In January, Mark Munoz was just one fight away from a middleweight title shot. While it was not certain that he would have been able to defeat Chael Sonnen, Munoz’s opportunity was derailed by an elbow injury that required surgery.

Perhaps fittingly, Munoz’s next foe, Chris Weidman, was the fighter selected to plug a hole on that same Fox card when Munoz was forced out. When Michael Bisping was moved up to face Sonnen, Weidman took on Bisping’s original opponent, Demian Maia. The undefeated Weidman dominated Maia on just a few weeks’ notice, prompting his fight with Munoz.

Now the two decorated wrestlers will headline UFC on Fuel TV 4 on July 11 from San Jose, Calif. The fighter who comes out on top will be in prime position for a title shot against the winner of the Anderson Silva-Chael Sonnen title fight at UFC 148.

Let’s take a deeper look at the Munoz-Weidman match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills matchup against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Munoz – 10, Weidman – 9

Munoz (top) delivers ground and pound (Sherdog)

Whenever two wrestlers are pitted against each other in MMA, you rarely see a wrestling match. In fact, more often than not, you see a striking battle. If that happens in this fight, the edge has to go to Munoz.

Not only is Munoz slightly more experienced than Weidman, he’s got the track record to show just how dangerous his hands really are. Of his 12 career wins, seven have come by KO, TKO or submission due to strikes. “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” has lived up to his moniker against the likes of Chris Leben, Kendall Grove and C.B. Dollaway.

Weidman is six years the junior of Munoz, and hence has less cage time. However, under the tutelage of Ray Longo, the New Yorker has developed a solid boxing base. While he’s yet to demonstrate finishing ability with his hands in the UFC, he does hold two TKO wins prior to joining the promotion. He will also hold a six-inch reach advantage over Munoz, which could play a factor in this fight.

The longer the fight stays on the feet, the more it favors Munoz. Yet, if Weidman can establish his jab and keep Munoz guessing, he may be able to land some shots. Munoz can get overaggressive and drop his hands, as evidenced by his fight with Demain Maia. Even so, Munoz’s ability to turn out the lights will be Weidman’s biggest concern.

Ground Game: Munoz – 9, Weidman – 10

Weidman (L) applies a choke (James Law/Heavy MMA)

Both of these 185-pounders hold the rank of purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but much the way that Munoz holds a distinct advantage on the feet, Weidman has the edge in the submission game.

Munoz has not forced an opponent to submit—except by strikes—to this point in his career. And while he has faced high-level grapplers like the aforementioned Maia, he has never been tested on the mat. Due to his infatuation with his striking, Munoz does not look to attack with submissions, and his primary focus is avoiding them.

The same cannot be said for the Matt Serra-trained Weidman. Where Munoz loves to put his opponents to sleep with his hands, Weidman looks to choke them out on the mat. Two of his four wins in the promotion have come by submission, including a devastating D’arce choke that saw Tom Lawlor go unconscious before he could tap.

Although we’ve yet to see either of these fighters attack off their backs, if Weidman gets on top of Munoz at some point during their five-round affair, the door will be open for him to try to be the first to submit Munoz.

Wrestling: Munoz – 10, Weidman – 9

Munoz (L) wrestles with champion Anderson Silva (Marcelo Alonso/Sherdog)

The aspect of this fight that may tip the scales in Munoz’s favor—albeit barely—is in the wrestling department. Although both fighters were two-time All-Americans, Munoz has something Weidman doesn’t: a national championship.

Also, Munoz wrestled for wrestling powerhouse Oklahoma State. Weidman’s Hofstra is no slouch on the mat, but it does not have the same accolades of Munoz’s collegiate home.

Furthermore, Munoz has demonstrated the more dangerous MMA wrestling. His pace and willingness to get inside his opponent’s range had led to frequent takedowns from a variety of positions and angles. The question against Weidman is whether he can actually take him to the ground.

X-Factor

The wildcard in this fight is how Weidman responds in his first main event. Munoz has headlined before—against Chris Leben at UFC 138—and he’s trained for a five-round fight. Both will be new territory for Weidman. Fortunately for Weidman, he’ll have a full camp behind him, something rare to him in his young career. Will that be the difference? Additionally, Munoz will be making his 11th appearance under the Zuffa banner versus Weidman’s fifth. Will that experience discrepancy decide the outcome?

Scorecard: Munoz – 29, Weidman – 28

Verdict: So long as Munoz shows no ill-effects from his elbow injury, he’s the more complete fighter. Weidman’s rise through the middleweight ranks has been meteoric to say the least, but he’s facing a more experienced competitor with a potential title shot on the line. Munoz puts the first blemish on Weidman’s record with a fourth-round TKO.

Top Photo: Mark Munoz celebrates (Sherdog)

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