UFC

Bisping vs Munoz headline in England

Michael Bisping, Mark Munoz
Michael Bisping faces off against Mark Munoz on October 26 in England.
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Mike Chiappetta

Mike Chiappetta has documented the fast-growing sport of mixed martial arts since 2006 for news organizations including SB Nation, NBCSports.com, FIGHT! Magazine, AOL and ESPN. He appears regularly as an analyst on countless television shows and radio programs, including CBS Radio and MMA Beat. Follow him on Twitter.

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Just a few months ago, Anderson Silva was still looking down from his perch atop the UFC middleweight division, Mark Munoz was 260 pounds of broken spirit, and Michael Bisping's long-held title hopes had been kicked into oblivion. But in the fight world, fates can be changed in a blur.

These days, Silva's long reign is over, Munoz is shredded and Bisping is back to his winning form. In some ways, the stories interconnect because the last two are contenders again in a division that's suddenly wide open because of the first one's loss.

On Oct. 26, top 10 middleweights Munoz and Bisping will meet at a UFC Fight Night event held at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. The fight will air on FOX Sports 2 (the channel soon-to-be renamed from FUEL TV), and the winner will suddenly thrust himself right back into limelight as a potential title challenger to the winner of December's Silva vs. Chris Weidman rematch.

Mark Munoz rains down punches on Tim Boetsch at UFC 162.

Josh Hedges

Not surprisingly, everything about it excites the fiery Brit.

“I think this fight has been in the cards for a long time,” Bisping told FOX Sports on Saturday, just after the bout was announced. “It’s a logical matchup. We’ve been in the division for a long time. We’re both top 10, we both want our title shot. He’s going to bring it, I’m going to bring it, but make no mistake, I’m going back to Manchester and I’m going to knock Mark Munoz the f--- out. He can put that in his pipe and smoke it.”

For the unfailingly well-mannered Munoz, the announcement brought no similar promises, but highlights a stunning turnaround from a troubling time, during which he was badly knocked out, was dropped by all but one of his sponsors, and took refuge in food, ballooning up to a weight he'd never seen. After rebounding by smashing Tim Boetsch last month, his upswing continues.

"I feel like I came up from the ashes, resurrected," he told FOX Sports during a break from a youth wrestling camp he runs. "I'm back on track, better than ever. It feels great to come away with that victory and in a way I'm glad I went through all I went through. I’m a stronger person because of it. It will be an honor to fight Michael. I'm going to be training extremely hard and smart. I'm looking forward to it for sure."

UFC 159 Michael Bisping

Michael Bisping is ready to crush Munoz in front of his hometown fans.

David Dermer/Diamond Images

Munoz said his experience of the last several months is unlike anything he's gone through in his life. Known for his boundless positivity, everything seemed to crumble around him in a short time. With his career in the balance, he eventually found his footing, and with clear eyes, can now see a new path towards his long-held goal of being a champion.

Bisping, however, believes that road ends in Manchester. Despite the impressive nature of Munoz’s last win, Bisping reiterated past statements that “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” nickname is a misnomer.

“I stand by what I said. When I look at him, his striking hasn’t really developed over the years,” Bisping said. “He just throws big, wild punches. He’s not very technical. He’s a good wrestler, he has good ground and pound, but I think with Munoz, it’s just stopping the takedown and he hasn’t got much else apart from some really sloppy punches. Don’t get me wrong, he’s powerful and if they connect, I’m sure they’ll do damage but they’re not very skillful. He’s a great athlete and a tough guy, but one-dimensional.”

The careers of Munoz and Bisping have intertwined sporadically over the last 18 months. In Jan. 2012, Munoz was set to compete in a No. 1 contenders fight against Chael Sonnen until an elbow injury sidelined him, and Bisping stepped into the bout in his place.

Two months later, the two were rumored opponents before the UFC decided against it, instead moving in other directions.

Now, the pairing is official in a fight to be hosted in Bisping's backyard. He last fought in Manchester in 2009, when he stopped Denis Kang on strikes. Four years later, he'll be back in front of his adoring public, although Munoz plans to make himself right at home, too.

"I love it. It’s just like when I was wrestling at Oklahoma State, going into Iowa City and wrestling Iowa on their turf," he said. "It's nothing different. I get pumped up when I do that. Whether people boo against me or cheer, it actually feels the same to me. It makes me go harder."

But driven by his insatiable desire to one day hold UFC gold, Bisping believes Munoz cannot match the combined strength of his own willpower and the unwavering support of his home country.

“I’ve overcome a few hurdles and I’ve always come right back,” he said. “I’m not going to stop trying until my body gives in. As long as the fight is still in me, I’m going to keep trying to be world champion.”

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