In a razor close fight, Mark Munoz barely pulled through with a unanimous decision win over Demian Maia in this UFC 131 Middleweight fight. A bit of controversial scoring in this one as one judge gave it to Munoz 30-27, which, even if you saw it for Munoz, seemed a bit out of place and prompted this great line from Dana White: "The judge that scored that 30-27 should be BEAT WITH A STICK!!!!!!!!"
What was the high spot of this fight?
After a first round of stand-up, it looked like we would not get the hoped for wrestling vs. jiu jitsu match-up. But in round two the action went to the mat quickly, leading to a number of excellent exchanges in the ground. The best came in the middle of the round when Munoz attempted a choke, leading to a beautiful series of scrambles, reversals, submission attempts, and escapes with each man showing off the ground skill that made him a champion. In the end, both men ended on their feet, and the crowd joined them in appreciation of high level ground work.
Where do these guys go from here?
Munoz is now 6-1 at Middleweight, with that only loss coming via split decision to #1 contender Yushin Okami. I'd say that puts him right in the line of serious title contenders and only 1 or 2 wins away from a possible title shot. Next up for him should be another opponent close to the belt - either Brian Stann or the Wanderlei Silva vs. Chris Leben winner would make sense. All those names would also test Munoz's striking, which is definitely a test he must pass if he hopes to challenge Anderson Silva.
Maia remains one of the division's best, but is in danger of becoming a gatekeeper. With losses to Nate Marquardt, Anderson Silva, and now Munoz, he has some work ahead of him if he wants to get back to title contention. It seems pointless to give him an easy fight at this point, so I would like to see him against someone like Jorge Santiago.
Watch it now, later, or never?
Watch it later, but it definitely should be seen. We'll be seeing more of Munoz at the top of the MW division, and this is the biggest win of his career so far. It also has some very nice technical work in every area, from standing, to the ground, to the clinch. It's not the crazy fight we saw in Einemo vs. Herman (or Beltran vs. Rosa), but there's a lot of quality work going on here. Plus after you watch it you can join in the complaints about the judging.