Brazilian lightweight prospect Roberto de Souza is our Prospect in the Spotlight with most MMA organizations off for Christmas. “Bonsai” is the Rizin Lightweight Champion, a major feat in his MMA career, and will be defending that title on New Years Eve. He represents and runs Bonsai Jiu-Jitsu, a smaller camp in MMA. Let’s take a closer look at this prospect as this week’s “Prospect Spotlight.”
Jiu-Jitsu: Wow, what a shocker, right? The guy who coaches Brazilian jiu-jitsu and a gym with his nickname as a namesake is a top-notch jiu-jitsu player. In the grappling world, de Souza has rolled with some of the best of them, from Gordon Ryan to Lucas Lepri to Jake Shields. In the cage, de Souza is superior to his opponents on the mat and it shows. Eight of his twelve wins in MMA have come by way of submission. He is dangerous from both top position and off his back. In fact, his last two wins have come by way of triangle choke, putting away UFC veteran Kazuki Tokudome and top regional prospect Tofiq Musayev.
Athleticism/Strength: In terms of natural gifts, de Souza has above-average strength and athleticism, which aids him when it comes to takedowns and clinch work. It also affords him knockout power on the feet and in ground-and-pound, which is something he possesses in his back pocket. Just because his physical strength takes center stage doesn’t mean he isn’t technical on the mat, because believe me, he is.
Striking Intangibles: Let me state right away that the striking of Roberto de Souza has greatly improved the last couple years. That said, there are technical aspects of his striking game that need some improvements. His only career loss came at the hands of Johnny Case, literally. Case established his striking advantage immediately and blew through de Souza in 75 seconds. A couple of the intangibles de Souza could work on are his footwork, striking defense (specifically his guard) and being light on his feet. Again, he has improved his striking a lot in recent years, but needs to continue to make it a point in training.
UFC Midcarder: For now, de Souza is locked in with Rizin and will be with them for the foreseeable future. Should he continue his winning ways, he needs to look elsewhere for bigger paydays, specifically the UFC (or Bellator). Bellator has a relationship with Rizin, so de Souza may have a better chance ending up there. However, he has the skills to compete in the UFC, whose lightweight division is an absolute shark tank. With the level of his jiu-jitsu and his constantly improving striking game, there are definitely more than a few fights he could take now and impress the viewing audience. If he does make that move to the UFC, I wouldn’t be shocked if it took a year or more to get there given his current situation.