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Munoz plays with fire, but gets by Maia at UFC 131

Steve Cofield
Cagewriter

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Mark Munoz was shocked early by Demian Maia, but stuck with his gameplan and picked up a big win by testing the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace's ground game. Munoz was given the unanimous decision, 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27, in a pivotal middleweight fight at UFC 131 in Vancouver.

This is a very rewarding win. All of the sacrifices that my family has made and all of the work my training partners put in to help me get ready for this fight — it all came to fruition tonight. Demian is obviously an excellent jiu-jitsu artist, but fortunately, my wrestling really helped me grind this one out," said Munoz.

Munoz got a wake up call in the first round. Maia came out throwing hard lefts that the former Oklahoma State wrestler simply wasn't picking up. Just 45 seconds into the fight, Maia nailed him with grazing left. Munoz's legs went out as he stumbled backwards, but Maia didn't seem to pick up on the fact that the Filipino was in trouble. Munoz quickly regained his wits and started firing back with his own hard shots.{ysp:more}

"His standup got a lot better. His punches were crisp and a lot straighter than I expected. We had expected more looping punches, but he definitely tightened that part of his game up," Munoz said. "At the end of the day, I was able to persevere and grind out a tough decision."

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In the second and third rounds, the fight was highlighted by some solid exchanges on the feet, but it turned into a battle of who would win the clinch game along the game. Munoz played a dangerous game. pretty much anyone who's tested Maia in tight, has been tossed or dominated into a submission. When the fight did hit the ground, Munoz controlled the position and avoided getting in a real predicament.

Munoz (11-2, 6-2 UFC) is now 6-1 down at middleweight and probably deserves a shot at someone like Chael Sonnen or Brian Stann. Maia (14-3, 8-3 UFC) came out of this fight a winner as well. His improved standup certainly keeps him in the mix to continue fighting top 10 opponents at 185.

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