UFC 162: Munoz vs Boetsch

Fistic Dialectics: On Munoz vs Boetsch, Matyroshka Dolls and the Terrible Master.

Prologue:


Official UFC poster. Property of UFC.

Official UFC poster. Property of UFC.

At UFC 140, Mark Hominick charged into the middle of the ring against Chan Sung Jung, The Korean Zombie, in a rush of madness, sloppiness and now knowing the circumstances, pure unadulterated emotion that coursed through his body after months of simultaneous training and mourning (his trainer and friend, Shawn Tompkins had recently died at the young age of 37).  This mourning manifested itself into a wild, untamed left hook that Jung, calm and emotionless, stepped away from, felt the wind of desperation upon his face, and countered with a straight right that dropped Hominick like an unbreakable horse, and following 4 unanswered punches to the face, put Hominick's fury to rest upon the canvas before 18,000 hometown Canadian fans shocked at the -465 favorite's brutal defeat. It took seven seconds. 


The fight between Tim Boetsch and Mark Munoz is the battle of the “The terrible master's” : one seeks redemption (Munoz), while the other (Boetsch) looks display the liminal territory of mind-body question through violence and up against the other, a gamebred opponent. Earlier this week, Munoz posted before and after photos revealing he, in a fit of depression following his loss to Chris Weidman, had swelled to a startling 260 pounds and had made a 180 degree reversal to where he stands now, lean and trim and prepared for battle at 185 pounds.  

Most interesting in these photos were not the change from pudge to cut musculature but what these seem to suggest;  the subconscious fight hiding in plain sight, in every match up.  The one that has no empirical evidence, no tale of the tape, cannot be offhandedly mentioned by Mike Goldberg or Bas Rutten. In these photos of Munoz we see, clearly, determination and the physical manifestation of a loss, much like the real time puppetry of loss in Hominick's fight. This is the Patterson Bigfoot footage for fight fans that emote for the wins and losses of their fighters, that see something amiss in the walkout, the stare down, the round to round unfurling of months of preparation. These photos are an analog, documentation, of a fans ever present, unconscious counter to their confirmation bias.  It is a revelation of what we always felt, but could not reason into words, that there is another match up, like a Matryoshka doll, that, like a ghost, is turning lights on and off on the canvas or in the ring. It is, similarly, a confirmation of the morphogenetic connection between fighters and voyeurs, an affirmation that the digital microfiche that is the past, that is the Internet, is still alive and at play.  

Mark Munoz decisive loss to now title contender Chris Weidman has become for many fans evidence A in the case for Weidman's fistic campaign against the long reigning Anderson Silva.  Noted in this fight are Weidmans take downs against a decorated Division I wrestler, his high pressure ground game, and, seared into our synapses, a counter elbow whose atomic timing seemed movie like in its perfection.  Munoz, bloody and beaten upon the canvas is the last image many fans have, the restore point for analysts in both the careers of Weidman and Munoz.  I contend this match said nothing of Weidman, that extrapolation built from this foundation is inherently faulty.  I contend this match, as many matches are, was a litmus test for only one fighter, Munoz, and his “€Terrible Master”€・  Munoz,  refusing to pull out of two fights in a row (having already pulled out of his fight with Chael Sonnen), took the Weidman fight sick and injured, counting on his mind over body.  Can his loss be chalked up to this alone, surely not, but it was a variable of great importance and a precedent that we never see on the tale of the tape. 


 Tim Boetsch's last fight against Costa Philippou was one of pure attrition.  His hand broken, half blind and bloody was, much like Munoz, visually outclassed by Philippou. TKO victories are hard to take away, argue against, or reinterpret.  Sure there are accounts of early stoppages but in Boetsch's case I think it is of the highest importance to note that he was taking as much a beating as before, that his “€Terrible master”€・was still in the game.  Boetsch is as tough as it gets, but the mind body problem was there on full display.  Much like an aged, limping junkyard dog, he was still gamebred, but his fangs and legs, his physical potential, had been short circuited.

