On Saturday night (U.S. time), the UFC returns to Germany for the third time. The organization makes its debut in the country’s capital city at O2 World in Berlin. With a big international push in 2014, this will be the first of 15 events outside the United States for the remainder of the year, with only 12 U.S. cards on the docket.

Although the UFC brass understands that adding home-country fighters to international cards is important, they know that fans want to see the top fighters on the roster for the headline bouts. At UFC Fight Night 41, the main event will certainly not disappoint.

Mark “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Munoz has always been one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC. Going 10-4 under the Zuffa banner, the hard-hitting NCAA Division I All-American wrestler has faced a who’s who of the middleweight division. He has notable wins over Demian Maia, C.B. Dolloway, Kendall Grove and Tim Boetsch, and his most recent losses came by knockout at the hands of UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman and former light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida. Even though he dropped two of his last three, Munoz is currently ranked sixth in the division, and a win on Saturday night will keep him in contention for a title shot. His opponent is no walk-through competitor.

Gegard Mousasi is a former Strikeforce, Dream and Cage Warriors titleholder who debuted in the UFC in April 2013 after the Strikeforce merger. The Iranian-born Dutchman also holds an amateur boxing title and a black belt in judo, as well as notable wins over Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Renato “Babalu” Sobral, Mike Kyle, Hector Lombard and Ovince St. Preux, all of whom are current or former UFC talent. His only two losses in his last 24 fights were decisions to Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and the aforementioned Machida. At 1-1 in UFC action, Mousasi is desperately in need of a win over Munoz to stay above .500 in the Octagon.

With both men coming off losses to Machida, this is a huge event, not only for the fans, but for the fighters themselves. Munoz is the more typical American fighter with a wrestling background and heavy hands, whereas Mousasi is the more typical European finesse fighter, making for a very interesting headliner for the UFC’s first trip to the formerly divided German capital. Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up, and as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Munoz  9, Mousasi  10

Make no mistake, Munoz is a great striker, and his six knockouts speak for themselves. However, only two of those knockouts took place inside the Octagon, and between Weidman’s elbow and Machida’s foot, Munoz has shown some holes in his striking game. Against Machida, Munoz tried to block a head kick with a single, open hand, which is a boxing-oriented mistake in a sport that is chock-full of kickboxing techniques. Against Weidman, Munoz did what he tends to do a lot. He put his head down to throw haymaker right hands and left himself open. Weidman recognized this and threw an elbow to his wide-open temple, sending him to the mat. Mousasi does not make these types of mistakes.

Mousasi’s fight with Machida was a lot different than Munoz’s bout, because Mousasi is more technically proficient on his feet and fights a lot like the Brazilian. He throws most of his strikes from a distance, has a much better defense, and throws a wider variety of angles. Mousasi will be very difficult for Munoz to get to, and if the American gets too close, he will be leaving himself open for some seriously accurate shots.

On the feet, Mousasi has a lot more experience and skill than Munoz, giving him the upper hand.

Submission Grappling: Munoz  10, Mousasi  10

In terms of pure submission grappling, this fight is much more closely matched. Munoz has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Mousasi has a black belt in judo. Mousasi has 11 submission wins to Munoz’s one, but Mousasi has been submitted twice and Munoz has never tapped out. These statistics are purely a function of time spent in the cage, with Mousasi having 40 pro fights to Munoz’s 17.

Munoz has a camp of fantastic ground fighters at Reign Training Center, and he has gotten just about every look possible, considering he hasn’t really formally competed much in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. However, his wrestling allows him to maintain superior position on the ground, and, as any BJJ expert will say, “Position before submission.” However, with Mousasi being a little more savvy in the actual submission department, bottom position is not necessarily a bad place to be.

Mousasi would have the upper hand from a purely submission-oriented standpoint, but with Munoz’s ability to out-position his opponents, the grappling game is a toss-up.

Wrestling: Munoz 10, Mousasi  9

Mousasi’s length advantage will be his saving grace in the wrestling aspects of this match-up. Munoz is a high-level wrestler with a powerful clinch, a strong top game and good takedowns, when he completes them. Munoz may have an unusually low takedown accuracy percentage for a wrestler, but when he completes them, it’s with a little bit of gusto. Mousasi’s sprawl and overall defense might keep Munoz from attempting many takedowns, though. If it does hit the mat, Munoz will have no problem maintaining top control.

Munoz is a superior wrestler, but fans will most likely only see this in the clinch.

X-factor

The x-factor in this match-up is Mousasi’s elusiveness. Munoz had big problems with Machida because of Machida’s distance game, and Mousasi is no different. Many fans feel that this style of fighting is boring, but it’s still very effective. Munoz is an awesome, classy fighter, but, like some of his stablemates have shown in recent battles, being a great wrestler with heavy hands is simply not enough in today’s era of MMA. The elusive guys who maintain distance and do a lot of their damage from the outside are the ones who most often prevail. Munoz is most effective from the inside, and Mousasi doesn’t let his opponents inside easily, which is why his only two losses in 24 fights are by decision.

Total: Munoz – 29, Mousasi – 29

Verdict: Munoz is a fighter who needs to get close to do damage, and that simply won’t happen in this fight. He doesn’t have the forward-pressing kickboxing skills, like Mauricio “Shogun” Rua used to defeat Machida, and his wrestling is not enough of an advantage to win points over Mousasi. Mousasi will do most of his work outside of Munoz’s reach, stuff most, if not all, of his takedown attempts, and outpoint the American on his way back into the UFC’s middleweight top 10.

Mousasi by unanimous decision.

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator