Mark Munoz vs. Chael Sonnen UFC on Fox 2: Jan. 28, 2012, Chicago, Illinois
It’s time for the UFC to shine on national television, and Dana White is hoping that UFC on Fox 2 main card participants Michael Bisping, Demian Maia, Chael Sonnen, Mark Munoz, Rashad Evans, and Phil Davis give fans what they want—more than 64 seconds of action.
With current UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva sidelined due to a sore shoulder, Sonnen vs. Munoz will decide who “The Spider” tangles with next. After Munoz’s recent departure from the good graces of Black House (where he was a training partner of Anderson Silva) and the obvious history between Silva and Sonnen, there is sure to be plenty of juicy drama, with a title shot for either contender. Regardless, this wrestler vs. wrestler matchup is guaranteed to produce a real challenge to Silva’s throne…but who has the advantages going in?
Many times, when experts of the same discipline square off in the Octagon, their specialties negate one another. Grapplers end up having striking battles, and strikers end up having grappling battles. With both Sonnen and Munoz cut from top-tier wrestling cloth, many fans may be expecting a slugfest rather than a wrestling clinic. However, it’s important to understand the differences in the type of wrestling each fighter brings to the table for this fight. Munoz, an outstanding scholastic (folkstyle) wrestler, was a two-time California State High School Wrestling Champion and an NCAA Champion at Oklahoma State University. Munoz made a living off of his athleticism, slick takedowns, speed, strength, and leg attacks.
On the other hand, Sonnen was an NCAA All-American at the University of Oregon and a Greco Roman (upper-body-only wrestling) Olympic alternate. Although the two fighters both share highly distinguished wrestling credentials, their respective styles do in fact translate differently to MMA. While Munoz’s ability to work for
leg-attack takedowns and scramble for positions on the ground may trump Sonnen in a traditional scholastic wrestling scenario, the benefits of Greco Roman wrestling tend to prove more useful within the cage. Sonnen, a product of old-school Team Quest, has spent the last decade learning to close the distance, smash an opponent into the cage, execute his dirty boxing from clinch, and take his opponent to the floor for some well-placed ground-and-pound. Thus begins the 15-minute grind, which has reduced a number of polished MMA veterans to tired, bruised, and beaten fighters with a blemish on their record.
In two of his last three fights, “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” has managed to stop his opponent with strikes. Munoz, with his orthodox stance, seems to be continually developing as a striker every time he steps into the cage. Having spent the last several years splitting time training between Black House, Kings MMA, and his new Reign Training Center, Munoz has consistently upped the ante with his hands. Should Munoz be able to acquire and maintain top position, expect to see powerful ground-and-pound courtesy of his Donkey Kong punches. Although Sonnen has consistently shown the ability to maintain top position and implement a damaging ground-and-pound gameplan, 16 decision wins have caused many fans and critics to question his power. Sonnen throws straight punches from his southpaw stance and has demonstrated a solid chin in his ability to walk through the punches of his opponents. Rest assured, though, that Munoz has a speed and athleticism advantage that could very well prove problematic for Sonnen.
With a recent submission win over durable Brian Stann, Sonnen showed smothering top control and a clean, technical execution of an arm triangle. However, Sonnen has also demonstrated a weakness in regard to defending high-level jiu-jitsu. This is of particular concern against armbars and triangles, which account for seven of his eight submission losses. That said, Munoz’s lone submission win came against Ryan Jensen via punches, so it’s safe to assume Sonnen probably won’t have to worry about defending flying triangles from the NCAA Champion.
Experience is the X factor that is very difficult—if not impossible—to quantify. Variables that come into play include: number of fights, wins, losses, types of losses, quality of opponents, venues, and main event experience. While Munoz boasts the stronger winning percentage (86% to 71%), Sonnen has been center stage for the past several years as a Zuffa headliner. Having a number of high profile fights, Sonnen has carried the heavy water for quite some time. This is where the experience factor becomes interesting. Munoz, currently on a four-fight win streak, is—simply put—a winner. When the chips are on the line and a W is the primary objective, Munoz usually finds a way to take home the victory, and he has done so since high school. Although this is not a championship bout, the implications of the win are of championship proportion. With the added pressure of UFC on Fox 2 media attention, it could be easy to become sidetracked and lose focus on the actual fight. It’s no secret that Sonnen wants a rematch with Anderson Silva, but if he’s not completely focused on Munoz, it will be an unpleasant 2012 as he tries to work his way back to title contention. Rest assured, both fighters are going to have their hands full managing their training schedules and fulfilling the ever growing media responsibilities that main card fighters are forced to juggle as the UFC moves deeper and deeper into mainstream culture.
FIGHT! Staff Picks
Eddie Kleid, Co-President: Munoz
Ladd Dunwoody, EIC: Sonnen
Jim Casey, Managing Editor: Sonnen
Paul Thatcher, Photographer: Sonnen
Jim Abrille, Applications Developer: Sonnen
Jason Finnell, Writer: Sonnen