Pedro Munhoz is one of the dark horses of the always stacked bantamweight division. After five years of fighting as a professional, Munhoz would make the jump into the UFC in 2014. He would find mixed success against names that would eventually, like him make it to the top, fighting the likes of Raphael Assuncao, Jimmy Rivera, Rob Font, and John Dodson, before really becoming a name known to most fans.
In 2019, Munhoz would be given a shot at recently dethroned champion Cody Garbrandt, who apart from two closely matched fights for the belt had a perfect record, most gave Munhoz little chance. However, the Brazilian would defy the odds, KO’ing Garbrandt and staking his claim as a contender.
Unfortunately, Munhoz would lose two more hard-fought matches, against current champion Aljamain Sterling and UFC legend Frankie Edgar. Yet, his stock did not drop, and with his most recent bout ending in a victory over now 2x rival Jimmie Rivera, Munhoz has put himself back into the conversation of contendership.
Stylistically, for most of Munhoz’s career he has been feared as a grappler. With a black belt under Jiu Jitsu icon Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles, Munhoz secured six submissions in his first ten fights. In the UFC as well he has secured three, all by way of guillotine.
However, fans who were introduced to bantamweight contenders in the last three years may consider him more of a striker. Since then, he has become more known for his devastating leg kicks and boxing. He likes to go low to the calf with the kicks, breaking down his opponent’s base with immense pressure. His boxing is backed by serious power, especially for a 135er and his steady pace takes him comfortably into the late rounds. He is one of the few to have matched pace with cardio machine Frankie Edgar, and debatably won one or two of the championship rounds.
The beauty in this style is because he is such an active boxer, he isn’t afraid to continually step into the pocket. At this point, by challenging his opponents to work at this distance, they have to put weight onto their front leg, setting up Munhoz’s superior kicking game. He will also use the calf kick in order to enter the pocket as well.
The fact that he is so dangerous with his hands is a large part of his grappling game thus far in the octagon as well. Against Rob Font, it forced Font to shoot a takedown, where Munhoz was able to find the guillotine in transition. Similarly, although not due to strikes, in order to counter an exchange, Justin Scoggins also shot on Munhoz, where he found the same submission. Against Russell Doane Munhoz secured a body lock from the back, and when Doane tried to scramble back to face Munhoz, the Brazilian took the opportunity to lock the guillotine once again.
The recurring ability to put his opponents in danger and then look for the guillotine when they try a drastic counter is a large part of Munhoz’s game. The way he snaps onto the neck is quick and powerful, and he leaves very little room for any sort of defense or scramble once he gets the grip.
Where we have seen him struggle, however, is when he has fought people like Aljamain Sterling, who forced him to fight from kicking range where his heavy boxing couldn’t have as much impact. Other than bursting forward and using leg kicks, Munhoz has very few other entries for someone without much of a reach advantage over most. Against Edgar it is difficult to argue his approach because it is a double-edged sword. Munhoz sits down on his punches more so than most high pace athletes, which allows him to land more damage but sometimes less often. At the end of their fight, Edgar was visibly more bloodied but the numbers were on his side, so for Munhoz’s style to pay out on the scorecards, his damage has to outweigh the strike differential against other high-paced opponents in each round.
Munhoz has largely flown under the radar as one of the top contenders of the division. Many have cited Garbrandt’s overzealous emotions as the largest factor in their match rather than giving Munhoz the credit he deserves. After coming off of two losses, one to the champ and one largely debated, Munhoz has been positioned in the role of the possible upset champion in the coming years. His fight this weekend against another UFC legend in Jose Aldo will be his most difficult test yet, but if he can succeed he will be one step closer to this goal.
Order UFC 265 PPV on ESPN+ now to watch Jose Aldo vs. Pedro Munhoz and all other main card fights this Saturday.