If you spend just five minutes in the presence of UFC middleweight Mark Munoz you’d realize that he is possibly the nicest person in all of mixed martial arts, always wearing a smile and as friendly as any fighter could be.
In the cage, Munoz unleashes a different kind of animal, but getting his goat outside of competition is nearly impossible. Up until a few weeks ago, Munoz was coming out of his shell a little bit thanks to perennial UFC bad boy Michael Bisping and his pre-fight trash talk that generally amps up the intensity before a showdown.
Munoz was geared up to whip out his silver tongue to fire back at Bisping when he got the call that his fight was being changed. Bisping suffered a set back with a previous eye injury that would put him out of the fight, and the UFC was replacing him with former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida.
It was a huge switch for Munoz because not only was Machida someone that didn’t get his ire up like Bisping, but just days earlier the two fighters were training together for their upcoming bouts. Munoz and Machida had become teammates over the last couple of years, as he helped the Brazilian work on his wrestling and the former NCAA champion was honing his striking under the karate expert and former UFC champion.
The dynamic for the fight was tossed on its head. Now Munoz not only had to face a friend, but someone that had helped him prepare for the exact bout he was about to fight.
"It’s a very big fight. Lyoto Machida’s a former world champion and a win over him definitely puts my name in the hat still. Although I did want to punch Michael Bisping in the face, it’s all good. I’m fighting a friend now, it’s crazy, but it’s business," Munoz told FOX Sports.
"He knows what I’m about. He knows a lot of the counters that I do as far as wrestling and some of the shots that I do. He’s familiar with that, but at the same time I’m familiar with what he does. It’s a half dozen eggs on one side and six on the other. It’s the same for each of us."
No matter what Machida knows or doesn’t know about Munoz’s preparation, the former Oklahoma State wrestler isn’t hiding his game plan or strategy. It’s just up to Machida to try and stop it.
"I definitely want to force him to wrestle me and get him on the ground," Munoz said. "That’s basically what it all boils down to. I feel like if anybody’s underneath me, they’re in danger of getting knocked out or I’ve been working on my jiu-jitsu, maybe they’ll get submitted."
Over the course of his career, Munoz has become the new age incarnation of former UFC heavyweight champion Mark Coleman — a vicious man-beast who gets an opponent to the ground, proceeding to drop bombs from the top and once the punishment begins, very few fighters are able to weather the storm. Munoz’s version of ground and pount is called ‘Donkey Kong punches’ — where he uncorks each shot with unrelenting power, enough to crumble a plumber trying to save a princess or in this case a Brazilian making his middleweight debut.
Cocky is never a word to describe Mark Munoz, but even he can’t deny that once he’s got an opponent on the ground, their chances of survival drop drastically with him on top. He knows he’s got the kind of power and speed to lay waste to anybody he faces on the mat, leaving only scorched earth beneath him and Machida — friend or not — will have to be his latest victim.
"I truly believe I rank one of the top here. I truly believe I’m a terror on top. I’m a terror when I get on top of you," Munoz said. "I can ride you and get you in a spot where you can’t get up, and just continue to beat you the whole time. That’s where I love to be. You saw it against Tim Boetsch and you saw it in a lot of different fights, and I’m just perfecting it. I truly believe I rank as one of the top guys to be on top of somebody and definitely inflict a lot of damage and punishment."
Machida won’t go to the mat willingly and his 79-percent takedown defense says that it won’t be easy to get him there, but Munoz knows that over the course of five rounds it only takes one takedown followed by a barrage of his ground and pound to put the former champion away and end the fight.
Then Munoz hopes that he and Machida can sit down to dinner after the fight and share a meal together as friends again. His friend might just have to endure a black eye or two to get there.