via Esther Lin for FanHouse
Mark Munoz took a unanimous decision over his old friend Aaron Simpson at UFC 123.
The two former NCAA wrestling stars and close friends opened the Spike TV broadcast of the UFC preliminaries as Aaron Simpson faced Mark Munoz at UFC 123. It was an action packed and hard fought fight, slightly marred by some questionable refereeing.SBN coverage of Strikeforce Challengers 12: Wilcox vs. Ribeiro
Simpson came out aggressive in the first, backing Munoz up with combinations of punches to the body and face followed by a leg kick and then a single leg attempt. He forced Munoz to the cage but didn't get him down. They returned to cage center. Munoz scored on the ensuing exchange with a hard looping right then they clinched against the fence again. Simpson landed a hard knee to the body. More standing exchanges. Munoz shot and got stuffed. Simpson with a headlock then took his back standing. Munoz escaped. Simpson shot in and got Munoz down but Munoz quickly shook him off when Simpson took his back high. More trading with wild exchanges. Munoz scored with a hard right and an uppercut that forced Simpson to shoot. More wrestling left them in over-unders against the cage. Simpson with a nice tie up on the leg but can't achieve control. Simpson landed a hard knee. Munoz answered with a high kick. Very close and action packed round.
Simpson again opened with a punch to the body followed by a kick to the body and then he caught Munoz counter kick and got a take down. Munoz spun out and landed a spinning back fist on his escape. Munoz scoring hard punches in the exchanges. Munoz with followed with a take down. Simpson stood up and fought free. Then a low blow from Simpson paused the action. Munoz started bleeding from the forehead after an inadvertent head butt. Simpson caught a low kick twice but couldn't get a take down either time. Munoz landed with a body kick and Simpson answered with body punches. Another caught kick. Munoz landed a hard high kick to the face. Simpson shot in and forced Munoz to the ground. Ref forced a very quick stand up just as Simpson passed guard. Very bad reffing. They clinch again and Munoz landed a low blow with a knee to the cup forcing another pause. Simpson landed a single leg on the restart but Munoz switched and worked for a take down of his own. Simpson escaped. Munoz with a hard right hand. More over-under tie up against the fence.
Both men came into the third knowing that the final round would likely decide the fight. They hugged to start the round. Simpson caught another kick for a take down but Munoz transitioned, took his back and landed a hard hard shot on the ground. Simpson claimed an eye poke and called time out. The ref awarded the time out but the instant replay showed it was a knuckle to the eye. Simpson caught another leg kick but Munoz fired away with punches and stayed standing. Munoz forced the clinch against the fence and landed knees to the body. Another restart. Simpson landed a combination on the break. Munoz charged in, forced a clinch and then whaled away to Simpson's thigh with punches. More over-under against the fence, trading positions. Munoz firing combinations on the break. Simpson shot in, got stuffed but landed a left on the break. Simpson seemed tired as the round ran down. Munoz landed knees to the body in the clinch and more combination punches. Simpson desperately fought for a single leg and got Munoz down then got a front headlock but Munoz fought his way to his feet. A brutal exchange against the fence as time slipped away. Munoz got the better of it.
The two fighters brought very similar backgrounds and even a long-time friendship into the Octagon at UFC 123. But they agreed to put friendship aside for the night to advance their MMA careers.
Simpson was a two-time NCAA All-American at Arizona St. while Munoz was also a two-time All-American with a NCAA championship title in 2001 at 197 pounds. Both Simpson and Munoz transitioned to coaching at the collegiate level following their own wrestling careers, Simpson at Arizona St. and Cal Tech while Munoz assisted at UC-Davis. They even discussed transitioning to mixed martial arts while coaching at the NCAA Championships in 2007.
Both men entered the fight coming off a loss. Simpson to Chris Leben at The Ultimate Fighter season 11 Finale and Munoz to Yushin Okami at UFC on Versus 2.