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Mark Munoz unafraid to stand up and strike with Chris Leben

With as many strike-based stoppages to his credit as decision wins, former NCAA champion wrestler Mark Munoz has made it clear his stand-up can be as big a threat to opponents as his takedowns. That theory will be put to the test on November 5 when “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” faces notorious brawler Chris Leben in the main event at UFC 138.

Leben has finished seventeen of the twenty-two opponents he’s beaten including twelve via TKO. Were that not enough, “The Crippler” is coming off a sub-minute knockout win of Wanderlei Silva in his previous performance and is known for packing dynamite in his gloves.

Munoz recently discussed the task at hand in a conversation with Tatame and surprisingly said he’s open to banging it out with Leben despite his grappling credentials.

“I felt like my weakness was striking, and so I always tell everybody that if you work on your weaknesses and make them your strength, you don’t have any weakness,” Munoz began on his boxing/Muay Thai. “So, I work on my striking a lot. My striking actually has gone to the point where I’m very good now. I know I can get a powerful punch and I know I have a lot of power in my strike, so I’m gonna use that, definitely in my fights to come and I’m definitely gonna need my wrestling and all the other things about my game.”

Based on his confidence in every aspect of the sport Munoz is not concerned where the bulk of his upcoming bout’s action takes place.

“I’m ready wherever the fight goes against Leben,” he explained. “I’m a wrestler, so I’m gonna try to take him down, and I think he knows that, but at the same time I’m confident with my striking as well. So, I’ve proven myself to be a good mixed martial artist and you gonna see a mixed martial artist in there, no matter if it’s on the feet or on the ground, you gonna see good aspects of both on my feet or on the ground. Yeah, I’m being more of a complete fighter now.”

The 33-year old Munoz, who holds an overall record of 12-2, has won six of his last seven fights including three straight with the only exception being a Split Decision loss to Yushin Okami a little over a year ago. With the middleweight division in the midst of a minor logjam, Munoz doesn’t expect a title-shot with a win but is still determined to earn one before his time in the sport is over.

“Obviously I’m in the UFC to become a world champion and that’s what I wanna become. Winning that fight I know I’m getting closer and closer. If they give me a title shot, so be it. If they don’t, I’ll keep fighting to get there.”

UFC 138 will be shown for free on Spike TV based on the event taking place in the U.K.. Other bouts on the card include Brad Pickett vs. Renan Barao, Thiago Alves vs. Papis Abedi, and Jason Young vs. Michihiro Omigawa.

MMATraining Take: The UFC needs to employ bodyguards and on-site EMTs for Munoz and Leben over the next few weeks because UFC 138 can in no way afford to lose its headliner as UFC 137 did. It is one of the weakest top-to-bottom lineups the organization has produced in a long time. That being said, Munoz vs. Leben should be fun and I can definitely see one of the two getting knocked out rather than outpointed.

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