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Souza hoping he's one win from title shot

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Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza takes on Gegard Mousasi at UFC Fight Night 50 © Getty Images
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UFC middleweight Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza will enter the Octagon this weekend, just eight days shy of the 11th anniversary of his first professional fight.

In those 11 years, Souza (20-3) has failed to get his hand raised only three times. In two of his three defeats, you might say Souza got his money's worth.

In his professional debut at Jungle Fight 1 in September 2003, Souza, despite strong grappling credentials, stood with fellow Brazilian Jorge Patino, tired quickly and was knocked out by a stinging right hand a little more than three minutes into the fight.

Almost exactly five years later, Souza suffered his second knockout loss, this time to Gegard Mousasi during a Dream Middleweight Grand Prix in Saitama, Japan. Souza was knocked out by a Mousasi upkick, as he uncorked what is surely one of the wildest right hands he has ever unleashed in his life.

Looking like a 10-year-old impersonating a pro-wrestling move from the top ropes, Souza launched into a crashing right hand after standing over Mousasi's guard. He was met midair by an upkick, which knocked him out cold.

Souza, 34, learned a few lessons that day - one of which, of course, was to not launch himself wildly into the guard of a savvy fighter like Mousasi. He also simply learned a few things about Mousasi, which he might apply on Friday, when the two meet for the second time in the main event of UFC Fight Night 50 at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut.

"I cannot say it was a lucky move that beat me the first time," Souza told ESPN. "It was clever how he caught me. Every one of my fights I learn something and that fight taught me many things.

"One of them was that [upkick] that I need to be aware of. Also, Mousasi is a clever fighter and he needs to be the only thing on my mind right now."

Whether this second meeting between Souza and Mousasi produces the UFC's next 185-pound title challenger or not (president Dana White hinted it might not right away), there's no mistaking its inevitable impact on the middleweight division.

Mousasi (35-4-2) is looking to further prove himself in the weight class after a quick submission victory over Mark Munoz in the first round of a bout in May.

Souza looks like a legitimate threat to the title. He is riding a six-fight winning streak into the bout, including five finishes. The Rio de Janeiro-based fighter says there is no disputing he should fight for the UFC belt pending a win on Friday.

"If I win this fight, there is no doubt I deserve that," Souza said. "I am next. You look at the UFC rankings and I'm next."

Last week in Sacramento, California, however, White told ESPN that Souza likely would have to fight again before getting a title shot, as the promotion's middleweight title fight between Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort on December 6 is three months away.

"[Souza] is definitely right there, but I'm not saying [he's next in line with a win]," White said. "It's possible. The problem with saying he'll get a title shot is that there's already a fight set, so he'd probably have to fight again before he gets a title shot."

Souza said his full focus is on getting past Mousasi on Friday, but that he's ready to fight the Weidman-Belfort winner next.

"I think it's fair Vitor is getting a chance, he deserves it," Souza said. "I'm happy he is cleared with the [Nevada State Athletic Commission]. Weidman is the favourite. It's really hard to take the belt from a confident champion and I see Weidman winning by points or some time in the third or fourth round."

This article originally appeared on ESPN.com

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