Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 138 Preview: Chris Leben vs. Mark Munoz

I’ve been reading a lot of write-ups on this fight online, and I couldn’t help but notice how many of them went out of their way to point out what a lousy MMA wrestler Mark Munoz is. Perception is often different than reality, and my perception of Mark Munoz was that he was a good wrestler. So I did what I always do when I’m met with such a conflict: look at Fight Metric’s stats for Munoz’s takedown game. And Fight Metric says that, when Munoz attempts a takedown, he’s successful 18% of the time. That’s pretty dismal.

It’s also dismal for my analysis of this fight, since I was going to argue that Munoz would take Chris Leben down and frustrate him on the ground. That might still happen, but it’s going to be a much tougher sell since Munoz has had such difficulty taking his opponents down.

So how is it that Mark Munoz is 11-2 in his professional MMA career? How is it that Munoz has the #3 SILVA score in the middleweight division? There are two parts to the answer. The first is that Munoz has actually been out-striking his opponents with impressive regularity. The second is that, while he struggles to take down his opponents, he’s still very tough to take down himself.

Now, Chris Leben isn’t going to be interested in taking Mark Munoz down. We know what Leben wants to do when he fights: brawl. This means that Leben lands a lot of power punches, takes a lot of power punches, and bets that you’ll go down before he does.

With that in mind, I anticipate that Munoz will, in fact, try to take Leben to the ground. If he’s successful, then he’s in business. Leben generally gets frustrated on the ground, especially against Jake Rosholt, who finished him with an arm-triangle choke at UFC 102. Munoz has developed a very solid ground game, even giving Demian Maia fits in his last fight.

Additionally, Munoz packs some very powerful ground and pound. In short, Munoz will have trouble getting Leben to the ground, but if he does, it’s a bad situation for Leben.

And I don’t think Munoz is in huge trouble if he stands and strikes with Leben either. Yes, Leben has a lot of power, but so does Munoz, and while Munoz has gotten stunned by strikes before, so has Leben. Remember Leben’s loss to Brian Stann?


Let me put it this way: the worst thing that can happen to Mark Munoz in this fight is that he’s forced to stand and bang against Chris Leben. Even if that happens, I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that Leben wins. Leben may be more likely to win in that scenario, but combine that possibility with what happens if Munoz gets the fight to the ground, and I think the result is that Munoz has to be favored to win the fight.


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