Of note is the evidence that Tim Boetsch toughness had not disappeared.  The Mike Russow style performance against Yushin Okami was not a one off moment of Rocky proportions, it was there in full effect against Philippou, unlike Russow, who went from a three round war with Todd Duffy to a Chael Sonnen style defeat at the hands of Fabricio Werdum.  There was no defeat in Boetsch's loss, only lack of ability to serve his “Terrible Master”€・


So we have the match up at UFC 162.  Both fighters have taken one step back, one will inevitably take two forward.  I believe this to be an interesting match for reasons other than that, however.  This is an interesting match in the skill set of the two involved and the winner will simultaneously move closer to title contention and make a Snopes debunking of the illusion that was their previous match.  

The method by which Munoz can win is there with rolled up sleeves.  He must take Boetsch down and “€彭onkey punch”€・him into stoppage.  We take one step back though, and can see that the required take down must first pass the take down defense of Boetsch which he has shown to be more than adequate against one with Munoz's offensive MMA skillset (Yushin Okami, Hector Lombard).  One step further back and we see the dangerous clinch of Boetsch, the wheelhouse of knees and dirty boxing that have made crash test dummies of past opponents. 

The territory that proceeds the close quartered battle is where the match will take place and it is a matter of Munoz footwork vs Boetsch's powerful hands.  

Munoz's footwork will be his advantage so long as it does not slow down at a faster rate than Boetsch.  Through footwork and angles a fighter can appear faster than they actually are (Lyoto Machida, for example).  It is the high school physics teacher trick, lateral movement, and has the twofold effect of being both evasive and disarming.  Munoz will have to maintain this trick, live in this character, for fifteen minutes or until a take down occurs and they find themselves under water. 

Boetsch's cardio is counterintuitive to his body type but is likely linked to his Jeet Kune Do training and a skill set rarely discussed, that of preserving ones energy.  In his battle with Yushin Okami, he was not as fresh as he was in the beginning, but was always one degree more alive than Okami.  Most fighters likelihood for being knocked out increases hand in hand with their fatigue.  The first round KO's we see are often pure power and accuracy, (or a charging in and increasing the strikes force by the victim) the later knockouts however, the ones that seem to have been the accumulation of all strikes in the match, are a result of fatigue and the mental acceptance of defeat. 

Boetsch has an incredible ability to keep fatigue and mental defeat compartmentalized and will be his best asset against Munoz's high pressure style.  Will his take down defense still be there in the third round? That is the question.  As he is the perceived +120 underdog in the betting lines I believe it to be a gamble worth taking.   

 

The space between fluke and skill in the Munoz vs Weidman match and the Boetsch vs Phillipou match is where both parties are waiting in limbo.  Munoz' record  and noted health problems before the fight do not make the match a wash, but indicate that there are illusions at play in any match, and a reminder that we are meat puppets at the mercy of the “€Terrible master”  It is neglecting this that makes one confident in their fandom's prescience.  While we look for tells, twitches and breathing patterns of our opponents; or reactions to feints and head movement, we are locked in a behaviorist mentality, neglecting the world that operates outside of the gym or the arena.  There are bombs out there, random acts of violence, untimely deaths of loved ones, and despair.  We do not hear this because we cannot see the fight for the cheers of the crowd or play-by-play commentating.  What we do know is what the betting lines indicate, Boetsch is a +120 underdog.  I think a play here is warranted, that this is a battle of Boetsch's “€Terrible master” vs Munoz's Redemption and the “€Terrible master”€always wins.   

Epilogue:

At UFC Fight Night 25, Jake Shields, a -200 favorite, Strikeforce champion and star grappler, his fathers death weeks prior still comet trailing his movement charged into Jake Ellenberger.  They each sought take downs until the moment Shields initiated both the clinch and his end when his plans, training and game plan collided into Ellenbergers knee, collapsed to the ground and was subsequently finished with a crushing, finishing blow by Ellenberger. It took 53 seconds. 

Ryan Johann Perry