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Vitor Belfort calls ‘Jacare’ Souza toughest middleweight in the UFC

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

CURITIBA, Brazil -- Coming off a devastating knockout over Dan Henderson, Vitor Belfort returns to action Saturday against Ronaldo Souza, and he sees the jiu-jitsu expert as the toughest fighter in the middleweight division.

Belfort, who holds a knockout win over current middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, believes that "Jacare" is a tougher match-up for him at UFC 198.

"I have my eyes on ‘Jacare’ only. I’m only thinking about him," Belfort told the media when asked about asking for shot at the belt with a win at UFC 198. "We have a lot of alligators next to my house in Florida, and I’m only thinking about ‘Jacare’."

"To me, this is a title fight," he added. "He’s the toughest fighter in the division. It’s a great challenge for me."

Souza looks to rebound from a close decision loss to Yoel Romero, and sees this match-up as a clear clash between grappler and striker. Belfort, who holds a 7-0 record in non-title fights since returning to the UFC in 2009, disagrees.

"He’s also good standing," said "The Phenom". "He has evolved a lot standing. He’s a great fighter. To me, he’s the toughest fighter in the division. I saw his first steps in MMA, I know what he’s worth. We even trained together and sparred when I was preparing for a fight at Pride. I told him back then that he had a great future in MMA."

UFC 198 takes place at the 45,000-seat Arena da Baixada stadium in Curitiba, Brazil, and features Fabricio Werdum vs. Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight crown in the main event, while Belfort takes on Souza in the co-main event.

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