UFC 138 Predictions: Munoz vs. Leben Odds and Betting Picks
by Scott Johnson - 11/1/2011
UFC 138 will be a historical event as it will feature the promotion’s first non-title five-round main event as middleweights Mark Munoz (-225) and Chris Leben (+175) will do battle in Birmingham, England. Munoz has won three in a row, dropping only one of seven appearances since moving to middleweight in 2009 while Chris Leben has won four of his last five.
Comparing styles, Munoz is a wrestler that has developed dangerous power boasting a potent right hand, but he is still working to improve his technique. Early in his career, Leben was a brawler; he has become more patient, but as we saw against Wanderlei Silva he can return to his old mode of operation. The Crippler is a southpaw boasting a powerful left hand and granite chin. He is at his best during wild exchanges when he batters his opponent with big looping punches and short uppercuts from in close.
Both men have won the majority of their fights by KO or TKO; Leben has 12 while Munoz has recorded five. Chris Leben is predominantly a striker, while Mark’s TKO victory over Kendall Grove was the result of his powerful ground-and-pound.
The addition of two more rounds could force the combatants into unknown territory as neither as ever fought beyond the third frame. Both men have gone the distance several times; Munoz is 5-1 and Leben is 5-3. Neither has perfect cardio, but Leben always seems dangerous no matter how hurt or tired, and Munoz’s reliance on power can be draining over a long fight.
What this fight comes down to is will, and if Munoz can use his wrestling to control his opponent. Munoz’ wrestling hasn’t translated well to MMA; he only finishes 18 percent of his takedowns and has never completed more than three in a fight.
Leben’s takedown defence is respectable at 56 percent and he has fought his share grapplers. Judo player Yoshihiro Akiyama went 5-for-5 with takedowns, but wrestlers Aaron Simpson and Jake Rosholt were a combined 5-for-14. Even when Leben gets taken down he is able to get back to his feet, and he caught Akiyama with a triangle off his back, so he can defend himself on the ground.
In the end I don’t expect Leben will be able to submit Munoz, because Mark is simply too strong on top. Instead, Leben will need to defend the takedown and force his opponent into wild striking exchanges. When Yushin Okami shut down Munoz’s wrestling game, Mark appeared uncomfortable and struggled to find his range, landing only 19 strikes compared to 101 by Okami.
If the majority of this fight is contested on the feet, the advantage shifts back to “the Crippler”. He has been knocked out twice in his career, but in both occasion his opponents used several accurate strikes in succession to stop Leben. Munoz’s striking does not lend itself to this style; despite his raw power, he lacks refined technique.
Munoz’s big overhand right stopped C.B. Dollaway, but he has a tendency to duck his head when he throws it, which leaves him open to be countered. Leben doesn’t have the best technique, but I believe he has the skills to exploit Munoz’s shortcomings. Further, Munoz struggled with the reach of Okami, and Leben’s reach will be slightly larger, which combined with his power could create real problems for the wrestler.
Munoz has suffered only one knockout, but against Demian Maia Mark got tagged several times, and the way he reacted showed that he wasn’t comfortable in that type of scenario. Chris Leben has far more punching power then Maia, and over a five-round fight I anticipate that he will get multiple opportunities to put his hands on Munoz’s chin, especially if Mark elects to stand and trade.
Leben will pressure Munoz, forcing him to constantly defend, and as Mark gets tired his wrestling will become less effective and his susceptibility to being knocked out will increase. For this matchup, I’m going to stay away from the prop bets and focus on just picking a winner. At +175 I’m willing to take a risk on the veteran and underdog Chris Leben to defeat Mark Munoz by knockout.
This event might not feature the marquee names of a typical numbered UFC card, but events like these tend to provide some very entertaining fights as fighters not normally in the spotlight will look to put forth their best performance. Don’t forget that this event will start early than normal, and good luck this weekend, make sure to check out predictions for the rest of the UFC 138 main card here at Doc’s Sports.
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