Former Strikeforce middleweight champ Ronaldo Souza is on a quest to re-claim the belt he once wore around his waist. The first step on his path towards contendership comes this weekend at Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey where he’ll take on Bristol Marunde, a late replacement for original opponent Derek Brunson who was scratched last week for medical reasons.
While Souza’s adversary may have changed his focus remains the same, making sure to avoid overlooking Marunde simply because the 12-6 competitor is not well-known by fans.
“They’ve replaced my opponent but I did not change my training,” said Souza in an interview with TATAME. “I kept training Jiu-Jitsu a lot, boxing on its proper amount, and intense cardio training. Now I gotta get there and cut weight. That’s my greatest difficulty now.”
That challenge will soon change from hitting 185 pounds on the scale to attempting to stop Marunde who has had his hand raised in four straight and nine of his last ten tilts.
“I’ve seen his last four wins, which were good over tough guys,” explained Souza, showing respect for Marunde based on what he’s observed on tape. “You only need to look for him and you’ll see he has fought tough guys. He has beaten former UFC fighters. He is an excellent athlete. I gotta be smart about this fight. I could tell he has strong hands and that he’s a good wrestler…complete.”
“Fighting is all about the game plan. I gotta know my opponent. I’m trying to get to know him so I can find a way to fight him,” the 14-3 Brazilian continued before offering up a warning to his adversary. “He said he wants to stand-up against me… He better be careful with what he wishes for because he can go down.”
While Souza had hoped for a Top 10 foe to cement another crack at champion Luke Rockhold, “Jacare” still feels a victory of Marunde should do the trick as long as he receives the same consideration the current title-holder did before earning his opportunity at gold.
“I guess any win will put me on the line for the title, even because I didn’t wait for Luke Rockhold to have a (good) win to fight him. I guess the event should do the same about me.”
Rockhold took Souza’s strap via Unanimous Decision. He earned his title-shot by beating six straight opponents including Jesse Taylor and Paul Bradley.
Souza-Marunde will fight as part of a card headlined by Strikeforce bantamweight champ Miesha Tate putting her belt on the line against unbeaten judoka Ronda Rousey. The main card starts on Showtime at 10:00 PM EST with prelims on Showtime Extreme two hours earlier. Other featured fights include Paul Daley-Kazuo Misaki and K.J. Noons-Josh Thomson.
PHOTO CREDIT – STRIKEFORCE