UFC 131 Results: Mark Munoz Gearing Up for Big Run After Win over Demian Maia

Elliot OlshanskyCorrespondent IJune 13, 2011

Mark Munoz is on the rise after his win over Demian Maia at UFC 131.
Mark Munoz is on the rise after his win over Demian Maia at UFC 131.

In all likelihood, there were two No. 1 contenders crowned on Saturday night at UFC 131.

Obviously, in the main event, Junior dos Santos confirmed his status as the No. 1 contender to Cain Velasquez for the UFC heavyweight championship, as the injured champion was brought into the Octagon to congratulate the TUF 13 coach on his win and set the matchup for later this year.

Also, with Kenny Florian's success in his featherweight debut with a unanimous decision victory over Diego Nunes, all signs are pointing to a matchup with Jose Aldo for the UFC featherweight championship. 

Mark Munoz didn't earn a No. 1 contender spot for his middleweight victory over former top contender Demian Maia, but the former NCAA champion wrestler sent a strong signal that he's heading in that direction in one of the night's best fights.

Furthermore, a quick survey of the UFC landscape at 185 pounds shows that Munoz's time as a contender could be coming sooner rather than later.

The most recent middleweight rankings published at Sherdog.com naturally listed UFC titleholder Anderson Silva as No. 1. Following "The Spider," the remainder of the top 10 doesn't include much in the way of fighters that Silva hasn't beaten.

Chael Sonnen came in at No. 2, and while there's undoubtedly interest for a return engagement between Sonnen and Silva after the Spider escaped at UFC 117, that remains on hold while Sonnen's fighting future remains up in the air.

Yushin Okami is No. 3, and will have his chance to take the title on August 27 in Rio de Janeiro. After Okami, it goes like this:

The No. 4 man on the list is Nate Marquardt, who lost to Silva at UFC 73, and is making his welterweight debut later this month against Rick Story.

Strikeforce champ Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza is No. 5 on the list, and while the UFC has brought over one Strikeforce titleholder to challenge its champion in the form of Nick Diaz, the MMA world isn't necessarily screaming for a battle between Souza and Silva.

Maia, of course, was beaten and shown up by Silva at UFC 112, and has been pushed further back in the line than his No. 6 spot by his loss to Munoz on Saturday night. The No. 7 man, Jorge Santiago, fell a bit with his loss to Brian Stann two weeks ago at UFC 130, and No. 8 Vitor Belfort is coming off his loss to Silva at UFC 126.

No. 9 Michael Bisping is nowhere near a title shot, and the No. 10 man is Bellator champ Hector Lombard, the only one of the bunch not under Zuffa contract. 

This doesn't mean that Munoz should necessarily be next in line for a title shot if Silva retains against Okami at UFC 134, but if a rematch with Sonnen or the much-talked-about super-fight with Georges St-Pierre isn't up next, Munoz might be the most attractive option, possibly with one more win under his belt.

And one more fight could be perfect for some of the UFC's business plans.

Earlier this year Dana White spoke of bringing The Ultimate Fighter to foreign countries, and said that a Philippines edition of the show would be first later on this year.

We haven't heard much about those plans since then, but there's certainly been plenty else to talk about, and when the UFC does bring its hit reality show to the Philippines, is there any doubt that the "Filipino Wrecking Machine" would be a natural choice as one of the coaches? 

As for the other coach, that would need to be determined. Sherdog is recommending Brian Stann as Munoz's next opponent, but if TUF is going to the Philippines, Stann wouldn't be the right foil for Munoz, and even if the reality show isn't in the picture, a title eliminator between Stann and Munoz might not be the right way to go.

The winner of the Chris Leben vs. Wanderlei Silva bout at UFC 132 could be the right way to go, or the winner of UFC 133's battle between Belfort and Yoshihiro Akiyama.

These are the sorts of decisions that Joe Silva gets paid to make, and he's certainly got his work cut out for him. In the meantime, it's clear that in Mark Munoz, the UFC has a bona fide star on the rise.