On Sat., Nov. 5, 2011, Mark Munoz and Chris Leben will meet in a middleweight mash up at UFC 138 in Birmingham, England, in what will be the first five-round, non-title main event in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) history.
Munoz is coming off a nice decision win over another top-tier 185-pounder, former number one division contender, Demian Maia, at UFC 131 on June 11 in Vancouver. It marked the third straight victory for the hard-charging former collegiate wrestling standout.
"The Filipino Wrecking Machine" recently sat down with Pro MMA Radio's Larry Pepe earlier this week (Mon., Oct. 31, 2011) to discuss his upcoming fight at UFC 138 against "The Crippler."
He is clearly becoming a student of the game:
"When I watch the coverage on his fights, he's just got a powerful left hand. He's actually evolved from his first time in the UFC to now. From the first time he's stepped into the UFC, he's always had power. That's what he's always leaned upon is his strength and his punches. At the same time, he's evolved in his jiu-jitsu game as well. But I don't like to say 'Oh he's got a good left hand' and things like that. I like to zero in on his tendencies: How he sets up his power shots. How he sets up his submissions and how he defends. Those are the things I'm looking at."
Munoz has extra motivation to beat Leben after he brutally knocked out his friend and training partner, Wanderlei Silva at UFC 132 on July 2 in Las Vegas, Nevada. He believes he will avenge that loss with a finish on Saturday night:
Check out what he had to say about exacting revenge after the jump:
"Yeah, it does give me some added motivation. Wanderlei's a good friend of mine. I train closely with him through King's MMA and he is a friend. So it does give me some added motivation, definitely. Yes, I'll be looking for the finish. I always look for the finish in my fights. Although I didn't get to finish Demian Maia, I was doing my best to, but he's a wizard on the ground, man. I did some land some big shots. I even went for a submission on him. But, hey, I think people saw the improvement of my game in that fight. I'm no different. I'm just an updated version of Mark Munoz."
As of late, it seems like it's a foregone conclusion that the ever-controversial Chael Sonnen will be next in line to face the division's current champion, Anderson Silva, in a rematch for which mixed martial arts (MMA) fans have been clamoring for more than one year.
Silva's manager, Ed Soares, isn't a big fan of the prospective bout. He's been vocal about wanting "The Spider" to take on Michael Bisping should "The Count" be able to get past Jason Miller at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14 season finale.
Munoz understands the reason the fans want to see a rematch between Sonnen and Silva. In fact, he went so far as to say he's a fan of Sonnen's shtick:
"You know, Chael, he's a colorful figure in the sport of mixed martial arts. How can you not pay attention to him? He says alot of things and tends to back them up. He talks a colorful game but at the same time he takes care of businsse in the Octagon. I do think, at times, it's overboard, but its working for him."
Munoz's kind words are interesting mainly because he's fairly close friends with Silva.
His friendship with the champion brings potential future complication. If Munoz were to come away with the victory at UFC 138 and Silva can win his next fight, the two would very possibly have to do battle. It's not a fight Munoz is hoping for, but he realizes that it's part of the business:
"I don't think it would change anything at all (if we fought). I have nothing but respect for Anderson. He is a good friend of mine and we've trained closely together. I hope it doesn't change anything at all, but at the same time, I hope we don't fight. But it looks like we're on a collision course, as of right now. He said he'd be retired before I got the chance to compete for a world title, so hopefully that happens. But, again, that's a bridge we will have to cross if it happens. I don't like fighting my friends, but I'm not against fighting my friends.
Only time will tell how it all plays out. At this point, there are multiple scenarios that need to fully unfold before Munoz and Silva would even need to worry about that potential match up.
For now, he's focused on fighting (and defeating) Chris Leben this weekend across the pond.
How do you Maniacs feel about this weekend's upcoming fight? Will "Munoz 2.0" be able to finish Leben and avenge Wanderlei's knockout loss? If he does, should he get a title shot next?