UFC Fight Night: Munoz vs. Mousasi – Preview/Predictions for the Top 3 Fights

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Gegard Mousasi and Mark Munoz are neither rivals nor friends. They’re just a pair of dudes who get paid pretty well to punch other dudes in the face. Good times. | UFC/Zuffa LLC.

UFC Fight Night: Munoz vs. Mousasi
Saturday, May 31, 2014 | Berlin, Germany
UFC Fight Pass: 3 p.m./12 p.m. ET/PT

It’s already Tuesday, but many of us are still buzzing about this last weekend’s title upset. UFC 173: Barao vs. Dillashaw was a splendid night of fights, rife with finishes and spectacular moments, but it’ll be remembered, more than anything, for the unbelievable performance set forth by T.J. Dillashaw, a man who no one – this writer included – gave a chance to. He put on the performance of a lifetime against Renan Barao, who until then was being sold by many of the UFC’s brass – most notably president Dana White – as being the #2 pound-for-pound fighter in the organization.

Where does that leave Barao now? Where does that place Dillashaw, the guy who gave him a four and a half-round shellacking before putting the TKO kibosh on him in the fifth? That discussion is for another day, it seems, because the UFC’s event cycle is such that there’s nary a week that elapses without yet another event appearing on the horizon. Good news for MMA journos like me who, week in and out, are delivered topics to expound upon, and good news for those insatiable fans out there (among whom I count myself), who are given an excellent reason to save some of that sweet moola we all work our butts off for.

The only folks who might consider this not-so-great news are those sad saps who are still holding out on the UFC’s online subscription service, UFC Fight Pass. Part of the selling point of the service, which contains within its digital walls an immense library not only of past UFC fights but fights from Pride, Strikeforce, Elite XC, Affliction, WEC and several other now-defunct promotions, is the opportunity to watch live events from all over the globe that would otherwise be unsalable if broadcast live on regular television. This Saturday’s UFC Fight Night: Munoz vs. Mousasi is such an event. Broadcast live from the O2 World Berlin in Berlin, German and starting at 3 p.m. Eastern Time, the card, aside from its headliners, a few TUF alums and three or four moderately recognizable names, is comprised of largely unheralded talent – a prospect that dulls the minds of those with only a passing interest but one that simultaneously titillates fans scouting out the next big fighter to be hip to before the masses converge upon them.

Here’s a preview of the top three fights of the evening.

Gegard Mousasi will not have ring rust to blame if he fails to win this Saturday | Esther Lin - Strikeforce

Gegard Mousasi will not have ring rust to blame if he fails to win this Saturday | Esther Lin-Strikeforce

MAIN EVENT
Middleweight (185 lbs.) Fight – 5 Rounds
#7 Mark “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Munoz [13-4]
vs.
#11 Gegard “The Dreamcatcher” Mousasi [34-4-2]

It’s a very rare thing in the modern era of mixed martial arts to describe a fight as having a “grappler vs. striker” element to it, but that could be said in earnest about the titular bout of the evening which pits two top-15 middleweights of vastly disparate styles against one another. Both fighters are fresh off of losses to the man fighting Chris Weidman for the title in July, Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida, and it might be therein that we can best examine how these two fellows match up with one another.

Neither fighter was able to do much against Machida. While Munoz could barely touch the former UFC light heavyweight champion (en route to losing via first-round head kick knockout), Mousasi at least stayed in there throughout their five-round affair. He didn’t do much either, but the distinction remains; Mousasi is tougher to put away, as is evident by his zero losses by knockout and only two career submission defeats (the last of which occurred eight years ago).

Not many people are giving Munoz a chance in this fight, and the reasons are simple: Mousasi has better striking, footwork, durability and overall versatility than does Munoz, whose wrestling and ground striking acumen have proven to be his best path to victory. Granted, Mousasi isn’t that terrific at stopping the takedown (he hits the mat at least once every two attempts), but Munoz hasn’t appeared to have improved his transitions into going for the takedown, as is evident by his less-than-pedestrian 27% takedown accuracy.

There’s also the fact that Munoz has been knocked out cold in two of his last three fights, and although Mousasi’s punching power might lack the concussive force that Machida and Weidman possess, the 28-year-old former Strikeforce champion has five rounds in which to seal the deal.

Gegard Mousasi defeats Mark Munoz by TKO.

