UFC Fight Night 30: Machida Knocks out Munoz
At UFC Fight Night 30, held in Manchester, former light heavyweight champion Lyoto 'The Dragon' Machida stepped in for an injured Michael 'The Count' Bisping and knocked out top middleweight Mark 'The Filipino Wrecking Machine' Munoz in the Brazilian’s first fight at 185.
Adding interest to this contender bout was the fact that before Bisping’s injury, Munoz was training with Machida. The two had become friends. But this is business, so the two squared off for the five round elimination fight.
Munoz had reinvented himself after his KO loss to current 185 pound champ Chris Weidman. The ‘Filipino Wrecking Machine’ is a ground and pound phenom who worked diligently on his stand-up and conditioning. But facing the former All-American Oklahoma State wrestler was a Brazilian known for his wizardry in take down defense.
Questions asked by fans and pundits revolved around Machida’s weight cut. Though he’d been fighting at 205 pounds, he never had to cut much, if any, weight. Weight cutting can negatively affect stamina, but can positively affect speed and power, or vice versa. At 205 Machida's disadvantage in size was an advantage in speed and agility.
While not an unsolvable puzzle---Machida has been submitted by LHW champion Jon Jones and KOed by former champion Mauricio Rua---his mastery of distance and movement effectively make all but the very best stand up fighters look like they’re slogging in ankle-deep mud. That was the case here.
From the opening bell Munoz was out of range, flailing wildly and missing with kicks and punches. Meanwhile, Machida was landing solid body kicks and quick combos from outside and gauging and timing the finish. The head kick came at 3:10 of the first.
Machida is the quintessential martial artist and was at Munoz’s side when he woke up. The devastating finish signaled Machida’s significant threat at 185. It also sets up a potential fight between Machida and Anderson Silva, who is slated to meet Weidman in a rematch for the MW title. Machida and Silva are also friends and former training partners.
Machida’s luck had run out at LHW, and he didn’t move down to 185 to avoid Anderson Silva. Silva and Weidman are the only two in the weight class who pose a significant risk to Machida. Sometimes a shift down in weight isn’t necessarily a good thing, as with Kenny Florian and former 155 pound champ Frankie Edgar. But 185 is Machida’s natural weight. He could win the belt and keep it for a long while.
In the co-headliner, the fight between Melvin Guillard and Ross Pearson was stopped and ruled a no-decision in the first round after an inadvertent illegal knee (to a downed opponent, meaning a hand or knee was on the mat) opened a gash on Pearson’s forehead that prompted the cage-side doctor to halt the bout.
Commentator Joe Rogan handled the controversy with class, pointing out that an attacking fighter cannot always be aware of his opponent touching the ground with his fingers, which was the case here. Ross Pearson was against the fence, bent, his upper body controlled by Guillard, when he reached down to touch the mat in order to be protected from more strikes, which is not dissimilar to tapping in this case.
It was most disappointing to the crowd, which was robbed of a fight potentially rife with thunder claps and lightning bolts. It’s a natural match-up since both men are intimidating strikers. However, the rule should be for fighters who are trying to get up or scrambling, not for them to reach down and touch the mat as a form of defense.
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