Photo via UFC.com
According to R. Lee Ermey in the film Full Metal Jacket, only two things come from Texas. If that truly is the case, then the argument could be made that only one thing comes from Oklahoma.
The state -- along with the University of Iowa -- has dominated the collegiate wrestling scene for, well, as long as there has been a scene to dominate. Over 30 team championships and nearly countless individuals accolades have been heaped upon the Oklahoma State Univesity (OSU) and its students over the past 80-odd years.
One such athlete to come out of that championship program was current UFC middleweight contender Mark Muñoz. He earned third place in his weight class in 2000 but ended up winning gold the following year. His wrestling chops are no joke and the skills he honed during his time in Stillwater helped him make a smooth transition to mixed martial arts (MMA).
On Saturday (Nov. 5), Muñoz has the biggest opportunity of his young career. Headlining a card for the first time ever, he takes on longtime Octagon veteran Chris Leben at UFC 138 with a win getting both fighters closer to their ultimate goal: a shot at the middleweight title.
Leben is known for his heavy hands and putting opponents to sleep. While Muñoz isn't recognized as the knockout artist "The Crippler" is, he's no stranger to removing fighters from their consciousness as evidenced by his bout with C.B. Dollaway.
Back in March of this year, he put the fellow collegiate grappler on ice.
Let's take a closer look.
Since dropping down to 185-pounds, he's been near unstoppable with the only detour on his road to the title coming at the hands of Yushin Okami. But a loss to a fighter of "Thunder's" caliber only three years into a career isn't anything to get discouraged about.
Making the drop from 205-pounds after suffering a brutal knockout loss to Matt Hamill, Muñoz had a shaky start in his new weight class. Even though he won a split decision in an exciting back and forth bout with Nick Catone, it wasn't the dominant win he was looking for in his middleweight debut.
He wouldn't get that until his next fight when he forced Ryan Jensen to tap out to punches. The icing on the cake came when "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" stopped The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 3 winner Kendall Grove three months later.
His only hiccup came next when Okami bested him, winning by split decision. The more seasoned veteran was able to get the fight standing and experience won out that night in the Octagon.
Muñoz was looking to make a statement after suffering his first middleweight -- and second overall -- loss. He had the talent and skill to win gold at Oklahoma State and he knew he had the talent and skill to do the same in the UFC. He bounced back against Aaron Simpson at UFC 123 but that performance needed an exclamation point.
Unfortunately for C.B. Dollaway, he was next up for "The Filipino Wrecking Machine."
The American opens up with a jab and a leg kick that smacks against his opponent's shin. Muñoz then begins to pressure "The Doberman," forcing the TUF alumni to circle away.
Dollaway closes the distance in the blink of an eye and latches onto his opponent's body. He spins Muñoz around and drops him to the mat, landing in half-guard before transitioning to side-mount and then a north-south position.
From there, Dollaway threatens with a guillotine choke forcing the Filipino fighter to defend rather than attack. But for some reason, "The Doberman" stands up and allows his opponent the same opportunity. It would be a decision he would very soon regret.
A punch to the body grazes Muñoz and in the ensuing exchange, the OSU wrestler catches Dollaway on the jaw. The American is staggered and drops his hands. He is tagged a second time, causing him to collapse to the mat.
Muñoz follows him and delivers two Donkey Kong-like hammer fists that would make Brock Lesnar stand up and cheer. The fight was stopped then despite protests from Dollaway.
Devastating and brutal, two more that aptly describe the scene inside the Octagon that night in Louisville. With the knockout, he all but erased the loss to Okami and put himself back on track.
A win over Demian Maia furthered his cause and put him in the main event slot he finds himself in now. In the biggest fight of his career, a fourth straight victory could put the wrestler in a title eliminator bout.
A loss could potential derail his dreams forever. Nearly 34-years old, time is not on Muñoz's side.
Will he crush his third TUF alumni or will "The Crippler" live up to his name of put the Filipino's title hopes on life support?
We will find out Saturday.