Munoz interview: Work with Roach may push him past Hamill

Steve Cofield

Mark Munoz was one of four fighters who attended the final UFC 96 press conference. Much of the media covering UFC for the first time had to be asking, who is this guy? Afterall, he's making his UFC debut yet he's one of the top four fighters featured? Maybe that says a lot about the promotion's regard for the guy. The 2001 NCAA wrestling champ at 197 pounds is getting rave reviews from fighters in Southern California as he makes the move over from WEC.

Munoz is trying to develop his game quickly and is excited about his work at the famed Wild Card Gym with Freddie Roach. Munoz got to work with boxing champs like Michael Moorer, James Toney and Manny Pacquiao. He raved about Pacman, a fellow Filipino. He's gained a lot of respect for boxers and their striking:

"(James Toney) has got years and years of boxing experience," Munoz said when asked if he had a chance to step into the ring with Toney. "I'm just learning how to pick it up and weave it into my style of mixed martial arts. If we did strictly boxing sparring, dude it's a wrap, I'm done. It's good just to see the mechanics of how you should punch."

Watch Munoz talk boxing and his opponent Matt Hamill with Cage Writer:

This is a helluva test for both fighters. This may be the first time Hamill has faced someone he can't overpower with his clinch and wrestling games. Hamill has also been suckered into slugfests at times but his power has always made up for his flaws. Can Munoz's work at Wild Card give him the edge?

"I know where I'm confident in my positions. I know where I can finish. I know where I'm good on my feet and that's where I'm going to force the fight."

Munoz is the last guy to talk trash but he got in a subtle dig (7:00 mark) at Hamill's game:

"The thing about mixed martial arts, it's not about who's bigger, it's not about who's stronger, it's the one who's more saavy and knows technique. I don't think he's going to be able to hold my head down and punch me and get me in a front headlock and punch me. Then again I don't want to discredit that either."

Hamill's technique may be a bit rudimentary at times, but it has worked.

Munoz won't brag but Brandon Vera, who's trained with the former Oklahoma State star, says Hamill may be in for it. Rick Rudolph, a former Munoz wrestling opponent and MMA fighter agrees, according to Bloody Elbow.com:

"He’s just a dominant, dominant guy. Mark Munoz is an NCAA national champion. That’s not good (for Hamill). Mark Munoz is a ridiculous wrestler. It’s not even in the same category. That’s essentially where he’s at. Hamill’s good, but the wrestling is not gonna be an issue. The wrestling will be dominated by Munoz. When you go with a guy at that level, it’s like, ‘How did you dominate me?’"

We'll find out if Munoz is worth all the hype in the cage tomorrow night.

Check out Cage Writer's UFC 96 fight picks for the entire card including newly posted recommended plays.

Cage Writer is on the scene with a live fight blog from fight No. 1 and a live chat at the start of the pay-per-view broadcast on Saturday night. Check back after the fights for the only live UFC 96 postfight show with Cofield and Versus.com's Ariel Helwani from Nationwide Arena starting at 1:30 a.m. ET. You can listen here.