Two UFC events in one night, two first round finishes in each events headline act.
We’ll start in Berlin where a middleweight-heavy main card was topped by the former Strikeforce Light-Heavyweight Champion and former DREAM multiple-weight champion, Gegard Mousasi and arguably the nicest guy in MMA, Mark Munoz.
In what was a brilliant display of dominance on the part of Mousasi, Munoz was forced to tap in the latter part of the first round or be forced to go to sleep, as Mousasi claimed victory via a rear naked choke.
That I, and many have in fight week, referred to Mark Munoz as a thoroughly decent chap rather than further peddle his moniker of ‘The Filipino Wrecking Machine’ shows that something has changed in the way we view Munoz.
Around 2011, Munoz was tearing through the middleweight division on a seemingly unobstructed path to title contendership. Munoz had just rattled off wins over Aaron Simpson, CB Dolloway, Demian Maia and Chris Leben. Time may have tainted the value of that win streak, but make no mistake; this was highly impressive at the time, particularly in how dominant he was in those performances.
Since the TKO victory over Leben in November of 2011, Munoz has seemingly never been the same.
A bout with Chris Weidman followed, as did a brutal KO from the now-UFC Middleweight Champion that along with a broken foot sustained in the fight; put Munoz on the shelf for around a year and saw him gain a significant amount of weight during a turbulent time for the 185lb’er.
Munoz would return with a decision victory over Tim Boetsch, but that has since been followed up by successive defeats; first a KO loss to Lyoto Machida and then last night’s bout with Mousasi.
What was most alarming in his loss to Mousasi was not just the end result, as Mousasi is a highly respected competitor who is a match for anyone in the division, but the manner of the defeat.
Munoz has often been seen as the dominating force, utilising his physical strength and grappling prowess to break his opponents. However, Mousasi, not necessarily the strongest of foes Munoz has faced, was able to toy with and at times manhandle Munoz; shrugging off takedown attempts with ease and coming out on top in any scramble that occurred.
Riding Munoz’s back following another failed takedown attempt, Mousasi was able to stretch Munoz out and sink in the choke that ultimately ended the fight.
This was a stellar performance from Mousasi and reminded everyone why he has been so previously hyped, but the unfortunate headline of the fight has been the questions surrounding Mark Munoz and where he goes from here.
At 36 years of age and the days of contendership surely consigned to 2011, Mark Munoz has some big decisions to make. If only he weren’t so nice, maybe someone would have told him already that maybe it’s time.
Before I sign off, I’ll just touch on the main event of the TUF: Brazil 3 Finale.
I know that Stipe Miocic was originally intended to fight Junior dos Santos in a thorough examination of his credentials and future as a contender in the UFC’s heavyweight division, but why was this headline fight with Fabio Maldonado ever made?
This in essence was a squash match that did nothing for Miocic other than keep the wolf from the door for another few months.
Miocic dispatched with Maldonado in 35 seconds and clearly hurt Maldonado with near enough every punch he threw. I was never quite sure that Miocic was ready for a JDS matchup, but he certainly needed a sterner test than what he received last night.
Maldonado has a ton of heart and should be well received by the UFC in his willingness to fight on notice, moving up in weight in the process, but he has shown he barely belongs in an Octagon with all but the bottom rung of the UFC’s talent ladder in the 205lbs division, let alone one of the top prospects in the heavyweight division. This was an exercise in futility.
Maldonado has carved out a niche of late as a guy who is capable of withstanding a lot of punishment and being able to continue to press forward in the hope of taking four or five to land one of his own.
Now, this is fun for one or two fights, but it is becoming more and more of a regular occurrence for Maldonado and that if it were not for the UFC’s aggressive Brazilian expansion and the need to populate this regional cards with national fighters, I highly doubt he’d still be picking up a UFC branded pay check.
A Maldonado fight can be an enjoyable experience, as he does possesses good boxing, but he needs to be appropriately matched in the light-heavyweight division or bounced from the promotion for the sake of his health.