Sometimes going by “The Peruvian Savage”, sometimes going by “El Mendigo” (The Beggar), Tony DeSouza strongly resembled both a beggar and a savage throughout his career with his shaggy hair and his unkempt beard. He fought like a savage as well, combining his strong wrestling background and blackbelt-level jujitsu skills. He was always fast-paced, in his opponent’s face, constantly pressing the fight. As opposed to some fighters, DeSouza didn’t know the meaning of “lay and pray”. He was constant motion personified.
Not being one to look for a slugfest, The Peruvian Savage rarely even threw any strikes. The only strikes I ever saw him throw were feints to set up takedowns. Having wrestled at a high level since he was 13; DeSouza didn’t really have to set up his takedowns… he just took you down. It was usually that simple.
Although not a striker on his feet, once the fight hit the ground, DeSouza would unleash his vicious ground and pound offense that was almost horrifying at times – at least I’m sure it was for his opponents. Some of the shots he would hit guys with made him seem like a mini-Fedor (DeSouza only being 6ft and 170lbs). He also exhibited excellent submission defense, constantly getting out of arm locks and leg locks throughout his career.
As far as submission offense goes, he never went for that much. The Savage was mostly content to ground and pound out his victories. One thing he would attempt often, though, was his patented move that later became more popularized – the Peruvian Necktie. As much as he attempted it, he could never quite get a finish with it in MMA or UFC competition. The first successful Peruvian Necktie submission in the UFC would come later, by another fighter, C.B. Dollaway.
With a record of 11-4, DeSouza fought six of those fights in the UFC. He actually fought back to back at UFCs 31, 32, and 33 throughout 2001. After a somewhat controversial loss to Jutaro Nakao (DeSouza was considered knocked out by the ref even though he was still in the fight enough to be attempting to pull guard on his opponent right as the referee was calling the fight off), The Peruvian Savage decided to take five years off from the UFC and fight in other promotions until he made his UFC return in 2006. During this run, he had an exciting win over newcomer Dustin Hazelett but then had a couple of tough losses and decided to more or less retire. UFC fans can also see him on season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter as Team Penn’s wrestling coach, coaching alongside BJ Penn, himself.
DeSouza decided to return to competition in 2012 and got a quick submission victory via rear naked choke in under 90 seconds. Not a bad send off to a man who perhaps deserved a more star-studded career than what he was able to obtain. He’s not listed as being “officially retired” and maybe he has a fight or two left in him but, in my opinion, not having fought in six years and his age slowly advancing, it’s likely we won’t see him compete again. You never know, though. Regardless, Tony DeSouza is one of the “great unknowns” in the sport.
Adam Zimmerman (a/k/a The Grappling Gamer) is also a staff writer and contributor to Canadian Bulldog’s World (www.canadianbulldogsworld.com)