Tim Boetsch believes he has this whole fighting Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza thing all figured out.
“He’s going to come out and try to put an exclamation point on, ‘Hey this why I’m the next guy in line.’ He’s going to come out and try to take my head off with that right hand,” Boetsch said.
That approach won’t last too long, though, Boetsch figures.
“Then his game plan is going to change back to what he’s great at,” Boetsch said. “He’s going to look to drag me to the ground and try to submit me, if he’s still conscious.”
Boetsch, the 13th-ranked UFC middleweight, will face No. 3 Souza on Saturday on the pay-per-view portion of UFC 208 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
When the fight first was announced, reaction centered on why Souza would take the fight against a much lower-ranked fighter.
“It shows just how classy he is as a fighter, that he actually is a fighter, he’s wiling to put all his prestige on the line to fight a guy lower in the rankings,” Boetsch said. “He’s got a lot of confidence in himself. I have nothing but respect for him. I’m very appreciative he took the fight. That being said, unfortunately for him, it’s going to bump him back down in the rankings. I’m going to move up, he’s going to move down.”
Boetsch said the confusing and negative talk about his name being opposite Souza’s was not something he used to motivate himself.
“It’s not about me proving anybody wrong, it’s about proving what I can do in there,” Boetsch said. “When you get an opponent like ‘Jacare’, you better be ready for a challenge. He’s a very dangerous guy, has the ability to finish you anywhere.”
Indeed he does. Souza (23-4, 6-1 UFC) is coming off a first-round knockout of Vitor Belfort last May. Five of his wins in the UFC have come by either knockout or submission. His lone loss in the UFC was a split decision against Yoel Romero at UFC 194 in December 2015, a fight many thought Souza won.
Once considered a grappling-only MMA fighter – multiple world jiu-jitsu titles will affix such a label – Souza has made dramatic improvements in his striking over the past several years.
Boetsch (20-10, 11-9 UFC) is the underdog in this fight, both in perception and at betting windows. It’s a role he cherishes.
“I typically do best when I’m a huge underdog. If you put your money on me, you’re going to make a lot of money on fight night,” Boetsch said. “I don’t have a problem with that at all. I accept that. He’s got the higher ranking for a good reason. He should probably have the title right now. I know [champion Michael] Bisping doesn’t want to fight him. I hate to speak for other people, I have this fight for a reason. It doesn’t make sense on paper for him to take this fight.”