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Mark Munoz came into UFC 138 as the #4 ranked middleweight in the world in the USA Today / SB Nation Consensus Rankings. Chris Leben had been on a bit of an upswing in his career but still sat at only #13. So with Munoz dominating Leben, one has to wonder if the idea of Munoz vs. Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight championship is something the fans would buy into.
Silva is lacking in fresh title challengers to the point that I was resorting to making a case for Leben as a challenger should he have knocked off Munoz. A rematch with Chael Sonnen should obviously come before anything else, but has Munoz now done enough to put himself in line for a shot?
On one hand, four straight wins has been plenty enough for title shots for others and the idea of a fresh name across from Silva is appealing. As a Filipino, Munoz has a passionate fanbase that is always excited to embrace successful fighters. There are certainly plenty of positives to look back on.
But then one looks at fights like Munoz's performance against Demian Maia. Maia, a much lesser striker than Silva, cracked Munoz and even appeared to have him hurt. The idea of what Silva would do to those openings brings to mind images of sheer brutality. Munoz struggled at times even in success against Kendall Grove and Aaron Simpson, his wrestling has never looked truly dominant in the transition to MMA.
But picking out flaws that Anderson Silva would be able to exploit is a losing game. Silva is as elite as elite gets in this sport and his dominance to this point is a function of his ability to capitalize on every mistake his opponents make.
Munoz is likely as good, if not better, of a challenger than anyone else not named Chael Sonnen at this point. He could probably benefit from another fight and more exposure and it may make sense to utilize the "hot product" of the winner of Bisping vs. Miller in a title shot first but Munoz would appear to be "in the mix" now.