Sometimes retirement seems like a necessary idea for fighters. They get outclassed and dominated in their last fight before they finally hang up the gloves for good. UFC middleweight Mark Munoz found himself in a different situation. He was able to leave on his own terms.
Munoz was impressive in his decision victory over Luke Barnatt in the UFC’s first trip to the Philippines. “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” got the opportunity to fight in the home country of his parents and in front of a very supportive crowd.
Munoz had a great career, spanning 20 fights, after all the accolades and success he earned at the collegiate wrestling level. Munoz seemed to be gaining steam after beating Chris Leben in November 2011. Since that point, though, Munoz had gone 1-4 heading into his retirement fight with Barnatt. Of course, what is often overlooked is that three of those four losses came against the likes of former UFC champion Lyoto Machida, former Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi and current UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman. Munoz was on the losing end in the fight that put Weidman on the map, before Weidman went on to defeat Anderson Silva for the championship. Essentially, Munoz has faced a who’s who of the current UFC middleweight division.
Munoz was coming off a loss to Roan Carneiro when he declared that he would fight once more and that would be it. Just like that, his career would be over. Win, lose or draw, Munoz would be done.
Not many people expected Munoz to find a win in his swan song. He was coming off a fight where he didn’t look anything close to the Munoz we had seen rise to high points in the 185-pound division. It took Carneiro under two minutes to dispatch of Munoz. There had been a string of fighters who seemed to be fighting past their prime, and Munoz was just another name on that list.
Yet, Munoz went and proved everybody wrong. He clearly had an extra gear he was able to shift into against Barnatt. Munoz was better on the feet, despite giving up six inches in height and 10 inches in reach to Barnatt. He was better on the ground as well, where he sealed up the victory with wrestling and positional control. It was an overall dominant performance.
You could sit here and make a case for Munoz to give it another fight. After an extraordinary performance like that, you’d have to think he could go another three rounds. He shouldn’t, though. Munoz is right to call it quits and walk away.
Not many athletes get to go out at the top of their game. That’s an even harsher reality for people in combat sports. A lot of guys who fight call it quits when they hit a certain age and can’t figure out how to get back to their winning ways. Many are destroyed repeatedly, knocked into next week by a counter they didn’t see coming or a punch they were too slow to defend. It happens to a lot of guys, and even to the very best.
Munoz is doing the right thing by stepping out. At age 37, he isn’t exactly in his prime anymore. He could try to work his way back up the rankings, but just how successful would he be? Instead, his final fight can be remembered as a triumphant affair for Munoz.
Munoz was able to set his own terms for his retirement. That’s what’s really important here. He won, and now he isn’t going to step back into the cage. He left his gloves in the cage. Now, Munoz can give back to the sport and its fans in other ways.
This is the perfect end to Munoz’s career. It isn’t about winning a belt. It’s not about beating a highly ranked guy or finishing his opponent. It’s a lasting memory of ending on a high note, with his hands raised.
So, thank you, Mark Munoz. Thank you for a great career and a lot of great fights. And thank you for retiring at the right time, when you could leave the cage with honor, impressive performance or not.