovince St. Preux on April 13, when he submitted the former University of Tennessee linebacker with a second-round arm-triangle choke at UFC 236.
Cory Sandhagen vs. Jimmie Rivera-Petr Yan winner: Sandhagen, 27, planted his flag as a legitimate contender in the cutthroat bantamweight division with a split decision over former Jungle Fight champion John Lineker. All three judges struck 29-28 scorecards, two of them siding with the Elevation Fight Team standout. Since he joined the UFC roster in January 2018, Sandhagen has pieced together a 4-0 record over increasingly difficult opposition. His win against Lineker now stands as the centerpiece of his resume. Rivera and Yan will square off at UFC 238 on June 8.
Roosevelt Roberts vs. Alex White: Spawned by Season 2 of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, Roberts has been a nice addition to the 155-pound weight class. “The Predator” spoiled the promotional debut of Thomas Gifford and cruised to a unanimous decision in his first main-card assignment inside the Octagon. Roberts, who turned 25 in February, swept the scorecards with 30-27 nods across the board. He has won all eight of his fights as a professional, seven of them resulting in finishes. White last competed at UFC Fight Night 146 on March 9, when he outpointed Dan Moret across three rounds at the Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.