Former Cowboy National Champion wrestler Mark Munoz will return to the octagon this Saturday during the prelims of UFC 184. Munoz is looking to get back on track after losing three of his last four fights, including his last bout against Gegard Mousasi. His opponent, Roan Carneiro, will be making his first appearance in the UFC since 2008. Carneiro, who enters the fight with a professional record of 19-9, is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Munoz enters the fight with a 13-5 professional record and is the 13th ranked middleweight in the UFC.
What a win would mean for Munoz
Munoz wants to get back to being considered one of the top middleweights in the world. A win in this fight would be a step in that direction. As the favorite, Munoz can't afford a loss if he wants to remain a ranked middleweight. Munoz last three losses have come against fighters at the top of the division, this time he is fighting an unranked fighter who hasn't fought in the UFC in over six years, a loss would be devastating.
What a win would mean for Carneiro
In his return to the UFC, a win for Roan Carneiro would be enormous. A win over the 13th ranked middleweight would be a rock solid first step in an attempt to climb the middleweight ladder. Carneiro will undoubtedly experience nerves in his return, but he should also have a ton of energy entering the octagon. If Carneiro wants to secure a UFC roster spot on a more permanent basis, he needs to win this fight.
What to expect when the fighters are standing
Standing is where Mark Munoz wants to be in this fight. Despite his gifted wrestling ability, he will not want to go to the ground with Carneiro. According to the UFC stats, Munoz lands 3.26 significant strikes per minute, compared to only 1.41 for Carneiro. Munoz also has a 54% knockout ratio in wins, while Carneiro only has a 16% knockout ratio. Munoz will use his wrestling ability to defend takedowns in order to keep the fight standing. If he can avoid takedowns Munoz should put consistent pressure on Carneiro with his strikes. If Munoz is going to win the fight by stoppage, it will be with a knockout, as he has never won a fight by submission.
What to expect on the ground
Carneiro wants to take this fight to the ground. I expect him to try and take Munoz down. If Munoz tries to take him down don't be surprised if Carneiro lets him. Carneiro has world class jiu-jitsu and has won 42% of his fights by submission. Carneiro averages 4.32 takedowns per fight, which is more than the 2.49 average of Munoz, so Munoz has to be careful defending takedowns. Munoz lost his last fight by submission, if he wants to avoid the same fate he needs to keep this fight standing.
Any time a fighter has been on the shelf for six plus years it's hard to predict what might happen. I expect Carneiro to come out with a ton of energy and motivation. Carneiro will land a takedown in the first round in an attempt to submit Munoz. However, I believe the wrestling pedigree of Munoz will allow him to get back to his feet. After the adrenaline wears off and both fighters settle in Munoz will find his range boxing. He will wear down his opponent with punches before eventually winning the fight by knockout in the third round.