The message coming out of the end of UFC 138 was loud and clear – Mark Munoz is here and he wants a title shot now!
It’s been a long journey to the epicenter of the middleweight division for the Filipino Wrecking Machine who came into Birmingham, England on a three-fight winning streak having in his last fight dispatched former number one contender Demian Maia in his last fight. Through the build up to the fight Munoz promised that it would be ‘bombs away’ come fight time, as he was looking to make a statement and win in impressive fashion in front of the biggest audience of his career.
He certainly did that. Against an always game Chris Leben, Munoz certainly brought it as he promised. Each fighter threw leather like it was going out of fashion but it was Munoz who showed himself a complete mixed martial artist. His offensive wrestling was excellent, being able to take The Crippler down almost at will. Predictably Leben was a handful on the bottom, constantly scrambling back to his feet and when that wasn’t possible punishing Munoz from the bottom with whatever offense he could muster off his back. But Munoz was the equal to it. Punishing Leben on the ground he would eventually in the second round connect with the elbows that would open up the deep cut that would bring the fight to an end. At the end of ten minutes of frenetic action, Leben sat in his corner bloodied and beaten, unable to see out of his left eye. His corner took the brave and right decision to pull him, and so amid a chorus of boos Munoz stood with his hand raised inside the Octagon.
Munoz used the post-fight interview to press his claims for a title shot against Anderson Silva. The champion must be used to the pretenders to his throne issuing challengers to him in the heat of victory, but perhaps not one that was accompanied with such a glowing personal testimonial. Whereas Chael Sonnen told him he sucked, Munoz pledged complete respect to The Spider and said that he considered him a friend. But he made it clear that this friendship couldn’t get in the way of his desire to be recognized as the best in his division. He wants the title and he’s not ready to wait for his shot.
In the post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White didn’t seem keen to anoint Munoz the number one contender. And who can blame him when marketable, larger than life characters like Chael Sonnen, Michael Bisping and Vitor Belfort are aggressively positioning themselves to face the Brazilian master? But Munoz may just be the fighter to have the skills to defeat the man who over the past five years has created a legacy within the UFC like no other. Whereas Bisping has repeatedly shied away from trading inside the pocket, Munoz has always been willing to stand in front of an opponent and exchange big punches. Whereas Belfort lacks the wrestling to properly test the suspect takedown defense of the champion, Munoz is a former NCAA champion. And whereas Sonnen lacks the punching power to make the most of top position, Munoz has repeatedly shown nasty ground and pound. Indeed UFC 138 is a perfect example of his willingness to risk being hit to land the telling blows, the effectiveness of his takedowns and the impact of his ground and pound. And to add extra spice to the mixture, Munoz trained with Silva back in the day. And we all know how well Anderson Silva responds to facing former training partners.
Dana White’s may look at American pay per view buys and want to go full steam ahead with Silva vs. Chael Sonnen II. Lorenzo Fertitta may sit in Brazilian boardrooms and look to engineer a rematch with Vitor Belfort. Marshal Zelaznik’s global expansion plans may benefit greatly from Bisping receiving a title shot should he beat Jason Miller. Sports fans however should look beyond the dollar signs and look at the guy most likely to push Silva to his very limits. And that man is Mark Munoz.
Tags: anderson silva, Chael Sonnen, Chris Leben, Demian Maia, Mark Munoz, Michael Bisping, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC 138, ufc middleweight division, Vitor Belfort