Mark Munoz had a lot to prove last night against Tim Boetsch. The former Middleweight top contender needed to make a statement after a brutal loss to Chris Wiedman last year, and the struggles that followed it. It was a big opportunity for Boetsch as well, another top ten opponent and a chance to re-track his title contention hopes, following a loss to Costa Philippou.
The fight started as a competitive style on style matchup with Boetsch dragging Munoz down, and Munoz reversing for positional dominance. Munoz showed some exciting standup when the two fighters were able to create a little space, but that was ultimately not where the fight was decided. After a back and fourth first the tide started to shift, slowly at first, but to a dramatic eventuality.
In the second Munoz became dogged in his pursuit of the takedown. While they didn't come easily he was eventually able to drag Boetsch down and keep him there, where he landed the devastating ground and pound that he's always been known for. Boetsch was able to get back to his feet and land a few shots, but the round was ultimately Munoz's.
In the third, Munoz really poured it on. Boetsch shifted his defense to submission attempts off Munoz takedowns, but to no effect. Munoz beat him badly with hammer fists to the body and punches to the head. By the time the fight was done, Munoz had put together a career defining performance and one of the best displays of determination and ground striking in the UFC in recent years. Mark Munoz def. Tim Boetsch via Unanimous Decision.
What was the high point?
Munoz's hammer fists to the ribs. They looked to be causing the kind of pain that would make even the most visually numb fan wince. At that point I'd rather just be knocked out and given the chance to wake up wondering what happened rather than dealing with the damage that those kind of body shots will leave behind.
What was the low point?
This was a great fight. If there was a low point, I don't know what it would be.
Where do they go from here?
For Munoz, it's another shot at divisional relevance. He may not get the instant title shot he wants (and I don't think he deserves it), but he should get another top Middleweight in a title eliminator match right away. He hasn't fought Bisping and he hasn't fought Belfort; if Weidman's tied up with Anderson, one of those two seem like the inevitable next step.
For Boetsch there are lots of options, none of which will lead him right back to the title picture. Alan Belcher, Brian Stann, and Chris Camozzi are all decent fighters coming off a loss and would provide a good test for Boetsch. The Middleweight division is a lot bigger than it used to be and has a lot of good fights for divisional gatekeepers.
Watch it now, later, or never?
Watch it now. Its a great reminder that not every wrestling heavy fight needs to be a slow grind and by the end I was literally sitting at home applauding Munoz for his incredible performance.