I finally decided to bring this column back after a somewhat long hiatus simply because the way Mark Munoz performed was enough to warrant the extra attention.
Admittedly, I was skeptical of Munoz coming into this matchup. After seeing both Kendall Grove and Demian Maia tag and hurt "The Filipino Wrecking Machine," I thought it was inevitable that Leben would land one of his powerful left hooks and put Munoz to sleep.
Alas, that moment never seemed to come as Munoz applied constant pressure to "The Crippler" and implemented a solid game plan of devastating ground-and-pound designed to batter and tire the season 1 contestant of The Ultimate Fighter.
Leben was sucking wind from the early stages of the fight and instead of questioning his conditioning, you simply have go give credit where credit is due. Munoz unleashed a barrage of strikes on Leben each and every time the fight hit the floor. One of his punishing right hands opened up a cut just over the eye of Leben which eventually forced the fight to be called.
Meanwhile, Munoz came in thoroughly prepared for everything that Leben could possibly have in store for him. Being that this was scheduled to be the first five-round, non-title fight in UFC history, Munoz looked as though he could have fought 10 rounds.
He knew this was the biggest fight of his life, set on the biggest stage and he was more than prepared to take advantage of the opportunity the organization had afforded him. If that isn't the mark of a man ready to take the next step and challenge the truly elite fighters of his weight class, I don't know what is.
UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva simply owned Leben on the feet when the two met back in 2006. "The Spider" connected on such a high volume percentage of his strikes, it was damn near criminal. That was the very first time Leben had been stopped, last night was the first time Leben had been rag dolled.
While it may have taken Munoz a bit longer to achieve the desired effect, the premise was pretty much the same. A battered and beaten Leben and an extremely formidable challenger for the UFC Middleweight Championship were the results of last night's fight.