Strikeforce Houston: The Ranger vs. The Alligator

(“Jacare” creeps to the cage.)

Strikeforce will determine its new 185-pound champion live on Showtime Sat., Aug. 21 at the Toyota Center in Houston.

Founder and CEO Scott Coker opened the pre-fight conference call by endorsing Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Tim Kennedy’s clash for gold after Jake Shields left the organization and vacated his championship to pursue greater fortunes in the UFC.

“It’s a privilege and an honor for both of these guys to compete for our vacant middleweight championship belt,” said Coker.

Souza is one of the world’s greatest ground fighters and his nickname, the Portugese word for alligator, is a reference to the way he snares his prey and drags them into deep water to finish the kill. The grappler expressed his belief either he or Kennedy would have been challenging Shields as the number one contender so they are worthy of stepping into the title fight.

“Both have a good card—both guys have been winning fights. It shows that will be a great fight,” he said through a translator. “Both guys deserve fighting for the belt. Its gonna be a war. I’m gonna be happy to see what comes out from the fight.”

Kennedy pointed out similar sentiments, adding “I don’t think it lessens the value of the Strikeforce title” and “I think maybe it puts a little more responsibility on us as we become champions to become very exceptional champions.”

A U.S. Army veteran, Kennedy (12-2), feels ready for his first ever title bout.

“The only thing that you can do when getting ready for a big fight like this is to prepare for every inevitable possibility and I think that’s what I’ve done,” he said, revealing he worked with Jon Jones, Brian Stann and Carlos Condit among others at Greg Jackson’s famed MMA school in Albuquerque. A consistent roster of world-class trainers and training partners is something new for the nine-year MMA veteran because his military career prevented a full-time training schedule.

“I’ve been a self-coached guy my entire career since I left The Pit and joined the Army for the past seven years,” he said. “Now, it is a strength to be able to have a guy to say ‘Tim, you look like crap when you do that.’ I’m like, ‘Oh man, I’m gonna do this better.’ Every aspect of my game has changed—for the better—since I started training full-time 10 months ago.

“Jacare” has made adjustments, too, leading up to the championship contest.

“I’ve been working a lot on my cardio so I have a better cardio. I’m trying to be more calm,” said the Brazilian. “I’ve been training a lot and hard and have a better strategy. I’m bringing a better fighter for this fight.”

“Jacare” notes increased movement standing and comfort trading as training camp improvements, but still emphasizes grappling. He’s elevated his cardio to the best point in his life to match Kennedy’s. The ADCC and Mundials Champion welcomes war en route to gold. But despite the marked grappling advantage over Kennedy, the Army sniper isn’t backing down against the gator’s jiu-jitsu lockjaw.

“This isn’t Abu-Dhabi or NAGA or worlds, this is MMA. We have four ounce gloves on,” said Kennedy. “Every position we’re gonna be in, I’m gonna be intent on trying to damage him.”

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