Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC on ESPN 15’s Pedro Munhoz

Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC on ESPN 15’s Pedro Munhoz


Brazilian bruiser, Pedro Munhoz, will throw down with former champion, Frankie Edgar, this Saturday (Aug. 22, 2020) at UFC on ESPN 15 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.

There are not many fighters more fun to watch who are also ranked inside the Top 5 than Munhoz. “Young Punisher” is straight forward in his attempts to hurt opponents, as he throws heavy leather with real aggression and jumps on the neck given the slightest opportunity. In his six years as a UFC fighter, Munhoz has really only lost to top contenders, usually in close fights. He’s a damn tough veteran, and though he may not be an immediate title threat at the moment, he’s the perfect fight to introduce Edgar to the upper echelon of the Bantamweight division.

Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:

Striking

For a man with just four knockout wins on his record, Munhoz is a solid kickboxer who hits real hard! Munhoz began his MMA career with Kings MMA and Rafael Cordeiro, and though he now represents American Top Team, that signature aggressive Muay Thai style of Cordeiro remains the heart of his game.

Before getting into what he does so well, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of Munhoz’s kickboxing style. He fights from a very set stance, generally stalking his opponent with small steps around the cage. There is little fancy footwork or quick movement. Against quick, fleet-footed fighters like John Dodson and Justin Scoggins, Munhoz can at times fall a step behind.

UFC Fight Night Sao Paulo: Munhoz v Hobar

Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

On the plus side, Munhoz is always ready to throw with bad intentions.

Munhoz’s boxing game is not especially complicated. The Brazilian advances behind a stiff jab, a strike intended to jam his opponent’s head back and pause him momentarily. If Munhoz’s foe does not swiftly exit the pocket, Munhoz can be trusted to follow up with a big right hand swing or pair of power punches. It is not uncommon for Munhoz to double up on his right hand as his opponent backs off (GIF).

Munhoz’s reactions in the pocket are very Muay Thai. He’s going to try to block/slip whatever his opponent throws at him, and then he’s going to fire back a hook-cross or cross-hook, maybe with a low kick attached. In his wild brawl with Cody Garbrandt, Munhoz did manage to roll a couple punches, which helped him land the cleaner shots in their exchanges (GIF).

One of the primary reasons for Munhoz’s recent success has been a more devoted kicking game. Munhoz right leg does real damage, and he’s very willing to let that weapon fly.

There are a couple reasons why Munhoz is so effective with his right leg. First and foremost, he presents two weapons from that power side: the calf kick and snap kick. Against a pair of wrestling-heavy grinders in Bryan Caraway and Brett Johns, Munhoz absolutely shredded the lead leg. Each time his foes stepped into the pocket, Munhoz kept his guard high, ducked his head off to the side, and ripped into the calf. If Munhoz notices his foe pulling the leg back to avoid the kick, he’ll soon go high with his right leg.

UFC 235

Photo by Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

It’s difficult to step into the pocket against an opponent willing to take a head shot in exchange for a heavy low kick. Munhoz further complicates the issue by mixing in a right snap kick to the mid-section. He’s more likely to throw this offensively, as his opponent attempts to back out of the pocket (GIF).

Most fighters like to kick from the edge of their range, where they’re less likely to get countered. Munhoz, on the other hand, absolutely slams kicks while standing right in the pocket. As a result, his kicks are very likely to land, and since Munhoz throws everything with real power, land hard.

He’s more likely to get tagged on the counter, but hey, Munhoz has a pretty iron chin and keeps his guard high.

Wrestling

Munhoz is a very solid wrestler but most any metric, but overall, it’s likely the least effective facet of his game.

Offensively, Munhoz is willing to shoot. He can pick up a double along the fence, snatch up a single leg at distance, or try to punch his way into the clinch. However, it’s worth-noting that Munhoz has struggled to take down most of the more high-level fighters he’s faced, relying instead on his kickboxing to create submission opportunities.

Fortunately, Munhoz’s takedown defense has held up quite well against talented wrestlers. Johns, Caraway, and Aljamain Sterling? Zero combined takedowns! Against Caraway and Johns, Munhoz repeatedly managed to find an underhook and get his hips back when the pair would drive into double leg takedowns. In addition, Munhoz is so quick to threaten with his infamous guillotine choke that fighters are quick to disengage once they feel threatened.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

A long-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with nine submissions to his record, Munhoz is best-known for his guillotine choke … and for good reason! Six of his victories come via guillotine, including three in the Octagon.

Looking at his front chokes from a technical standpoint, the first thing to note is that Munhoz likes to catch the arm as well. The main advantage of the arm-in guillotine is that the attacking fighter has a bit more of a hold on his opponent, which makes it more difficult to spin to safety. As a result, Munhoz is often able to follow his foe into mount as they try to scramble. Generally, the arm-in choke is a bit more difficult to finish, but Munhoz has shown a really brutal squeeze, so that typically isn’t an issue for him.

UFC Fight Night: Munhoz v Sanders

Photo by Nick Laham/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

When attacking the arm-in guillotine, Munhoz correctly squeezes into the choke rather than pulling through.

As explained above, Munhoz uses his kickboxing to create grappling opportunities more than his wrestling. Two of his guillotine submissions occurred by forcing reactive shots from his opponent, then jumping on the neck immediately (GIF). Against Rob Font, Munhoz smoothly rolled his opponent over into mount then finished the choke with one hand (GIF).

When Munhoz strangled Russell Doane, he did so with the more rare arm-across guillotine choke or seated arm triangle. In this example, Munhoz jumped on the neck straight from the clinch, capitalizing on his foe’s lowered head to gain a wrap on the arm and neck. Munhoz pulled guard standing, squeezing Doane’s head and arm into his hip and extending to force the submission (GIF).

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Munhoz vs Scoggins

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Perhaps the best case of Munhoz’s opportunism is his guillotine submission over Justin Scoggins. Scoggins was largely a step ahead of Munhoz, hitting him with long range shots then pulling back before Munhoz could effectively return fire. When Scoggins slipped, however, Munhoz immediately jumped on his neck and finished the fight with an arm-in guillotine.

One mistake is all it took.

Conclusion

Munhoz is a real nasty offensive threat with the potential to finish this fight wherever it goes. If Munhoz can dispatch the former champion, he’s back in the win column with four victories in five trips to the Octagon, a solid enough streak to see him face another Top 5-ranked contender next.


Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.



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