There aren't many fighters as universally celebrated in MMA circles as is Mark Munoz.
A fighter so often finds someone wishing him harm for every man shaking his hand, but, over the span of Mark Munoz's career, people have admired his spirit and work ethic as well as any other. The naysayers have been courteous for his efforts in being quiet outside the ring, but clamorous in his performances.
His career in the UFC certainly has been worthy of attention, with wins coming against the likes of Kendall Grove, Aaron Simpson, CB Dolloway, Demien Maia, and Tim Boetsch. He built a reputation as a resolute fighter able to stand with the best; win or lose. However, not much has gone his way in recent times. He enters the cage on Saturday with three straight first-round losses (1 KO, 2 SUB) coming over the course of the last nineteen months.
In a short span of time, a man stacking up wins for another run at contention becomes one whose line of employment is contingent on a single victory. What has come of Mark Munoz? His last defeat came against the previously unranked Roan Carneiro of Brazil -- a rear-naked choke in just 100 seconds of action. The hardest part to swallow might have been the fact that Carneiro hadn't fought in the UFC since 2008, and was 2-3 during the short span in which he had competed.
Not Lyoto Machida. No, not Gegard Mousasi. Certainly not Chris Weidman.
It was Brazil's Roan Carneiro.
Many felt this was undoubtedly the end of Munoz in the UFC; perhaps MMA in itself. He himself asserted that he would put more time towards his family life, and briefly shifted towards retirement. He will give the fighter's lifestyle one final shot against Luke Barnatt at UFC Fight Night 66 in Manila. All is on the line, as this fight could mean redemption for Munoz, or his most humiliating defeat yet in a nation to which he bears blood.
Barnatt is a 6'6 Middleweight from Southampton, England. He has scored 5 of 8 of his wins via knockout or submission; encompassing a well-rounded mixture of offensive strategies delivered effortlessly thanks to his ranginess. He hasn't been met with much luck on the scorecards, however, and has dropped two-straight against Sean Strickland and Roger Narvaez by split decision.
He's right in the thick of his prime at age 27, and knows that a win -- preferably coming inside of three rounds -- would once again get the fire burning in his career. A fire which had been raging around this time last year as he won three straight UFC fights certainly be doing so again with a win over Munoz.
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and former NCCA Division 1 wrestling prodigy has only once before conceded a height advantage of 5 inches or greater and a reach advantage of 8 inches or more in the UFC. That was at UFC 112, against the aforementioned Kendall Grove, a fighter whom he dismantled in arguably a career-best second-round KO victory.
Mark Munoz is lacking the ferocity he had in those days. It is easy to count him out now, but, at his best, his battle-tested skill set and blood-bound exigence made him a nightmare for any opponent. Long-and-tall Luke Barnatt would never be made an exception.
Don't think Munoz can't be the man as which we best know him; at least for one last time. We have no reason for such a lack of confidence in him or his capabilities. You also had best not think that a hungry Englishman, ten years younger than Munoz, is traveling halfway around the world for nothing but a single paycheck. This fight may steal the show, or at least offer a markedly grand finale to one man's career in mapping the future of his opponent's.
Catch Mark Munoz Vs. Luke Barnatt on the main card of UFC Fight Night 66; an event which will be shown live on Fox Sports 1 from the Philippines.