Knockout victories in his last two fights moved Lincolnville native Tim Boetsch back into the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s middleweight rankings.
Now he’s getting the chance to climb the ranks even further, though the challenge will be considerable when the 14th-rated Boetsch takes on No. 3 Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in a three-round clash set for Feb. 11 as part of UFC 208 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
The bout was announced formally Friday, one day after Souza’s manager, Gilberto Faria, reportedly posted a fake Craigslist ad seeking an opponent for his fighter.
The Boetsch-Souza matchup is likely to be part of the pay-per-view main card, but that has not been determined officially yet by UFC officials.
The 35-year-old Boetsch, a former four-time wrestling state champion from Camden-Rockport High School who went on to wrestle collegiately at Division I Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, is 20-10 overall in his professional mixed martial arts career, 11-9 for the top-level UFC.
Trained by former UFC contender and professional boxer Marcus Davis, a longtime Bangor resident who now lives in North Carolina, Boetsch has rebounded from a three-fight losing streak that jeopardized his UFC status with two straight convincing victories in his most recent outings.
First he scored a second-round technical knockout of Josh Samman on a UFC Fight Night card held July 13 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Then he scored a first-round stoppage of then-14th-ranked Rafael Natal on the UFC’s first card at Madison Square Garden in New York City, UFC 205 on Nov. 12.
A win against Souza in Boetsch’s return to the Big Apple likely would move him back into the middleweight top 10 for the first time since 2012 and 2013, when he reached the top five after wins over Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard.
But Souza, 37, is considered a top threat to middleweight champion Michael Bisping.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt is 23-4 with one no contest overall, 6-1 in the UFC. He last fought at UFC 198 last May, scoring a first-round technical knockout over Vitor Belfort.
Before that he lost to top-ranked contender Yoel Romero by split decision at UFC 194 in December 2015 — Souza’s only defeat in his last 10 fights since a unanimous-decision loss to Luke Rockhold on Sept. 10, 2011.
Souza has 16 of his victories by submission and four others by knockout or technical knockout. Boetsch has 10 wins by knockout or technical knockout and five victories by submission.
Souza was scheduled for a rematch with Rockhold, a former UFC middleweight champion, last Nov. 26 in what was considered a top contenders’ bout, but Rockhold dropped out due to a knee injury and Souza was pulled from the UFC Fight Night 101 card.
UFC 208 will be headlined by the promotion’s first women’s featherweight title fight between former bantamweight champion Holly Holm and Germaine de Radamie.