UFC 138 may not have had the biggest names on it, but there was one potential star who appeared in the main event and dominated one of the consensus top middleweights in the world.
I’m talking, of course, about Mark Munoz, who stopped Chris Leben between the second and third rounds.
He looked great in the fight as he pummeled Leben, but it was what he did after the fight itself that might end up making the biggest news.
Rather than do what many believe he should do and challenge one more top contender before he looks to the peak of the mountain, Munoz took a helicopter right to the top by challenging UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Certainly the consensus is that former No. 1 contender Chael Sonnen should receive the next shot at the title based on his performance against Silva in their previous fight, but Munoz really created some discussion on the subject.
Not only that, but he might even be a more dangerous opponent for Anderson Silva.
Sonnen is a beast, but he and Munoz have different skill sets. So let’s take a look at some reasons why Munoz could realistically defeat Silva whenever he finally gets his shot at the title.
While Chael Sonnen showed some serious holes in the perceived-to-be “unbeatable” Anderson Silva’s game, Mark Munoz might actually have better insight on what he needs to do in order to get a win over the Brazilian.
Munoz has the advantage of having actually trained with the middleweight champion earlier in their careers. We have seen in the past with Vitor Belfort that Silva can still crush people who have trained with him, but certainly it helps that Munoz has had a chance to watch Silva attempt improve the intricate parts of his game.
Nevertheless, it could be very interesting to see just how much Munoz picked up on about the 185-pound kingpin’s weaknesses.
Playing off of the previous slide, one thing that might actually play into Munoz’s advantage—as opposed to Sonnen’s—is the mentality that Anderson Silva would have coming into the fight.
We have seen “The Spider” have a tough time getting himself to care about certain fights in the past; his bouts against Thales Leites and Demian Maia come to mind. Just about everyone would agree that the champion should have destroyed those two, but he almost seemed to toy with them because he was bored.
That won’t happen against Chael Sonnen. Sonnen has gone out of his way to berate Silva in the media and even got personal when he said something about his wife. Needless to say, the 185-pound champion would come into his fight with Sonnen with the intention of destroying him.
However, in a fight with Mark Munoz, it’s hard to believe that he would be anything but completely respectful. He may even have a tough time getting himself to want to beat up a guy who he considers a friend.
If Silva comes into the fight and doesn’t have that “killer instinct,” we might see Munoz catch him off-guard on his way to becoming the new champion.
A world-class wrestler, Chael Sonnen proved that taking Anderson Silva to the ground may very well be the way to stop the best striker in the middleweight division. Sonnen repeatedly brought Silva to the ground for four and a half rounds before he finally made a mistake, allowing Silva to slap on a triangle choke and submit him.
Sonnen controlled Silva, but his ground-and-pound never really put the champion in danger of being finished...
That’s where Mark Munoz comes in.
If there is one physical ability that Mark Munoz has over Sonnen, it’s his Donkey Kong-like punches that have absolutely hammered his opponents. In fact, he caused a large cut on Chris Leben’s eye on Saturday night, which eventually led to a stoppage between rounds.
While Sonnen may possess a slightly more polished MMA wrestling game than Munoz, it’s what these two fighters do when the fight goes to the ground that is really the big difference. Sonnen just doesn’t seem to have the finishing power needed to stop Anderson Silva in a rematch.
Munoz, on the other hand, does.
Not only that, but the Filipino Wrecking Machine has proven that unlike Sonnen, who doesn’t have much of a stand-up game, if he lands punches on his feet, he can do some serious damage.
Certainly Silva has fought more technically skilled strikers, but he hasn’t fought anyone with Munoz’s combination of striking power and the ability to take the fight to the ground. With that added threat, we may see Munoz stand a better chance than other fighters, as Silva will almost certainly be doing everything he can to keep the fight on the feet.
That could very well be Anderson Silva’s downfall in a championship defense against Mark Munoz.