Robbie Lawler | Dave Mandel/

Robbie Lawler expects Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza to stand and trade strikes with him during their Strikeforce middleweight title fight Saturday in San Jose, Calif.

Not by choice. Lawler says the Brazilian jiu-jitsu standout will have to fight on his feet.

“He’ll have no choice but to stand,” Lawler said recently during a “Savage Dog Show” interview on the Sherdog Radio Network. “That’s what I plan on doing. I’m forcing him to stand and seeing how good his standup is.”

Despite Jacare’s submission prowess, he has shown improved striking skills. He’s also coming off three consecutive wins, including an impressive five-round unanimous decision over Tim Kennedy that earned him the middleweight gold.

Meanwhile Lawler has split his last four fights. He will enter the cage as the underdog.

“It’s kind of nice actually. I like being the underdog,” Lawler said. “I like being the guy who people think is going to lose and I want to prove them wrong.”

Lawler’s takedown defense will have to be sharp to beat the odds. To ensure he’ll be able to stay standing against Jacare, he has been training in Arizona with UFC veterans and touted wrestlers Ryan Bader, Aaron Simpson and C.B. Dollaway.

“They’re just big guys, athletic, good wrestlers and guys who are hungry and who are all bigger than me,” Lawler said. “Just drilling with guys who were All-American wrestlers, guys who implement that into their game plan, just working out with those guys has made me get better by leaps and bounds.”

Of course, Jacare could be tempted to test his striking progress against Lawler, though it seems more likely he will want to make use of his advantage on the ground.

“I believe if anyone stands, it’s just a matter of time before I catch them,” Lawler said. “I believe I’m better on standup. He’s a really good athlete. He’s explosive. His takedowns are real explosive and he’s got a judo background. I just have to keep it where I want to and not make any mistakes and take advantage of it being on the feet.”

Even standing, though, Lawler is planning on a tough bout.

“I believe it’s going to be an awesome fight,” he said. “Two guys, one guy not wanting to give up the belt and one guy going in there to take the belt. It’s going to be a battle.”

Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:29:40) with Lawler.

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