The two sides of Mark Munoz

November, 5, 2011
11/05/11
7:57
PM ET
Gross By Josh Gross
ESPN.com
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Mark Munoz is as polite as he is vicious.

These aren't necessarily competing ideas, though the implied contradiction doesn’t need to be pointed out. However he manages to do it, Munoz pulls off both character traits exceedingly well.

As proof: Saturday evening in Birmingham, England. Munoz was nothing less than vicious while executing a plan of attack that allowed him to simultaneously damage and control Chris Leben. In other words, Munoz put Leben on the canvas and ground-and-pounded one of the UFC's most established veterans into a vision-impaired bloody mess.

We know through nearly two decades of popularized mixed martial arts that there isn’t a style more connected to winning than pinning an opponent to the canvas and unleashing every fistic tool available. Ground-and-pound is the most basic, effective and common route to exerting your will onto another person. The mere coinage of the term is testament to that.

Munoz only stood in front of Leben as was required. He wasn't scared to trade punches, but it was clear from the outset that it wasn't his intention. And when you're as dominant on the floor as Munoz tends to be, why would you approach a fight any other way?

Between the second and third rounds, after Leben dealt with being repeatedly smashed in the face, he expressed the fact that he could no longer see. The fight was over. Such endeth the viciousness. It was time for Munoz -- the polite.

Speaking in a cage red with the blood of a man he just mauled, Munoz wondered aloud to UFC color commentator Joe Rogan if middleweight champion Anderson Silva might be so inclined to grant him an opportunity to fight for the title.
[+] EnlargeChris Leben vs. Mark Munoz
Martin McNeil for ESPN.comChris Leben, bottom, had no answers for Mark Munoz's attack at UFC 138.

That's paraphrased, but you get the sentiment. He was very sweet about it, and not in any contrived sense of the word. Nope, this was Munoz being Munoz.

Chael Sonnen might have bellowed into a microphone in an attempt to defame and embarrass the best fighter of his generation. Munoz, alternately, acted as if he might not be worthy of the opportunity, but he sought it nonetheless. No matter what happens with the rest of his career, that humility will serve him well as he continues on in this world.

On the merits, you can argue whether or not Munoz "deserves" the title shot. But let's say Silva agrees, the UFC signs off, and sometime in 2012 the "Filipino Wrecking Machine" is set to fight a man he deeply respects -- a former training partner, or, more accurately, a training mentor.

So what kind of shot does Munoz have?

Well, we saw what Sonnen did to Silva. Munoz, too, is an excellent wrestler. As previously mentioned, he knows what to do when opponents are grounded. It makes sense that Munoz could put Silva on his back and unleash enough venom to hurt the champion. Munoz, like Sonnen, is a high-output fighter. He won't tire easily. His aggressive, physical method on the floor also helps him avoid submissions. Munoz maintains posture very well.

All those things could come into play and help him upend the UFC middleweight champion. Of course, no one matches "The Spider" when it comes to stand-up striking. The champion exists in a world of his own, but Munoz can take comfort in knowing he's excelled at range and control. And if he can close distance and turn it into a brawl, hey, why not?

Munoz is plain likable and that's an important factor, too.

Silva is better when he's angry. It motivates him. Considering what we know about Munoz, he wouldn't play the part of a flamethrower like Sonnen has. He doesn't need to, nor does he want to. Yet when it's time to work, Munoz is no less prepared to smash and maim.

Vicious and polite. Now that's a tough combination to beat.

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