Courtesy of UFC
Published Wednesday, June 8, 2011 | 1:55 a.m.
Updated Wednesday, June 8, 2011 | 10:41 a.m.
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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer discuss UFC on their weekly radio show, which airs Monday at 5:30 on 91.5 KUNV. They preview this weekend's UFC 131 fight card in Vancouver and briefly look back at last week's "The Ultimate Fighter" 13 finale.
Asked for his thoughts on UFC 131 opponent Mark Munoz, Demian Maia had to mention his “heavy hands”.
Munoz, a middleweight who fights out of Vallejo, Calif., would likely smirk at the compliment. The 33-year-old Munoz (10-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) has become known as a power puncher because of recent performances.
But he doesn’t see it.
“I tell people all the time that my weakness is my stand-up,” Munoz said. “For me to be able to get a knockout feels awesome.”
Since transitioning to mixed martial arts from his career as a college wrestler at Oklahoma State, most of Munoz’s fights have taken place on the feet. According to official UFC statistics, Munoz has only seven successful takedowns in seven contests inside the octagon.
Additionally, he’s won five career fights by knockout as opposed to only one by submission. He still says he feels uncomfortable when standing and trading blows with an opponent.
C.B. Dollaway might argue otherwise. Munoz knocked out Dollaway in less than a minute at the UFC on Versus 3 card in Louisville, Ky., three months ago.
After Dollaway briefly took him down, Munoz got back to his feet and landed a potent straight right followed by an uppercut. Dollaway immediately dropped and the referee jumped in.
Munoz said he felt something he had never experienced before when his hand connected with Dollaway’s chin. It was the closest he had ever come to throwing a perfect punch.
“I was like, ‘Wow, that’s how it feels,’" Munoz said. “It’s kind of like when a lion gets his first kill. That’s how it really is. Now, I’m hoping there’s more to come. I’m training for that.”
Maia (14-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC) has proven difficult to finish. Nate Marquardt is the only fighter to ever knock him out.
As one of the top Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters in the world, Maia tries to bring all his bouts to the ground and work on submissions. Most of Maia’s opponents — notably Anderson Silva at their UFC 112 middleweight title fight — do all they can to stay on their feet.
But Munoz said he realized some of the fight would go to the mat this weekend. He even welcomed it.
“No one has seen much of my ground game, so I think that’s why the UFC is giving me Demian Maia,” Munoz said. “They want to see if I’m well-rounded. They haven’t seen me defending triangles, armbars and stuff like that. They want to see the wholeness.”
If Munoz beats Maia — sports books currently list him as a slight favorite — he’ll break into the top 10 of the 185-pound weight division. Munoz figured he’d face a top 10 middleweight after impressing in the Dollaway bout. But he was caught off guard when UFC called to offer him Maia — in a good way.
“I was like, this is an awesome fight,” Munoz said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and this is huge for me. It’s definitely a chance to put me where I want to be in the division.”
Although they haven’t met, Munoz and Maia are very familiar with each other's style because they’ve shared training partners. Munoz frequently works with the Nogueira brothers, whom he said also spent time with Maia in the past.
Munoz has always admired Maia’s game. Maia sounds just as impressed with Munoz.
“He’s a tough wrestler and experienced athlete,” Maia told the UFC web site. “He doesn’t have a lot of MMA fights, but he has a lot of wrestling matches, so I think he’s a very experienced competitor.”
Munoz isn’t concerned with how the fight plays out. If it goes to the ground, he can show how confident he is there.
If it stays standing, Munoz expects to find out how far his striking has developed. It’s definitely coming around. He could tell with one punch against Dollaway.
“I had never felt that in a fight,” Munoz said. “I had felt it in practice, but there’s headgear and big gloves. That felt like I was hitting pads. When you hear that pop and feel it in your arm and know it was great technique, it felt the same way. I just want to follow it.”