Mark Munoz took yet another step towards a middleweight title shot, earning a TKO victory over Chris Leben in the main event of UFC 138 in Birmingham, England, on Saturday.
The fight was an absolute war that saw both fighters land heavy power punches. But it was clear the pace was to much for Leben, who took several deep breaths towards the end of the first round. The second frame saw Munoz take over with his wrestling and vicious ground-and-pound, which resulted in a nasty cut over Leben’s left eye.
With Leben complaining he couldn’t see, the ringside doctor was brought in to inspect the laceration. When referee Marc Goddard told Leben he would stop the fight, the TUF alum changed his story and claimed his eye was fine.
After 10 minutes of fighting, Leben’s corner was forced to call the fight.
“Chris Leben is a tough, tough competitor,” Munoz said to Joe Rogan. “I knew I had to look out for his left hand. I had to ignore my brawling instincts and utilize my wrestling.
“I’ve paid my dues in this weight class and I think I deserve a title shot. Anderson Silva is the top pound-for-pound fighter. I give him all the respect and honour, but I think I deserve a title shot right now.”
A disappointed Leben admitted he needs to work on his wrestling.
“Hard to fight when you're choking on blood,” Leben said. “He got my good.”
“Munoz is a national champion wrestler. He’s as good as they come and I have to go back and look at my ground game.”
Renan Barao scored the biggest win of his career, submitting Brad Pickett in the co-main event.
The two slugged it out in an entertaining scrap, but it was Barao landing the bigger shots. After tagging Pickett with a brutal knee to the face, Barao swarmed with punches. As Pickett attempted to scramble to his feet, Barao leaped onto his back like a cat. Moments later he slipped in a rear-naked choke for the submission win at the 3:32 mark of the first round.
“It was a very hard training camp with my team Nova Uniao,” Barao said through his translator. “I train everything from boxing to wrestling to jiu jitsu.
“I feel very complete, but I have a lot of room to grow.”
Former welterweight title challenger Thiago Alves returned to the win column, submitting UFC newcomer Papy Abedi.
Abedi came out hard, got in Alves’ face and looked to be holding his own in the striking exchanges. But after three competitive minutes, Alves rocked him with a straight right to the temple and followed with a stiff left-hook. Alves then bloodied Abedi with elbows on the ground before slapping on a rear-naked choke.
“I noticed every time he threw the left hand, he was dropping his hand,” Alves said.
Anthony Perosh out-classed Cyrille Diabate on the ground before submitting the French kickboxer with a rear-naked choke.
Diabate had some early success, keeping the fight standing and utilizing his reach advantage to punish the submission specialist. But when Diabate charged forward with punches in the second round, Perosh used his aggression against him to take the fight to the mat.
From there Perosh blasted away with ground-and-pound before slipping in the choke.
“My philosophy is position before submission,” Perosh said. “I hurt him with some hard shot and heard him (groan), so I went for the choke.”
Perosh is now riding a two-fight win streak since dropping to light-heavyweight.
Terry Etim’s comeback bout couldn't have gone any better, as the British prospect submitted Edward Faaloloto with a guillotine choke in only 17 seconds.
Following a submission loss to Rafael dos Anjos 19 months ago, Etim suffered a rib injury that put him on the sidelines. He admitted it was a frustrating time in his life, but said he's relieved to be back on the winning path.
“It was absolutely killing me,” Etim said. “But I’m back, I’m 100% and I’m ready to make an impact on this lightweight division.”
John Maguire survived an early scare to win an exciting unanimous decision over Justin Edwards in the final preliminary bout.
After getting dropped by a right hook, Maguire put on a grappling clinic for three rounds to win his UFC debut.
“Are you real?” Maguire joked when interview by Rogan. “I’ve waited for this for so long, Joe.
“I’ve proved that some Brits can wrestle and submit (opponents).”
Michihiro Omigawa earned his first UFC victory, smothering Jason Young en route to a dull unanimous decision.
The judo black belt was clearly outmatched in the striking department, but utilized his superior clinch technique to trip Young to the mat where he did little in the way of submission attempts.
In his last outing at UFC 131 in June, Omigawa was robbed by the judges against Darren Elkins. He admitted the loss weighed heavily on his mind going into the bout.
“Since starting in the UFC it’s been quite tough, especially in the last fight where the judges went against me,” Omigawa said through his translator. “I'm glad to get my first win here.
“Of course it was playing on my mind. It has since the last fight, but I tried not to let it get to me.”