UFC Fight Night: Machida v. Munoz – Main Card Breakdown

October 26, 2013

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UFC Fight Night: Machida v. Munoz – Main Card Breakdown



“UFC Fight Night: Machida v. Muñoz” airs live on Sportsnet 360 on Saturday, October 26.  Due to the event airing from the Phones 4u Arena in Manchester, United Kingdom, televised coverage will begin at 3 PM (EST).

The UFC’s free televised cards are an ideal opportunity for the company to introduce fresh challengers, put on exciting fights to attract new PPV buyers and give exposure to top contenders who are on the verge of a title shot.  That potential contender spot is where Mark Muñoz found himself last July, when he was matched up with Chris Weidman.  It didn’t go well for The Filipino Wrecking Machine and instead of a lucrative meeting with Anderson Silva, he was on the wrong end of a nasty TKO.  Weidman went on to upset Silva and instantly become one of the most famous martial artists in the world.

On Saturday, Muñoz gets a second chance to prove that he belongs in the main event; standing across from him is a far more established name than Weidman: Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida.  A perennial PPV headliner, this will be Machida’s second appearance on free TV.  If he can match the one punch KO he delivered to Ryan Bader last August, he’ll find himself that much closer to having a belt around his waist again.

Also featured is a key flyweight tilt, the return of fan favourite Alessio Sakara, and what should be a thrilling stand-up battle between Ross Pearson and Melvin Guillard.

 

Flyweight Bout: Phil Harris (1-1 UFC, 22-10 [1 NC]) v. John Lineker (3-1 UFC, 22-6)

 

Lineker has established himself as a world warrior, fighting in Brazil, China and now the United Kingdom.  His last three wins have come against the best flyweights from three different countries: Yasuhiro Urushitani (Japan), Azamat Gashimov (Russia) and José Maria (Brazil).  It’s only fitting that his next fight is with Harris, the number one flyweight from England.

In his last 17 fights, Lineker has gone 16-1.  On the strength of those performances, a win here could make him the number one contender or at least put him on a collision course with John Dodson for the right to face either Demetrious Johnson or Joseph Benavidez (set to rematch at The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale on November 30).  There’s also the matter of making weight, something Lineker has failed to do in 2 of his 4 UFC appearances.

This is actually a lucky booking for Harris, who was originally supposed to face Lineker at UFC 163 in Brazil.  Instead of being told that he is going to die, Harris can now bask in the warmth and adoration of his fellow Englishmen.  At 77% (KO or submission), he has an abnormally high finishing rate for a flyweight making him a live underdog against the heavily favoured Lineker.

Like Cerberus, the mythical three-headed beast that guards the Underworld, Johnson, Benavidez and Dodson have refused to allow anyone (apologies to John Moraga) to get past them and join the elite at 125.  Harris and Lineker are at the gates and they are hungry.

 

Middleweight Bout: Alessio Sakara (6-7 UFC [1 NC], 15-10 [1 NC]) v. Nicholas Musoke (0-0 UFC, 10-2-1 [1 NC])

MMA is not a team sport.  When someone gets injured, you wouldn’t think it’s as simple as plucking someone off of the bench to replace him.  That’s exactly the situation Musoke finds himself in as he replaces teammate Magnus Cedenblad (who himself was a replacement for Tom Watson).  Musoke has the unenviable task of welcoming 13 year veteran Sakara back to the cage in Sakara’s first fight since a questionable disqualification loss to Patrick Côté.

Whether he’s giving or receiving, Sakara is no stranger to memorable knockouts.  He’ll have to be careful with Musoke, a natural welterweight who is likely to have a considerable speed advantage.  Then again, Sakara’s temerity has long been his calling card.  Almost all of Sakara’s knockout victories have come inside of the first round.

Conversely, Musoke has never lost by knockout.  His only career losses have come against two promising European fighters, submission ace Danny Mitchell, and Cathal Pendred, who is all but guaranteed to join the UFC ranks in the near future.  Musoke is an aggressive fighter, which should make for an aesthetically pleasing match-up with the daring Sakara.

 

Lightweight Bout: Norman Parke (2-0 UFC, 18-2) v. Jon Tuck (1-0 UFC, 7-0)

The winner of the TUF: The Smashes lightweight bracket, Parke has looked as good as advertised in his first two UFC contests.  He knows how to use his size and when he takes you down, you usually stay down.  His stand-up is improving, but searching for submissions on the ground remains his strong point.

Tuck is no stranger to grappling himself.  He’s a BJJ brown belt under Jake Mapes (part of the Rickson Gracie lineage) and he won a gold medal at the 2010 World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Cup.  His career has been plagued by mishaps ranging from the frightening (a car accident) to the bizarre (an attack by a poisonous stone fish).  When the UFC came calling, Tuck spoiled Zhang Tiequan’s return to Asia and he’ll be more than happy to do the same to Parke who hasn’t fought in the UK in over a year.

