---- — By Todd Stanford
For The Daily Item
LAS VEGAS -- Tim Boetsch hopes to begin another climb up the UFC middleweight rankings beginning Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Boetsch, a Northumberland resident who owns and operates his own gym in Sunbury, will face Mark Munoz at UFC 162. Their fight will be part of the main card, which will air on pay-per-view beginning at 10 p.m.
After going unbeaten in his first four fights at middleweight, Boetsch fell for the first time at 185 pounds last December when Costas Philippou won via a third-round TKO. The loss still irks Boetsch, who many believe won the first round before being slowed in the second by a finger poke to the eye.
"They said (the eye poke) was inadvertent," Boetsch says. "But when a boxer throws a jab with his fingers extended, you have to wonder how inadvertent it is."
Currently ranked 10th among UFC middleweights, Boetsch is hoping a win over the eighth-ranked Munoz will get him within striking distance of a title shot.
"I think a win over Munoz puts me near the top of the ladder," Boetsch says. "I could be in a No. 1 contender fight (with a victory)."
But Boetsch (16-5) knows that beating Munoz -- known as the Filipino Wrecking Machine -- will be no easy task. A former NCAA wrestling champion at Oklahoma State, Munoz (12-3) is arguably the best wrestler Boetsch has faced in the cage in the middleweight division.
"He presents a lot of challenges," Boetsch says. "He's an NCAA Division I wrestling champion. Whenever someone carries that kind of credential, you know they're going to be tough, mentally tough, determined, very strong willed. It makes for a very tough opponent.
"I think it's going to be a very difficult fight in the sense of which guy can break the other guy's will first."
Like Boetsch, Munoz is also coming off a loss in his last fight. He met Chris Weidman last July and was knocked out in the second round. At 35, Munoz could possibly be running out of time to make another move up the rankings -- especially if he loses to Boetsch on Saturday.
Boetsch, 32, says that the fight will come down to which fighter is the most desperate.
"What any fight comes down to is -- the guy that can stay focused on fight night," Boetsch says. "The guy that wants it more is the guy that comes out on top."
Although they've never fought in the octagon before, Boetsch says that he's met Munoz at past UFC events. He agrees with the general consensus that Munoz is one of the most likable fighters in the sport.
"He certainly comes across as a decent human being," Boetsch says. "He's well-spoken and respectful."
The belt that both Boetsch and Munoz want will be on the line in Saturday's main event, as the aforementioned Weidman will try to take the title from Anderson "The Spider" Silva in one of the most highly anticipated fights of the year.
Although many commentators and fellow fighters believe that Weidman is the man to end Silva's seven-year reign as champion, Boetsch isn't buying it.
"I believe Anderson Silva will hold onto his title a little bit longer," Boetsch says. "Weidman does seem to be focused and believes in his own abilities...(but) the experience that Anderson Silva has, he's had more title fights (12) than Weidman has had fights (nine). I tend to believe that Anderson will win. But certainly (Weidman) can't be counted out."