After yet another heroic performance from the UFC’s biggest star, Anderson Silva, the world reacted with immediate questions. Will there be a trilogy between Silva and the highly-talented Chael Sonnen? Is there anyone that can beat this miraculous legend? But the most important question remains—who is next?

Many believe the future does in fact hold a third meeting between Silva and Sonnen, while others believe we’ve seen the end to arguably the most heated rivalry MMA has ever seen. There are many names—names such as UFC newcomer Hector Lombard and Octagon veteran Michael Bisping—that begin surfacing now that Sonnen has been defeated for a second time.

However, the one name that makes the most sense for a shot at Silva’s shining gold is that of Mark “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Munoz. The only thing that has hindered the way of a potential showdown between Munoz and Silva is an elbow injury that has sidelined Munoz for the last eight months.

Mark Munoz (James Law/Heavy MMA)

While Munoz is certainly qualified for the opportunity, he will first need to prevail in his upcoming main-event bout against Chris Weidman at UFC on Fuel TV 4 on Wednesday, July 11, in San Jose, Calif. Munoz’s performance will indicate whether or not he’s fully recovered from his elbow injury, but more importantly, if he’s ready for a shot at the middleweight title.

“There’s no questioning that I want a shot at the middleweight belt,” Munoz told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “That’s been my goal since coming to the UFC.”

“I’m feeling great and recovering from my injury. You know, when you enter any fight, I don’t think anyone is ever ‘100-percent’ healthy. Everyone has their issues and their fair shares of minor setbacks. That will be the same thing for me heading into this fight, but overall I’m feeling great. It got to the point where the pain was [unbearable],” said Munoz. “The time that I’ve taken off has helped me fully rehabilitate my elbow and get back to where I need to be to contend for the No. 1 contender’s spot.”

Munoz’s injury led him to be scratched from his showdown with Sonnen, which was scheduled for UFC on FOX: Evans vs. Davis. Instead, Munoz will now meet a fellow wrestler in Weidman as he hopes to capture his first win since November of 2011.

When two wrestlers take the center stage, the outcome is more than likely to be a grueling ground battle. Not this bout. Instead, Munoz’s improved striking skills and Weidman’s stand-up have left many wondering if we’re in for an unexpected slugfest. While nothing is ever guaranteed inside the Octagon, the chances of an entertaining performance are increasingly favored.

“I don’t think this is going to be one of those fights where we battle for ground position the whole night. I think fans can really expect to see this fight go a little bit of everywhere. This fight is going to be off the cage, from corner-to-corner, and back-and-forth the whole night,” said Munoz. “This is going to an exciting fight.”

“I’m gunning for a top position in the 185-pound division,” Munoz added. “I’m ready to take out who’s ever in my path.”

If Munoz can manage to outlast Weidman in just a few short days, it’s still likely he may be in for a battle against former Bellator star Hector Lombard. Munoz hasn’t been shy in sharing his discontent at Lombard’s potential immediate shot with just one win in the UFC.

Mark Munoz (R) (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

Munoz, who holds seven Octagon wins in just nine appearances, believes that Lombard must first earn his stripes. However, with all the talk of the former Bellator champ approaching the UFC throne, he’ll still need to defeat rising star Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch in their middleweight clash at UFC 149.

“That’s one thing that a lot of people are forgetting,” Munoz pointed out. “Tim Boetsch is a tough, tough opponent. He showed that against Yushin Okami in his last win. You can never count him out of a fight. Hector is a veteran of the sport and also brings a lot to the table. It’s going to be a great fight.”

“This fight is going to be a tough one to call, but I’m in favor of Boetsch.”

While Munoz’s crosshairs are set on Weidman, he’s not opposed to fighting anyone in the middleweight division. Even if it means squaring off with Lombard for a chance at UFC gold.

“I’ll fight whoever it takes to get to the top.”

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