Johnny Muñoz utilized solid striking to take home a clean decision victory over Liudvik Sholinian during the prelims of UFC Vegas 64.
Liudvik Sholinian returned to the UFC to fight BJJ specialist Johnny Muñoz at UFC Vegas 64. Sholinian had been bravely defending his home country in the war in Ukraine, which was the reason he had to pull out of his last fight. But, like fellow countryman Vasily Lomachenko, returned to combat sports in autumn 2022.
Johnny Munoz looked to rebound against Sholinian from a quick KO loss to Tony Gravely. Meanwhile, Liudvik, who had lost in the semifinals of The Ultimate Fighter season 29 to eventual champion Ricky Turcios in possibly the best fight of the entire season, looked to get his first UFC win after getting a contract by taking a short-notice fight against top contender Jack Shore.
Muñoz came out behind his jab from the get-go, using his length to touch the face of Sholinian. Liudvik had trouble landing strikes early and enforcing his dirty boxing style of striking. Muñoz looked much improved on the feet from his last two fights. Sholinian would eat a big right hand from time to time but with his always strong chin would just eat it and keep on going. The Ukranian’s face began to show redness on the left side as he marched forward inexorably. Muñoz was only really using the jab and straight right, but against an opponent marching straight forward constantly it was extremely effective. Liudvik kept trying to swing wild hooks and missing big as a result Johnny Muñoz kept using his lateral movement to stay off the fence and circle to his left, just always being too far away to get hit but staying able to hit his opponent. He changed things up only occasionally with the sporadic leg kick and a high knee to the face in the last minute of the first round. In the last ten seconds, Muñoz caught his foe with another 1-2 combination and if the fence had not been behind Sholinian he may have gone down. But he recovered well right before the bell rang in a round that was clearly Muñoz’s on the scorecards.
The second round started with more of the same. The commentary remarked that Sholinian’s corner wanted the Ukranian National Team wrestler to get a takedown but early on he showed no signs of shooting. Muñoz landed another big straight right that rocked his opponent in the first minute but the chin and toughness of Sholinian was on full display once again. Ninety seconds into the round, the pair clinched up with Muñoz in control but they quickly separated. Finally, right before the three-minute mark, Sholinian shot a takedown. However, Muñoz sprawled out and quickly transitioned to the back, but only with one hook in. Liudvik tried to get Muñoz to fall over the top of him and eventually shook him off the side. Then, Sholinian kept going for a double leg like a dog on a bone while Muñoz alternated between underhooks and a guillotine grip. Muñoz finally got the guillotine in deep and Sholinian was forced to bail out and go to his knees. Muñoz tried to go for the back take but Sholinian denied it and the pair returned to the feet where the same dynamic played out as in the first round. A low blow from Muñoz paused the action with only fourteen seconds left, but they quickly returned to fighting. Once more, right before the bell, Muñoz landed a right hand that somewhat staggered Sholinian.
The final stanza of the fight played out on the feet at first, with Muñoz once again working his jab, potentially up 20-18 on the scorecards. Sholinian began to understand that he had to keep going forward with his strikes in order to land as Muñoz retreated, and he landed a few decent strikes, though not totally cleanly. Muñoz shot a double-leg takedown against the fence. Liudvik landed barely legal elbows to the side of Muñoz’s head there, but Muñoz was able to lock his hands behind the butt and take his opponent down. But the National Team wrestler was able to wall walk and get back to his feet. Sholinian got back to walking down Muñoz and was having more success as he increased his pace and non-stop aggression. This made Muñoz himself load up and throw hooks and overhands for the first time in the fight while under pressure. After having so little success on the feet in the first two rounds it was amazing to see him make it a fight with just grittiness and aggression. Still, Muñoz was often just able to retreat and circle out on his proverbial bicycle to avoid eating strikes. With only thirty seconds left Muñoz level changed underneath a big hook from Sholinian and land a takedown. With less than five seconds left Muñoz got to the full mount and rained down hammerfists to close out the round.
As the judges’ scorecards were read it seemed that almost everyone online had Johnny Muñoz Jr. winning the fight and the judges agreed as they all scored it for Muñoz, two of them having him winning all three rounds.
Johnny Muñoz def. Liudvik Sholinian by Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)