 Francis Carmont's sole UFC loss was to Jacare Souza in his last outing. | Eric Bolte-US PRESSWIRE

Francis Carmont’s sole UFC loss was to Jacare Souza in his last outing. | Eric Bolte-US PRESSWIRE

CO-MAIN EVENT
Middleweight (185 lbs.) Fight – 3 Rounds
#9 Francis “Limitless” Carmont [22-8]
vs.
C.B. “The Doberman” Dollaway [14-5]

Before dropping a unanimous decision to Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza back in February, the 6’3” Parisian Francis “Limitless” Carmont had strung together an impressive 11-fight win streak which began in 2008 and persisted through the UFC’s lower-to-mid middleweight pool. Had he won against Souza, he’d likely be on the surprisingly short list of viable contenders at middleweight. As it stands, he’s facing TUF runner-up C.B. Dollaway, a fighter who had, until recently, shown just a dim glimmer of promise since tapping out for the second time to Amir Sadollah in his UFC debut six years ago.

Since then, Dollaway’s run rather hot and cold, alternating winning and losing streaks while never quite cracking the top 15 of the division. This Saturday, he’ll finally get his chance to do just that.

Both fighters are athletically capable, although it would be disingenuous to suggest that Dollaway’s natural gifts are on par with Carmont’s, who is among the most physically intimidating fighters at 185 pounds. If you’d have asked me two fights ago who would win this, my answer would be far easier to come by, but Dollaway looked awfully impressive against Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira in his last outing, blasting the TUF Brazil 1 winner with a beautiful combination while his back was to the cage and stopping the Belfort protégé in his tracks. Then again, Ferreira’s always been kind of chinny, and until that moment he was in control of the fight for the most part.

Dollaway’s wrestling should keep him off of his back for the majority of the fight, but Carmont probably won’t be running jaw-first into punches like the guy before him did.

Francis Carmont defeats C.B. Dollaway by unanimous decision.

 TUF 17 alum Luke Barnatt will likely try to use his considerable reach advantage to keep Strickland at bay. | UFC/Zuffa LLC.

TUF 17 alum Luke Barnatt will likely try to use his considerable reach advantage to keep Strickland at bay. | UFC/Zuffa LLC.

Middleweight (185 lbs.) Fight – 3 Rounds
Luke “Bigslow” Barnatt [8-0]
vs.
Sean “Tarzan” Strickland [14-0]

Illustrating just how in need the UFC is of new 185-pound contenders, all three of the top fights on Saturday feature fighters knocking at middleweight relevance’s door. An extra wrinkle has been added for this matchup, however, as both fighters competing are putting their undefeated records on the line – an occurrence always worth giving a little extra attention to.

The first overall pick on the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter, Luke “Bigslow” Barnatt displayed genuine promise while on the show – at least enough to earn himself a contract with the organization after the competition wrapped (obviously, he didn’t win the show itself). Since then, he’s delivered on the promise that Chael Sonnen saw in him, stringing together three solid victories, each more impressive than the previous one. At 6’6”, he’s among the rangiest dudes fighting at 185 pounds, and considering he’s only 26 years old, the sky is literally the limit for this stretched-out Brit.

Don’t expect the former long-dominant King of the Cage middleweight champion Sean “Tarzan” Strickland to be intimidated, however. The Riverside, CA resident proved successful in his UFC debut this last March, trouncing TUF alum (and Greg Jackson product) Bubba McDaniel via first-round rear-naked choke. Sure, at 6’1” he’s a bit shorter than Barnatt, but he’s also a little faster than him, and as the saying goes, speed kills.

Sean Strickland defeats Luke Barnatt by unanimous decision.

 

Also on the card…

Featherweight (145 lbs.) Fight – 3 Rounds
Tom Niinimaki [21-5-1]
vs.
Niklas Backstrom [7-0]

 

Lightweight (155 lbs.) Fight – 3 Rounds
Nick Hein [10-1]
vs.
Drew Dober [14-5]

 

Middleweight (185 lbs.) Fight –  3 Rounds
Magnus Cedenblad [11-4]
vs.
Krzyszstof Jotko [14-0]

 

Bantamweight (135 lbs.) Fight – 3 Rounds
Vaughan Lee [14-9-1]
vs.
#7 Iuri Alcantara [29-5]

 

Welterweight (170 lbs.) Fight – 3 Rounds
Peter Sobatta [13-4-1]
vs.
Pawel Pawlak [10-0]

 

Featherweight (145 lbs.) Fight – 3 Rounds
Andy Ogle [9-4]
vs.
Maximo Blanco [9-6-1]

 

Heavyweight (207+) Fight – 3 Rounds
Viktor Pesta [9-0]
vs.
Rusian Magomedov [11-1]

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Jesse Scheckner

A freelance MMA, entertainment and business journo born, raised and residing in Miami, FL, Jesse Scheckner is a former semi-serious musician, cinephile and recovering ne’er-do-well who still believes Mickey Rourke’s finest performance in film has yet to come. He is TuffGnarl.com's editor-in-chief, a feature staff writer for MMASucka.com and the 2014 MMA Media Correspondent winner at the Florida MMA Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner to talk about the stuff he writes about with him.

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