 

Light Heavyweight Bout: Jimi Manuwa (2-0 UFC, 13-0) v. Ryan Jimmo (2-1 UFC, 18-2)

Count me as one of the many fans who are stunned that Jimmo is getting a cushy main card slot after stinking up the joint against Igor Pokrajac in his last fight in Winnipeg.  The blame doesn’t lie solely on Jimmo as it takes two fighters to have a bad fight, but he certainly didn’t look interested in being involved in anything that even remotely resembled entertainment.  That was a familiar sight to Canadian fans.  While Jimmo surprised everyone in his UFC debut by tying the record for the fastest knockout (0:07), the truth is that he had won and defended his Maximum Fighting Championship title by dragging opponents into the proverbial muck.

“Clash of styles” doesn’t even begin to cover the philosophical difference between Jimmo and Manuwa.

Born in Nigeria and raised in England, Manuwa’s MMA career got off to a fast start with 11 straight wins, all finishes.  Unfortunately, his dominance only enhanced the perception that he was facing subpar competition and his two UFC wins have provided no clarification.  Kyle Kingsbury was stopped when his eye swelled shut and Cyrille Diabaté went down with a calf injury (in fairness, Manuwa was clearly winning up to that point).  TKOs in name only.  If he can overcome the grinding style of Jimmo and find a way to finish, Manuwa will rapidly elevate up the fluctuating light heavyweight division.

 

Lightweight Bout: Ross Pearson (7-3 UFC, 15-6) v. Melvin Guillard (12-8 UFC, 31-12-2 [1 NC])

One of the lightweight division’s most divisive personalities, Guillard has made it impossible to predict how he will perform on any given night.  Prior to losing 4 of his last 6 fights, Guillard had put together 5 straight wins, punctuated by first round obliterations of Evan Dunham and Shane Roller.  Then things went haywire.  The Guillard who was so famously vulnerable to chokes reared his ugly head and he went plummeting down the rankings.  An unconvincing win over Fabricio Camões preceded two more losses (including the first KO of his career at the hands of Donald Cerrone) before he bounced back with a win over Mac Danzig.

The time is now for Pearson to pave his way towards a title shot.  The UFC would love nothing more than to have a legitimate English contender to compete on a UK card and Pearson fits the bill as a gifted fighter who knows how to stir up an audience.  A drop to featherweight produced mixed results, leading him to return to the 155 pound division.  He’s looked spectacular in his return, picking apart his rival George Sotiropoulos and doing the same to Ryan Couture.

The erratic Guillard will need to show focus and patience to avoid suffering the same fate.  The modern UFC lightweight is simply too skilled and tough to overwhelm with raw athleticism, even for one as superbly gifted as Guillard.  He’ll have his hands full with the technical acumen of “The Real Deal” Pearson in what will be the true main event in the eyes of many English fans.

 

Middleweight Bout: Lyoto Machida (11-4 UFC, 19-4) v. Mark Muñoz (8-3 UFC, 2-0 WEC, 13-3)

Machida makes a long anticipated move to middleweight and he’s jumping right into deep waters facing Muñoz, one of the very best at 185.  There’s a history between the two men, dating back to Muñoz being brought in to help the Black House team with their wrestling preparation.  This is a match built on mutual respect, though don’t let that fool you into thinking either man will hold anything back.  They both know what’s on the line here.

I’m curious to see what advantages Machida will find at a smaller weight class.  Size and strength were never an issue for the former champ as a light heavyweight.  His struggles stemmed from a style that often left judges scratching their heads, leading to some questionable losses (and one gift over Shogun Rua).  Muñoz loves to apply pressure and break down his opponents, but most men who are overly aggressive with Machida end up flat on their face.

Muñoz looked outstanding in his last fight against Tim Boetsch.  Everyone could see he was in the best shape of his life.  After the loss to Weidman, Muñoz said that he spiralled into depression.  Some scoffed at this confession, which is ridiculous.  Overcoming that dark period in his life has rejuvenated him and his comeback performance reminded everyone why he’s been firmly entrenched at the top of the middleweight rankings for the last few years.  His only losses are to Weidman and title contender Yushin Okami.  A win over Machida would change his life.

Did Phil Davis reveal the key to solving the Machida puzzle?  Despite being outstruck, Mr. Wonderful managed to avoid taking any hits that would look too damaging to the judges and stole rounds with late takedowns.  That certainly sounds like a gameplan that Muñoz could emulate, though there’s no telling how differently Machida might move at a lighter weight class.  He’ll be leaner.  Faster.  Maybe even stronger.  If any or all of that holds true, you may as well take Davis’ blueprint and run it through the shredder.

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