Five Things We Learned From UFC 138

UFC 138 delivers, Munoz thrills and Leben chills

We say it all the time, don’t we? The cards that look the worst on paper often end up delivering the most thrilling evenings of punching and kicking.

Such was the case with UFC 138. You’d be hard-pressed to find many UFC fans who were genuinely excited about watching this card. It’s not that it was a terrible card, because it wasn’t – it’s just difficult to get traction for a show of this nature (read: an England show shown tape-delayed on Spike TV) when it is smack-dab in the middle of a run of fairly epic UFC events.

But in the end, as with so many others, this card was great. The main card delivered five finishes in five fights, and four of them were submissions. We saw the rise of brand-new middleweight and bantamweight contenders, the return of an English lightweight hope and much more.

1. Mark Munoz is a bad dude.

Mark Munoz and his journey from Yosuka to potential UFC middleweight contender saw many stops and starts along the way.

The early days of his career weren’t all that special. There was nothing about him, outside of his vaunted wrestling skills, that truly made you believe he had what it took to dethrone Anderson Silva. And yet here we are, a mere three years later, with Munoz have dispatched four consecutive tough opponents and standing on the threshold of facing Silva, a friend and mentor, for the middleweight championship.

Munoz, a legendarily polite and respectful man outside of the cage, is as ferocious as they come inside of it. While many feel his corner stoppage victory an underwhelming way to end such a thrilling card, consider this: how many people have battered Chris Leben to the point where he decides it might be a wise decision to be better safe than sorry?

Leben’s entire game, throughout his entire UFC career, has been his ability to take enough punishment to stop a horse and then come back firing with zombie-like punches. That’s what endears him to fans, what gives him his longevity. And yet Munoz, the owner of what might be the most powerful punches in the middleweight division, was able to leave Leben sitting on his stool for the start of the third round.

He’s always been a great wrestler. We knew that. But his striking game is catching up quickly, which makes him someone to be feared in that division. And yes, that includes Anderson Silva, who Munoz said he’d like to face for the title after dispatching Leben. With Silva’s seemingly unmovable desire to not face Chael Sonnen again, we might just see Munoz get the nod.

2. Chris Leben made an intelligent decision.

Leben’s decision to avoid coming out for the start of the third round wasn’t just a smart move – it was also the surest sign yet that the former Ultimate Fighter bad boy has grown, not just as a fighter, but as a human being.

Three years ago, the odds were very good that Leben would’ve made the decision to continue last night’s fight despite being unable to see in one eye. That was the Chris Leben of old. He excited the hell out of you with his always-coming-forward style, but he took mountains of punishment in the process.

What Leben didn’t need last night was more punishment from Mark Munoz. He’d already taken plenty. By conceding that his vision wasn’t up to snuff, Leben took a big step forward in maturity.

We’ll still need to have a conversation at some point about using “Mad World” as his walkout song, though.