UFC Picks: Can Mark Munoz Go the Distance?

Jason Lake

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 11:05 PM GMT

Mark Munoz has lost each of his last three fights inside the Octagon. But he's only a small underdog on the MMA odds board for his Fight Night 66 match against Luke Barnatt.

Mark Munoz may have already taken one too many fights in his MMA career. The last time we saw him in the Octagon, Munoz lost to Roan Carneiro (+230) by a first-round technical submission, passing out to a rear-naked choke at UFC 184. Three months later, Munoz is back for more, but he says his Fight Night 66 bout against Luke Barnatt will probably be his last, win or lose.

The UFC odds say Munoz will probably lose. As we go to press, the Filipino Wrecking Machine is listed at a range between +115 and +140 for this May 16 fight, which just happens to be part of the UFC's first card in the Philippines. Is there value on the underdog in this situation? Has this bout been set up specifically for Munoz to go out with his head held high?

 

Boot to the Head 
We'd rather not speculate too much about that. Munoz (13-6 lifetime) definitely has a fan base in Manila; he was born to Filipino parents at a U.S. military base in Japan, before moving to beautiful Vallejo, Calif. and becoming a champion wrestler, both in high school and in Division I at Oklahoma State. Munoz has been a good soldier in the UFC, regularly appearing on PPV since his 2009 debut, and even headlining a trio of smaller cards. People want to see him win.

But people haven't been getting what they want. After moving up the middleweight ranks with victories over the likes of Demian Maia (+171) and Chris Leben (+222), Munoz got a main event match against Chris Weidman (–140) three years ago on Fuel TV. Weidman knocked Munoz out in the second round. In 2013, Munoz got another shot at a main event – against Lyoto Machida (–345) at Fight Night 30. Machida kicked him flush in the head, and Munoz was fortunate that Machida didn't follow up before the referee stopped the fight at 3:10 of the first round.

It's been all downhill from there. Munoz didn't make it through the opening round of his main event against Gegard Mousasi (–240) at Fight Night 41, tapping out to a rear-naked choke. Then Carneiro caught him in the same hold this past February. Munoz is clearly a spent force at age 37; while his cardio has never been in question, Munoz has taken a lot of abuse in the Octagon, and opponents are now getting through his once-solid submission defense.

Check out our UFC picks for Saturday, May 16th fight between Phillippou/Mousasi

Use the Force
Having said all of that, Barnatt (8-2 lifetime) is on a losing streak of his own, dropping a pair of split decisions to Sean Strickland (+132) and Roger Narvaez (+285). His claim to fame before that was being the first overall pick for TUF: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen in 2013. The 6-foot-6 Englishman lost in the quarterfinals to Dylan Andrews – that loss doesn't go on Barnatt's official record, but it's a loss nonetheless.

Munoz, even at this advanced age, should be the toughest opponent Barnatt has ever faced. However, Barnatt has a six-inch height advantage and a five-inch reach advantage, and he has excellent takedown defense: 82 percent, according to FightMetric. That will help Barnatt cut off Munoz' most direct path to victory, the ground-and-pound. Munoz doesn't have the striking power to compensate.

At the same time, Barnatt is more of a volume puncher, connecting on 4.86 significant strikes per minute, but only landing at a 35-percent clip. And he doesn't attempt very many takedowns of his own (0.53 per 15 minutes). This fight could easily end up going the distance given the clash of styles; in fact, that's going to be our official UFC pick, with OVER 1.5 rounds priced at –170. Let's hope Munoz gets out clean.

Free UFC Pick: Take OVER 1.5 rounds at 5Dimes