Munoz vs. Weidman II? Maybe.
One year ago, an injured Mark Munoz suffered his worst defeat to date in the hands of then up-and-coming middleweight Chris Weidman. Munoz was outwrestled, dominated in the first round of their match. In the second round, “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” came out swinging, but Weidman countered with a beautiful right elbow, knocking Munoz out cold before he even hit the mat.
The crushing defeat caused Mark to spiral into depression: the once disciplined, muscular wrestling national champion turning into a flabby, 260-pound binge eater after he found solace in food. Six months later, we find that same person at 185 pounds being welcomed back to the Octagon by no less than Tim Boetsch.
The first frame saw Boetsch taking down Munoz rather handily, sneaking in a few choice shots before Mark was able to get back to his feet. I would have to agree with Mike Goldberg that the first round was more of Munoz regaining confidence in his wrestling more than anything else. Then in the second and third, Munoz displayed his championship calibre wrestling beautifully. For an oft wrestling-aversive Las Vegas crowd, everyone cheered and applauded “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” for using his technical wrestling base to gain the upper hand and punish Boetsch with relentless ground-and-pound.
The result could not have been more satisfying than a dominant unanimous decision victory for Munoz as he returned to the Octagon after a year of battling his personal demons. You could read his lips as he kept on saying, “I’m back! I’m back!” You could feel his excitement as Joe Rogan beckoned him for the post-fight interview. “Finally!” Mark exclaimed as he drew close to Joe. It was a beautiful moment if you understand the deep, dark, and lonely place Mark had to drag himself out of after the injury and the Weidman loss.
By all means, it could have been a sweet ending for Munoz’s night then and there. But the Lord had other plans. Maybe Anderson Silva had other plans. Conspiracy theories will forever hover that strange main event. What we do know is Weidman knocked the G.O.A.T.’s lights out. Whether or not Silva overcommitted to his psy-war to keep the fight standing, Weidman proved that he is talented enough to take Silva down and keep him on the ground (before diving for a leg lock, of course), and he has the power to wipe anyone’s smug smile off their faces with a well-placed shot. And just like that, Chris Weidman is the NEW UFC middleweight champion!
Weidman’s victory vindicates Munoz because he – with or without injury – did not lose to some random chump. The man he lost to one year ago actually won the middleweight championship in his very next fight! At the very least, this outta give the UFC middleweight rankings a stir: Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, and anyone else Vitor Belfort massacred as of late could not rank higher than Munoz who lost to the new champion and bounced back strongly against No. 10 Boetsch (or they could, because all rankings are subjective anyways :).
At most, I could see Mark Munoz having one more top contender fight before he fits nicely into the title picture once more. The latest reports indicate that Anderson Silva is rethinking his stance on an immediate rematch, and Vitor Belfort and the winner of Okami-Souza will very well have a thing or two to say about Munoz leapfrogging them. For all the Filipinos who are clamouring for an immediate Munoz vs. Weidman II, just ask Cub Swanson how hard it is to get a title shot these days (unless you’re Chael Sonnen), and you wouldn’t be complaining that much. Besides, having another fight would only strengthen Munoz’s confidence and resolve, making sure that he is indeed ready if given the chance to fight for the title, against Weidman, Silva, or otherwise.
Regardless of how the next few months pan out, Mark Munoz is back in the win column. And if his performance in UFC 162 is any indication of things to come, expect the 35-year-old “Filipino Wrecking Machine” to be stronger, faster, more at peace with himself when he steps inside the Octagon once more!
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John Hudson Go is the Editor-in-Chief of MMA Philippines. He is also the Senior Sports and Music Events Writer for When In Manila.