‘Jacare’ Souza: Title fight only option after Gegard Mousasi rematch

Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

Gegard Mousasi finished Ronaldo Souza the first time they fought in 2008, but can he do it again?

The middleweights are set to collide again at the UFC 176 co-main event in Los Angeles, Calif., on Aug. 2, and "Jacare" is confident he will have his hand raised this time.

"I was waiting for a tough fight," Souza told MMAFighting.com. "I knew I could possibly fight Gegard Mousasi, or maybe Luke Rockhold, and I’m glad the UFC gave me this fight. I hope I can do a great fight and get the win."

The first bout between Souza and Mousasi was for the DREAM middleweight tournament final. In the semifinals earlier that night, Souza and Mousasi scored first-round submission victories over Zelg Galesic and Melvin Manhoef, respectively, and the Dutch middleweight knocked "Jacare" out with an upkick two minutes into the first round.

"He caught me because he was better," the Brazilian said. "He found an opening and connected the kick. He was better that night and that’s why he defeated me.

"I’m more experienced and heavier now, and I also have a better cardio. I added more weapons to my game," Souza continued. "My striking is better, and I adapt my jiu-jitsu to MMA better now. It’s going to be a different fight this time.

"You’ll all see my strategy on fight night. It’s a surprise."

Souza has a good relationship with Mousasi, and even helped him cut weight for their first bout, but that’s not going to be a problem.

"I’m a professional," he said. "I’m going there to do my job and we’ll shake hands after the fight just like we did when he came out with the win in Japan."

The Brazilian went 10-1 with one no-contest since his loss to Mousasi at DREAM, and a win in August could earn him a shot at the middleweight championship.

"After this fight, there’s no other option," he said of a title fight. "Vitor (Belfort) is the next in line, no doubt about it, but he has issues with the commission and I honestly can’t understand what’s going on. He has yet to get a license to fight in Nevada, but I’m here.

"My focus is on Mousasi now, and then I’ll think about what’s next."

In his last UFC appearance, Mousasi won his first bout since returning to the middleweight division by choking out Mark Munoz at UFC Fight Night 41 in Berlin, but it doesn’t impress the Brazilian.

"Munoz always fights like that in big fights, like against Lyoto, Weidman and Mousasi," he said. "When there’s more responsibility over me, I perform better. I have a lot at stake in this fight, and I will defeat him."

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