Pedro Munhoz stopped Bryan Caraway in devastating fashion back in November, dropping the bantamweight veteran with a body kick in the opening round before finishing the job with a few more punches. That win earned him the biggest opportunity so far in his career.
“The Young Punisher” enters the Octagon for the first time in 2019 on Saturday, facing former 135-pound champion Cody Garbrandt at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on the main card of UFC 235, and that’s exactly the kind of opportunity he expected after making a statement against Caraway and scoring his sixth victory over his last seven bouts.
With four stoppage wins in that 6-1 run, including three submissions, the Brazilian grappler doesn’t think he will have to take Garbrandt to the mat to have an edge.
“I believe in my skill set on the feet, I can surprise him there,” Munhoz told MMA Fighting. “I’d stand and trade with him early, yes. If the fight goes to the ground, there’s a good chance I submit him, for sure. I believe in my jiu-jitsu and anything can happen in a fight, including us going to the ground and me submitting him.”
Garbrandt has never been submitted in a professional fight before, but has never rolled in a professional setting with someone as good as Munhoz either.
“Cody likes to stand and trade, and we might get a takedown, a knockdown, so a knockout or a submission is possible,” Munhoz said. “I’m prepared. I train all aspects of MMA, it’s a complete sport. We train on the ground, wrestling and on the feet, and I’m always ready in all areas. I definitely see (myself winning with) a knockout or a submission.”
While Munhoz enters the contest on a good run, Garbrandt will look to put an end to an uncomfortable skid. “No Love” captured the UFC’s bantamweight gold after a flawless year in 2016, knocking out Augusto Mendes, Thomas Almeida and Takeya Mizugaki before closing the year with a clinic against Dominick Cruz.
That incredible win over Cruz in December of that year also marked the last time Garbrandt’s hands were raised inside the Octagon. After that, Garbrandt got knocked out by T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 217 the following November then suffered another knockout loss in the rematch nine months later.
Regardless, Munhoz doesn’t believe Garbrandt is any less confident going into UFC 235.
“I don’t think his mind was affected,” Munhoz said. “He’s a young guy, very strong and tough, trains on a good team, so I don’t think that has affected him. I could be wrong, but I think he’s coming in fresh, as in any other fight.”
Under normal circumstances, a big victory over someone like Garbrandt would catapult the winner into the title picture. However, the bantamweight division is currently muddled with Dillashaw having lost in 32 seconds to flyweight champion Henry Cejudo on Jan. 19 and Marlon Moraes quickly stopping Raphael Assuncao in a rematch earlier this month in Brazil.
What will be left for Munhoz, then?
“It got a little complicated now,” he said. “I don’t know what they are going to do about Moraes. I’m fighting a former champion, and I don’t know how things will play out. I haven’t thought too much about it, I’m thinking about the next step, working hard every day to bring the win. We’ll think about it after that.”