The biggest fight in UFC history went down this weekend. The organization's greatest champion, Anderson Silva, dispatched of his nemesis Chael Sonnen in dramatic fashion. It was a legacy-solidifying performance that not only raised Silva higher on the "greatest of all time" pedestal, but ultimately increased the focus put on who could be the next contender in the middleweight division.
There are a handful of fighters who are jockeying for the position and Mark Munoz is at the forefront of the charge.
"The Filipino Wrecking Machine" has been on a mission to reach the top of the mountain at 185 pounds since joining the weight class in 2009. He has hammered and slammed his way to victory in seven out of his last eight outings, including the current four-fight win streak he is currently riding.
Munoz knows he's in a race for the No. 1 contender's position and has every intention on making his case this Wednesday in San Jose, Calif. As the main event of UFC on Fuel TV 4, Munoz faces rising star Chris Weidman. The Long Island native has proven to be a difficult puzzle to solve but Munoz believes he has what it takes to get the job done.
"Weidman and I match up very well," Munoz told Bleacher Report. "We are both wrestlers and he uses his length very well in his striking. He does a good job of transitioning from his striking to his takedowns and his jiu-jitsu is solid. He's a really good fighter and I'm looking forward to mixing it up with him."
"There are a lot of similarities between us but the biggest difference is the power I possess. I'm definitely going to look to take advantage of that and put the power on him. I also see conditioning being a factor in this fight. I'm ready to take this fight into deep water if I have to. Deep water is where all the sharks are and I feel I'm one of the sharks of this weight class and I'll take advantage of that in this fight."
"When I get into that Octagon it is going to be nothing short of fireworks. I'm bringing the forward motion and there are going to be bombs flying. That is just my style. I look to finish every fight and this fight is not going to be any different. It's the attitude I bring each and every fight and that is not going to change."
There is talk of the winner of this bout becoming the next contender to Anderson Silva's middleweight crown. While it is a position Munoz longs to be in, the circumstances surrounding the fight are not unfamiliar territory to the former national champion collegiate wrestler.
He was scheduled to face Chael Sonnen at UFC on Fox 2 this January in Chicago for the same honors but an injury suffered in the final weeks of his training camp put Munoz on the sidelines. Instead he was forced to watch Sonnen and Michael Bisping battle for the chance to face Silva. It was a difficult situation for Munoz but his support structure and constant positivity helped to bring things back into focus.
"When I got injured and couldn't fight Chael Sonnen in January, I was definitely bummed out," Munoz said. "The wind was out of my sails and I was really down for awhile. I had to dig myself out and find a positive note in the experience. There were a lot of people who encouraged me and helped bring me out of it. They reminded me that this is my story and how overcoming adversity can only serve to make me a better person."
"I truly believe the experiences you have are what shape and mold you into the person you are today and tomorrow. Adversity is what polishes the diamond. I'm going to cling to that. I'm going to have a positive attitude and keep doing what I'm doing. Unfortunate things happen but life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it. I have to remain positive because if I allow things to get me down they will only seep into the other areas of my life and I refuse to let that happen."
Where circumstance dictated his ability to advance toward his goal earlier in the year, it is once again circumstance which has brought the opportunity back to within reach. Munoz's focus on this fight is intense but it hasn't prevented him from hearing his peers make their case for title contention.
While he might not agree with their points of view, he knows a definitive win over Weidman will strengthen his case and silence some of his critics.
"There are a lot of keyboard warriors out there who voice their opinion," Munoz said. "Everyone is of course entitled to their opinion but I've trained and worked hard to get where I am. I fight whoever the UFC gives me. I show up on that date and fight to the best of my ability. I have faced quality opponents and if some people can't see that; there is nothing I can do about it. I know where I stand. I know where I'm at in the division. I'm only going to keep improving and pursuing the opportunity to fight for the title."
"To be a contender in this division is a badge I wear proudly. I've worked very hard for it and I'm looking to keep this streak alive when I get past Weidman. There is a lot being said about the weight class lately. I've heard a lot of guys talking about how they deserve a title shot but I don't feel any is more deserving than me."
"I need to make a statement in this fight. A win in this fight is going to be big but a finish against Weidman will solidify my place as the No. 1 contender in the middleweight division."
In a sport where timing is everything, Munoz knows each opportunity has to be capitalized upon. He understands this is his moment to step up to the plate and take what he feels is deserved. The task ahead will not be easy but Munoz wouldn't have it any other way.