Two of the best middleweights in the world will battle tonight (July 11, 1012) for a potential opportunity to face Anderson Silva next as wrestlers Mark Munoz and Chris Weidman duke it out in the main event of UFC on FUEL TV 4 in San Jose, California.
Munoz has been on an absolute tear ever since dropping down to 185 pounds, showcasing his tremendous ground and pound on multiple occasions. He's been sidelined since an injury in January but he's back at it just in time and the UFC just so happens to be looking for title contenders.
Chris Weidman has exploded in terms of growth in the promotion. After receiving a slow build, he beat up on Demian Maia after stepping up on short notice this past January to firmly put himself in the upper echelons of the division. The undefeated Renzo Gracie-trained fighter is now a budding title contender as well.
Will Munoz be able to Donkey Kong ground and pound his way to victory? Can Weidman's youthful exuberance put him over the top? What's the key to victory for both men tonght?
Let's find out:Mark Munoz
Record: 12-2 overall, 7-2 in the UFC
How he got here: Mark Munoz got into MMA as a pure wrestler. He won an NCAA title while wrestling for Oklahoma State in 2001 while at 197-pounds. After two easy first round knockouts in the WEC, he made his UFC debut against Matt Hamill in the light heavyweight division and was knocked senseless by a Matt Hamill head kick. He smartly chose to drop to 185 pounds after that.
At middleweight, Munoz became famous for his ridiculously powerful ground and pound, blasting both Ryan Jensen and Kendall Grove on the ground before coming up short against Yushin Okami at the second UFC show on the Versus channel.
"The Filipino Wrecking Machine" teamed up with some of the best Brazilian strikers in the sport in a mutually beneficial relationship, as he helped fighters like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Anderson Silva shore up their wrestling while they helped him advance his striking skills. His hard worked paid off as the Reign Training Center owner was able to outstrike Aaron Simpson at UFC 123 and he followed it up by knockout out C.B. Dollaway in less than a minute this past March.
The quick destruction of Dollaway thrust Munoz back into contender status and he solidified that position with a decision victory over former title challenger Demian Maia earlier this summer past summer and then put himself right in the title hunt when he crushed Chris Leben last November.
After missing out on a huge bout against Chael Sonnen due to injury, he'll now face Weidman as a consolation prize..
How he gets it done: Munoz's stand-up has improved leaps and bounds and it's been his footwork that has been the biggest key for him.
He's really been able to work on his angles and it allowed him to stand against the likes of C.B. Dolloway and Chris Leben while still having the threat of the takedown.
Against Weidman, Munoz should be aggressive on the feet and ready to shoot in and try to dump Weidman on the ground at any moment's notice as I'm sure Weidman will be thinking the same thing.
Landing solid shots on the feet and potentially mixing in huge ground and pound are definitely huge goals for Munoz here.
Record: 8-0 overall, 4-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: none.
How he got here: Chris Weidman made his mark in the collegiate wrestling scene, becoming a two-time NCAA division I All-American while competing at Hofstra University. After graduating, he transitioned to mixed martial arts which included some heavy work in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Weidman was a natural, qualifying for the ADCC after just one year of training and his MMA career got off to an equally hot start. After crushing his first two opponents inside the first round, he was given a Ring of Combat title shot in just his fifth pro fight against veteran Urijah Hall. Instead of being intimidated, Weidman smashed Hall via TKO just three minutes into his fight.
By his fifth fight, Weidman was already earning an invite into the UFC, taking a bout on short notice as an injury replacement to take on 11 fight UFC veteran Alessio Sakara. Weidman dominated the Italian ATT fighter, winning a convincing three round decision.
The promotion wisely allowed him to progress at his own pace, and Weidman delivered with a first round standing guillotine choke finish of Jesse Bongfeldt at UFC 131. He would follow that victory up with his most convincing win to date a first round technical D'Arce choke submission against veteran Tom Lawlor which barely lasted two minutes.
When Michael Bisping got moved to the Chael Sonnen fight, Weidman gladly stepped up to fill the vacancy left behind and take on Demian Maia.and while the fight ended up being a snoozefest, he still was victorious and gained major brownie points from the MMA community for stepping up.
Now, he's going to face a very stern test in Munoz, the best wrestler he's competed against in the UFC thus far.
How he gets it done: First thing's first, Weidman has to take some deep breaths and remain calm, channel some of his wrestling nerves from when he was competing in the national tournaments.
If his last fight was a huge deal considering it was against a former title challenger, this one is an even bigger deal because it's a freaking main event and he's facing one of the best wrestlers in the division with a potential title shot on the line..
Weidman's best chance at victory is to utilize his wrestling against the former elite collegiate wrestler in Munoz. Weidman was an All-American in college as well and he's less removed from his competition days than "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" and still might have some tricks up his sleeve. .
In the stand-up, he's got to be careful as he's still developing in this area and Munoz has some massive power. I honestly believe he should try to stand for just brief periods before eventually shooting in and working for takedowns. Takedowns are his friend and are his best and potentially only method to victory. .
Fight X-Factor:The biggest X-Factor for this fight is Mark Munoz's extended layoff. He was set to fight at the last January UFC on FOX 2 show before an elbow injury set him back big time. He hasn't fought since last November which is an eight month break. If he comes out rusty, Weidman can definitely take advantage and potentially put him on his back in the early going's on of the bout.
Bottom Line: There is potential for some excitement here, but don't expect a slugfest on the feet unless Weidman has made a tremendous leap in his striking. The best potential for excitement for me is if this fight goes to the ground. Both Munoz and Weidman are nasty on the ground in their own way with Munoz possessing the best ground and pound of any fighter in MMA today while Weidman has a very strong budding submission game. There could be some great scrambles from two extremely talented ground technicians.
Who will come out on top at UFC on Fuel TV 4? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!