Chris Weidman and “Jacare” Souza Are Fighting This Weekend and BJJ Fans Should be Excited

youjiuUFC 230 Snuck Up on Us

I was all set to write an article about the busy weekend in grappling sports. The inaugural Rickson Gracie Cup in Texas. BJJ Tour is hosting the US Open, the biggest tournament in Northern California. ADCC has their North American trials. I hadn’t even realized UFC 230 was also happening.

I assumed there was some sort of UFC card. Isn’t their one every weekend now? I often look at these to see if there is a promising grappling affair on the card, I popped over to the UFC website to see this:

Wait, that’s THIS weekend?!

Wow, DC is defending his belt this weekend. I double checked the date. How did I miss this? Maybe it was lost among national tragedies, the World Series, or the first ever trade in UFC history.

Then I spotted the co-main event: Weidman vs Souza. My first reaction was not much. Two top ten fighters looking to stay in the conversation. Weidman’s had a tough run lately, and Souza has suffered some key losses that kept him from the title shot.

But as I stared at the names, the weight of the match started to settle in. In an MMA only context, it’s just another fight. But to people who know the full story of these two men, this is a pretty big deal. In fact, if this were a grappling super fight, most jiu-jitsu practitioners would shell out money to see it. I know I would.

Bigger than MMA

It’s easy to forget that Chris Weidman wasn’t always just the guy destined to beat Anderson Silva. Ten years ago, he burst on the scene by winning the East Coast Grapplers Quest, cleaning out a huge division with 13 submission wins and no real training in jiu-jitsu. He was an All American Wrestler, despite only competing at a community college level. He qualified for the 2009 ADCC and fought in the semifinals in Spain, losing narrowly to one of the greatest competitors of our generation, Andrea Galvao. At that time he had been training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for less than one year. 

It was a competitive match, and lead a lot of people to ask, “Where did this kid come from?” Weidman didn’t even have a belt in jiu-jitsu, he simply had been training under the legendary Serra-Longo team in Long Island. He was among the new wave of American submission grapplers like Jake Shields and Jon Fitch. They were a well-rounded mix of wrestling and jiu-jitsu but had never seriously trained in the gi or hit the traditional tournament scene.

Weidman was officially a prodigy and stolen from the grappling world too soon. After his 2009 entrance into combat sports, he transitioned to MMA and began the run of a lifetime. He went 9-0 and then beat the GOAT, Anderson Silva, twice. The BJJ community couldn’t quite call Weidman one of their own. He was never in the game long enough. We could only wonder what might have been. . .

“Weidman was  officially a prodigy, and stolen from the grappling world too soon.”

A Legendary Career

Also on the mats in the 2009 ADCC, was a man who was the opposite of Chris Weidman in every way: Ronaldo Souza (aka “Jacare”) While Chris was the unknown, Jacare was a proven commodity by that point. His potential was being fulfilled before our eyes. While Chris fought early in the day, Souza closed the show in a grappling super fight (which he won). Jacare was a main event-er. An eight-time World Jiu-Jitsu Champion. He had a shiny 10-2 record in MMA, and was preparing for his Strikeforce debut later that year. It was almost assumed that he was a future champion in MMA.

Souza was a through and through Brazilian, a black belt in Judo and BJJ. He spoke no English, and was a true professional. Hell, he had even helped Andrea Galvao prepare for his match against Chris Weidman. That’s how far apart the two were.

The Moment We’ve All Been Waiting For

In grappling, the two men never competed. The timing just wasn’t right. But in MMA, it’s a little surprising this match hasn’t happened yet. Both men have shined in the UFC, not just in their wins but in how their skills have rounded out. Weidman has become a skilled boxer, often winning on the feet as well as the floor. Fans have largely forgotten about his grappling chops, despite quietly being awarded a Matt Serra/Renzo Gracie black belt along the way. Jacare also became a feared striker. His capoeira inspired kickboxing has been a staple of his highlight reel. He was the Strikeforce Middleweight Champion and the runner-up in the DREAM middleweight grand prix.

But when fans like me think of the possibilities in this dream match, we have to get excited about seeing these two hit the mats at UFC 230 and showing who is the better submission fighter. Jacare’s smooth transitions and arm triangles, against Weidman’s classic Renzo Gracie jiu-jitsu. This may be the closest we even get to the grappling super match that time cheated us out of.

Oh, and DC will be fighting Derrick Lewis or whatever.

In honor of this match, here’s a great seminar video where Chris Weidman is showing the Truck position, of all things.