Bruno Souza, “The Tiger,” (10-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) is looking to snatch his first UFC win when he meets Luis Saldana (15-7 MMA, 1-1 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 205, which is scheduled for Saturday, March 26, in Columbus, Ohio.
Bruno Souza vs. Luis Saldana: Striking Tale of the Tape
Souza believes he and fellow featherweight Saldana are similar in that they are both long strikers who like to stay behind their jabs and kicks. Where Souza believes his advantage lies is in his footwork courtesy of his karate background.
“I believe that is going to be the key point of the fight,” Souza told MMASucka. “I think the beginning of the fight is going to be a little bit of a test. The first one who starts to maintain and fight at a distance is the one who is going to be one step ahead.”
Souza, a karate world champion, also has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. However, Souza, a representative of Machida Karate, said he is a karate fighter in the same vein as one of his idols, former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida.
“Of course, I have grappling, I train. But I don’t see myself starting any grappling,” Souza said. “Of course, if my opponents start, I know what to do. I see myself playing my karate game because at the end of the day, that’s what I do the best. My jiu-jitsu is good, but I think my karate background gives me more credit.”
Bruno Souza Talks his Idols
Souza said Lyoto Machida started “everything” for him in his MMA journey. He and the Machida family are very close, he said. Machida is just one of Souza’s idols, though.
Georges St-Pierre, the former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion, and Max Holloway, the former featherweight king.
“Maybe fighting Max Holloway one day would be a dream fight for me,” Souza said.
He believes the UFC featherweight division has two champions: Holloway and current champ Alex Volkanovski, who has two close victories over Holloway.
“They can fight, like, so many times. Probably not going to change the results. Maybe. But Max Holloway going to beat pretty much everyone in the top-10. Volkanovski’s pretty much going to beat everybody in the top-10.”
Souza is still looking for his first UFC win. He said it would mean “pretty much everything” to him should he get it over Saldana.
“The beginning of a career inside the organization all fighters want to be,” Souza said. “It’s a key point of a career. All fighters, we have a few key points in our careers.”
Bruno Souza on Lessons Learned
Souza said his UFC debut, a decision loss against Melsik Baghdasaryan, was one of those key points. He compared the loss to a checkpoint ahead of his next step against Saldana.
“I want to go out and win and begin something huge,” he said.
After the fight against Baghdasaryan, Souza told his coaches he found the last piece of his puzzle. He can strike, he can grapple, but there was something missing: his confidence.
Souza took pride in slowing down the fight against Baghdasaryan, as Souza took the fight on just six days’ notice.
“We tried to game plan, slow him down. I just took a while to pull the trigger. After all, rewatching the fight, I said, ‘If I can do that in six days, I can do a lot better [with more time].’ I got a lot of confidence on that.”
Souza weighed in at 148.4 pounds for his UFC debut, missing the featherweight one-pound allowance by 2.4 pounds. While Souza took that fight on less than a week’s notice, he vowed to not miss weight for the Saldana fight. He woke up at 156 as of March 16 and said he could’ve made weight a couple of days later if he had to.
While the UFC understood his weight miss in his debut, Souza said he does not want to fail at the scale again.
“If the next opportunity is short notice, I don’t want to play with that, even if [the UFC] will understand,” Souza said. “We’ve got to be professional, we’ve got to make weight. This time, the [UFC] PI is doing a great job. I’m happy I can use meal prep. Everything is fantastic. I just received a text from [UFC PI nutritionist] Nicole [Alai] telling me to ‘eat more, eat more carbs,’ because my weight is too good. I’m like, ‘OK, nobody told me about a week before a fight to eat more carbs.’ Usually, we are cutting everything right now. So I was like, ‘Yeah, really fantastic.’”
Souza is a former LFA featherweight champion, as he defeated Javier Garcia at LFA 114 for the vacant title. That was his most recent bout outside the UFC.
Souza did not want to give a hard prediction for how his fight with Saldana will end, because he likes to play the fight as it goes.
“Anything can happen in the fight. TKO, second or third round. Submission. Or decision. But I see the fight going at least to the second round.”
UFC Fight Night 205 is set to air live on ESPN and ESPN+, with the prelims, including Bruno Souza vs. Luis Saldana, set to start at 4 p.m. ET.
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