This Saturday (May 31, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweights Mark Munoz and Gegard Mousasi will wage war in the main event of UFC Fight Night 41, airing live on Fight Pass from O2 World in Berlin, Germany.
Both fighters come into the bout having recently lost to current UFC middleweight title challenger Lyoto Machida.
No. 7-ranked Munoz lost to his former training partner "Dragon" at UFC Fight Night 30 in October 2013, suffering his second knockout loss in three fights from a vicious first round head kick. There’s no doubt "Filipino Wrecking Machine" has some of the best wrestling at 185 pounds, but apparently that’s not enough to contend with the talented killers that populate the upper rungs of the division.
He’ll look to rebound against No. 11-ranked Mousasi, who dropped a five round decision to Machida at February’s UFC Fight Night 36. The former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion has a shining mixed martial arts (MMA) record, but it’s mostly been built up fighting outside of the Octagon.
With middleweight being one of the most stacked landscapes in the sport, the pressure is on both fighters to pick up an impressive win in Germany. Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for Munoz vs. Mousasi:
Record: 13-4 overall, 8-4 UFC
Key Wins: Demian Maia (UFC 131), Chris Leben (138), Tim Boetsch (UFC 162)
Key Losses: Chris Weidman (UFC on Fuel TV 4), Lyoto Machida (UFC Fight Night 30), Yushin Okami (UFC Live 2), Matt Hamill (UFC 96)
Keys to Victory: Former NCAA wrestling champion Munoz maintains one of the best top games in UFC today. His patented "Donkey Kong" style of ground and pound has felled many a lesser middleweight, but it hasn’t been getting the job done against top competition as of late.
Munoz also experienced bouts with injuries, depression, and weight gain in recent years, unfortunate circumstances that halted a potential rise up the rankings.
But that’s all ancient history now; all "Filipino Wrecking Machine" can do now is wreck Mousasi.
To do so, he’s clearly going to look for a heavy amount of takedowns. Mousasi is a Judo black belt who won’t be dragged to the mat easily, but Munoz has the pedigree to get the job done. If and when the fight goes to the canvas, Munoz will use smothering top control not only to score points, but also to look for a finish with his ground strikes.
There’s simply no reason to stand and trade with a noted pugilist like Mousasi, especially with the striking displays Munoz has put forth lately. Turning this fight into an ugly, grinding affair will help Munoz get back on track this weekend.
Record: 34-4-2 overall, 1-1 UFC
Key Wins: Mark Hunt (DREAM 9), Ronaldo Souza (DREAM 6), Hector Lombard (Pride Bushido 13), Renato Sobral (Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg)
Key Losses: Lyoto Machida (UFC Fight Night 36), Muhammed Lawal (Strikeforce: Nashville)
Keys to Victory: Former professional boxer Mousasi has made a career out of outclassing foes on the feet. His lackadaisical style can give opponents fits by lulling them into a false sense of security, but the jury’s still out if he can continue to win like that in UFC.
He looked at least one step behind Machida in February, and his biggest UFC win was over late replacement Ilir Latifi at UFC on Fuel TV 9.
To move Munoz into that spot, Mousasi obviously has to keep this fight standing. Getting taken down like he did against Lawal will be a surefire path to a second straight loss. Even though Mousasi has an excellent ground game that has earned him 11 submission wins, it’s going to be nearly impossible to lock on a fight-ending hold with a beast like Munoz raining down shots.
The striking department is where his advantage clearly lies, and Munoz has shown that his chin isn’t all that amazing. Mousasi needs to fight with a bit of calculated urgency here, peppering Munoz with a high torrent of jabs and combinations to disrupt his wrestling rhythm.
Attempting too many kicks isn’t advised because it should see him taken down rather easily.
"Dreamcatcher" has a ton of highly technical striking skill and is nearly impossible to finish. However, he can be ground down by high-level wrestlers. The pressure is on him to keep this fight standing so he can implement his gameplan.
Bottom Line from Berlin: The bottom line here is that we have a rather clear-cut wrestler vs. striker match-up.
By now, that dynamic has become cliché in MMA, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a better example in today’s era of wholly well rounded fighters.
It’s apparent that Munoz’ success will rest on the shoulders of his wrestling, but there’s also some underlying factors at play here as well. His mental fortitude has to have taken a hit after he was on the cusp of contending for the belt less than two years ago; now he’s fighting for his relevancy.
A third loss in four fights will have the 36-year-old Munoz facing a mountainous climb through a treacherous gauntlet of elite opposition, so he has to win now.
Mousasi will be faced with less pressure, but make no mistake; he also needs a win in a bad way. Losing his first two truly legitimate UFC bouts will have fans and media alike deeming him a can crusher who finds easy success outside of UFC but falters when faced with the best fighters in the world.
Mousasi is also focused and collected to the point of being almost nonchalant inside the cage. That may actually be detrimental to his plight at this point, so it’s time for him to ramp up his attacks somewhat.
A win will put either fighter on an upward trend, but there will still be much work to be done.
The stakes are high for Munoz and Mousasi, and their respective paths to victory are rather transparent. Enjoy the fight.
Mark Munoz and Gegard Mousasi desperately need a win at UFC Fight Night 41 to prove they can take on the top 185-pound talent in the Octagon. Which experienced veteran will get the momentum-boosting victory?