Prior to every event, Under the Radar will cast the spotlight on an up-and-coming talent who shows the potential for growth in their division and isn’t getting enough attention as they head into battle.
Name: Livia Renata Souza
Record: 12-1 overall; 1-0 UFC
Team: Team Vinicius Maximo / Atos Jiu-Jitsu
The fact that Livia Renata Souza is unranked in the strawweight division while fighters like Alexa Grasso, Randa Markos and Mackenzie Dern hold down Top 15 spots is somewhat laughable, but it should change as soon as the 27-year-old Brazilian logs a couple more appearances inside the Octagon.
A former titleholder under the Invicta FC banner, Souza made her UFC debut in September, making quick work of TUF 20 alum Alex Chambers to extend her winning streak to three. She backed the Australian up with the first right hand that landed over the top and remained in pursuit from that point forward.
After connecting with a few more swinging hammers, Souza grabbed a leg and twisted Chambers down to the canvas, where she quickly climbed into mount before attacking a guillotine and securing the tap from top position.
While beating Chambers was expected, the performance showcased why Souza is someone everyone should be paying attention to in the strawweight division.
Souza is hyper-confident and dangerous in every facet of the game, plus she’s earned some quality victories over tough opposition on her way to the UFC. Where some people will look at her resume, see her split decision title loss to Angela Hill, who has struggled to find consistency in the UFC herself, and minimize her potential, the reality is that Souza’s victories over Ayaka Hamasaki and Janaisa Morandin in 2017 are excellent performances, as were her wins over Katja Kankaanpaa and DeAnna Bennett prior to her bout with Hill.
What was most impressive about her victory over Chambers is that Souza looked to have filled out a little and dialed in the offensive weaponry that made her so much fun to watch during her time in Invicta FC. Though she is still ultra-aggressive and throws power every time, there is a little more understanding of how to put everything together. As she continues to mature as a fighter, Souza is only going to become even more dangerous as she already has the aggressiveness, tenacity and well-rounded skill set needed to be a contender in the 115-pound weight class.
This weekend’s matchup with Sarah Frota isn’t likely to garner Souza a great deal of attention, as Frota is a promotional newcomer who has fought exclusively in Brazil prior to impressing on last summer’s all-Brazilian edition of the Contender Series in Las Vegas. Even though she’s 9-0 and a definite threat, unheralded newcomers never get the respect they deserve and that often works against their opponents, especially if they win in dominant fashion.
That being said, Souza has the personality and talent to make a statement this weekend in Fortaleza and her Invicta FC pedigree, coupled with how wide open things are within the strawweight division should afford her an opportunity to make an expedited push to contention in 2019.
There are fighters in the division who are going to get more media attention and carry more buzz — most notably Mackenzie Dern and Maycee Barber — but Souza is already more accomplished than both and should be included in any conversation about fighters with championship potential in the 115-pound weight class.
With a victory this weekend, “The Brazilian Gangster” should earn herself a chance to share the cage with a ranked opponent next time out and depending on how things shake out the rest of the year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Souza entrenched in the Top 10 and potentially in the title conversation by the time the year is out.