Mark Munoz was gearing up for one style of opponent in Michael Bisping at UFC Fight Night 30 in England, but now he’s getting a much more complicated draw. With Bisping out of the October 26 main event due to an eye injury, the UFC inserted Lyoto Machida into the equation to fight Munoz. Machida had been scheduled to battle Tim Kennedy in his middleweight debut at the UFC’s Fight for the Troops event in November.
While Kennedy is a solid competitor, the Munoz matchup is definitely a more attractive one for “The Dragon.” A victory over a top-five ranked 185 pounder would help to speed up Machida’s quest to become a champion again. The former UFC light-heavyweight champ decided to drop down in weight to kick-start a career that seemed to have stalled at 205 pounds. He had already lost to current champion Jon Jones and “Bones” has made it clear he has no desire for a rematch. Machida lost a highly controversial decision to Phil Davis at UFC 163 in Brazil in his last outing. After starting his career with sixteen straight victories, Machida is just 3-and-4 in his last seven fights.
As for Munoz, this is a tremendous opportunity as well. “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” can draw closer to title contention if he can defeat a fighter of Machida’s pedigree. Munoz looked sensational in his last fight against Tim Boetsch as he brutalized his opponent with a furious ground and pound display at UFC 162. Only the toughness of “The Barbarian” allowed the fight to get to the scorecards with Munoz registering the dominant decision win. It was a new-look Munoz who was in tremendous physical shape and it was one of the more impressive performances of his UFC career. He’s 5-and-1 in his last six fights with that lone defeat suffered at the hands of current middleweight champ Chris Weidman.
The change in strategy is now intriguing. In preparing for Bisping, Munoz knew he would get a straightforward fighter with solid power and grappling skills. “The Count” basically comes to fight and looks to punch your lights out while maintaining a solid pace. Bisping is famous for getting under his opponent’s skin with all the trash talking in advance of a fight. That obviously won’t be the case with Machida.
The Machida approach is much different as he has the unorthodox karate style that utilizes powerful counterattacks. The one key factor is that this will be his first fight at 185 pounds inside the Octagon. Will his body respond the same and will the reflexes be as sharp with the weight drop at this late stage of his career? Machida’s preparations won’t change much as both Kennedy and Munoz possess grinding styles. Munoz is a superior wrestler and packs a bigger punch than Kennedy does.
It shapes up as a terrific fight and Machida replacing Bisping is about as good as it gets for an injury replacement with the fight less than a month away. There’s plenty on the line for both fighters and no doubt Munoz will have to do plenty of studying as he aims to solve what amounts to be a very difficult puzzle.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports