After an 8 month layoff due to injury Mark Munoz returns to the UFC Wednesday evening at UFC on Fuel TV. He will take on the undefeated Chris Weidman in the main event. Munoz has not lost in 2 years while riding a 4 fight winning streak.
Before Munoz was hurt he was scheduled to take on former #1 contender Chael Sonnen, and a win in that fight would have set him up for a title shot. With champion Anderson Silva in need of a new contender after defeating Sonnen for a second time at UFC 148, will a win over Weidman earn Munoz that spot?
Munoz is widely considered a top 5 middleweight & could be next for Silva if he wins Wednesday night. With a 12-2 record & on a solid win streak it would seem he is a very likely candidate. With Silva just fighting last weekend the two will line up well in the fall if Munoz can win without getting injured.
However, there is another contender who would like a shot against the seemingly unbeatable Silva. Newly signed Hector Lombard has been talked about as a contender if he earns a victory July 21st at UFC 149 versus Tim Boetsch. Being the last Bellator middleweight champion & owning a very impressive 31-2 record he has a strong case to make.
The question for both Munoz & Lombard fans will ask is the strength of the upcoming opponents enough to earn a title shot? Both Wediman & Boetsch are not top contenders but are on great runs in the UFC. The strength of opponent may be irrelevant at this time since other top contenders Vitor Belfort & Michael Bisping are both injured.
Fans may question Lombard’s record since he has not fought in the UFC. Munoz does have 9 UFC bouts under his belt but he has not defeated a top middleweight. His most notable wins are over Demian Maia, CB Dolloway & Chris Leben. Lombard has defeated names such as Alexander Shlemenko, Brian Ebersole & most recently Trevor Prangley.
Neither man has top ranked opponents on their resumes but regardless they are both in position to challenge Anderson Silva. Lombard has the better overall record but Munoz’s record in the UFC may give him the edge in the eyes of UFC management.
With the rash of injuries in the UFC lately the healthier fighter after the fight may earn a title opportunity. No decision will be made for a number of weeks so the UFC can see how each fighter is after their fight. Both Munoz & Lombard have the ability to finish a fight, so a quick win may be key to who is named as the new number one contender.
Lombard has made it publicly known for a while he wants to face Silva. Munoz feels he is in a position to have a title shot & will ask for it if he wins this week. Both will need to have impressive wins if they want that rare opportunity. Dana White & his team will have some work to do if both men come out with wins this month. With the state of the middleweight division both men are deserving of the chance at the belt.
Personally I would like to see Lombard receive his shot. He was signed to a large contract to be a force in the division. If he can finish Boetsch convincingly it would be a marketable fight with another organization’s champion being the challenger. Munoz, who is also deserving, will have his time whether it is this year or next. Only time will tell who is tabbed as the challenger but it is in their hands to earn it.
Written by Mike McPhee
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