After a deflating loss to Chael Sonnen—his first as a middleweight—Brian Stann will return to the Octagon against Alessio Sakara at Saturday's UFC on Fuel TV 2.
With an impressive win over Sakara, Stann would put himself back in the hunt for a title shot, but he has ground to make up to pass other contenders like Michael Bisping, Mark Munoz and Chris Weidman.
Meanwhile, Sakara has gone more than one year without fighting after suffering a decision loss to Weidman. Prior to that defeat, Sakara had won three straight fights and was looking to make a run toward the top of the 185-pound division.
Now, these two fighters will compete to get back on track and within striking distance of the division's top fighters. Let's take a look at how the sluggers match up against one another heading into Saturday's event.
In their combined 26 victories, Brian Stann and Alessio Sakara have defeated 17 opponents via knockout, so a slugfest could be expected in this matchup on Saturday.
While Sakara's striking may be slightly more dynamic, as he recorded a highlight reel knockout with a head kick against Joe Vedepo in September, 2008, very few middleweights can match Stann's raw power.
Prior to his loss against Chael Sonnen, Stann recorded back-to-back knockouts of Jorge Santiago and the granite-chinned Chris Leben.
Sakara may be a more technical striker than Stann, but the former U.S. Marine will eventually land, and considering the Italian has been knocked out three times in his career, it could lead to a knockout.
Lacking takedown defense led to the losses in both of these fighters' most recent appearances. While they were grounded by some of the best wrestlers in the sport in Sonnen and Chris Weidman, it is undeniable that wrestling is one of the weaker areas in the games of both fighters.
If he chooses to attempt to take this fight to the ground, Stann's incredible power for a middleweight could allow him to bully Sakara. However, it seems more likely that this fight will be won and lost with both fighters standing.
If they do gain the top position during this fight, Brian Stann and Alessio Sakara will both look to finish their opponent with heavy punches.
However, these large middleweights have come to realize they are strongest on their feet and have become tough to hold down, especially when non-wrestlers like themselves are on top.
Even if this fight does go to the ground, expect the bottom fighter to quickly return to their feet and return the fight to what should be a stand-up battle.
In the first submission win of his MMA career, Stann forced jiu-jitsu black belt Mike Massenzio to tap with a triangle choke. While the win over Massenzio was impressive, Stann's jiu-jitsu is still a work in progress, as he was submitted by Chael Sonnen in his most recent fight.
Sakara isn't the most dangerous fighter when it comes to submissions either, but he hasn't been submitted since a May, 2006 fight against renowned jiu-jitsu black belt Dean Lister.
As far as both fighters have come with their ground games, it's unlikely that this fight will end with a submission in either competitor's favor.
While Alessio Sakara has been competing in the UFC for years longer than his opponent, Brian Stann has competed in bigger fights and has a stronger camp behind him.
Stann's previous fight with Chael Sonnen was a bigger deal than any bout Sakara has had in his career. Though he lost, Stann undoubtedly gained something from his losing effort against one of the middleweight division's best fighters.
Additionally, Stann is a former WEC champion. While the WEC's light heavyweight division was mostly sub-par, competing in title fights has allowed Stann to feel the added pressure of competing for an organization's highest honor.
With coach Greg Jackson in his corner, Stann should also walk into the Octagon on Saturday with the ideal plan for defeating Sakara.
In addition to the strength advantage he holds over just about any 185-pound fighter in the sport, Brian Stann will be competing against a fighter who hasn't competed in more than one year.
Though it sometimes has little effect on a fighter, Sakara's layoff could impact his conditioning, which could be a difference maker in a bout where both fighters will likely be swinging for the fences from start to finish.
In a fight that should mostly be contested with both fighters standing, power will be the difference between winning and losing.
Coming off of a long period between fights, Alessio Sakara will get off to a slow start and Brian Stann will take advantage by clipping the Italian with his heavy hands.
Considering he was able to stop Chris Leben, Stann certainly has the power to put Sakara away early in the fight.
With a win over Sakara, Stann will find himself back in the hunt for a title shot and in a fight with another elite 185-pound fighter.
If Stann can continue to improve his takedown defense and ground game, he still has time to make a run at the title.
Prediction: Stann defeats Sakara by technical knockout (punches) in the first round.