Sam Stout is ready to gain his footing in the UFC lightweight division. As a seasoned veteran in one of the organization's most competitive weight classes, "Hands of Stone" has faced a path filled with peaks and valleys. Every time the 28-year old Ontario-native has managed to gain momentum, a setback has followed in some form or fashion.
Following the roughest year of his life where he lost mentor, coach and close friend Shawn Tompkins, Stout has not only regained his focus as a professional fighter, but is ready to push ahead in order to take his career to the next level.
His first step back onto the right track came in his trilogy bout with Spencer Fisher at "UFC on FX: Maynard vs. Guida" in Atlantic City. With their first two throwdowns going the distance and each fighter claiming a victory apiece, the final installment was winner take all. For Stout, the fight meant more than simply closing the door on his battles with Fisher, but finally moving in a positive direction after a year of dark times.
Stout displayed a diverse attack in the trilogy's final three rounds. In addition to his usual style of "stand and bang", he found success in the wrestling department, as he took Fisher down time and time again throughout the fight.
When the final bell sounded, Stout found victory on the judge's cards. It was the step he needed at the perfect time, and with Mark DellaGrotte in his corner, Stout felt his confidence return.
"I was definitely feeling more comfortable in that fight," Stout told Bleacher Report. "Having Mark DellaGrotte in my corner was a big confidence booster. That is something I always had with Shawn Tompkins because I had a lot of confidence in him. I knew he knew what he was doing. I knew that every fight I went into he had already played it out in his mind a million times and thought about it as much as he could. Having Mark in my corner was a big help to my confidence and I think that showed in my last fight.
"There are some world class wrestlers in the division and guys who have come from great wrestling pedigrees. It's something I've really been working diligently on for the past few years. In my last fight against Spencer Fisher I decided to kind of throw it into the mix. I've been telling everyone for a long time I've been working on my wrestling and going out and using it in my last fight has really given me a lot of confidence in that department. I'm feeling really good about it now and fans can expect to see more wrestling out of me for sure."
The next opportunity Stout will have to display his improved skill set will come this Saturday night when he steps into the Octagon to face Tri-Star product John Makdessi at UFC 154. Where "The Bull" got off to a quick start in the UFC, he has struggled as of late, and Stout believes having logged more time on the sport's biggest stage will factor heavily into the matchup.
"I believe experience is a big thing in this game," Stout said. "I believe it 100%. Being prepared is one of the biggest things you can do in a fight. I don't believe he is going to bring anything I haven't seen before. I've watched all his fights in the UFC, really studied him, and I'm coming in with a good game plan. I think the difference in our experience is going to show in this fight.
"John is predominantly a stand-up fighter. I don't believe he has anything I've never seen before. He is good, tricky, and throws a lot of interesting techniques with spinning backfists and spinning back-kicks. He throws stuff I'm typically used to seeing on a day-to-day basis but I think I'm going to have an answer for anything he brings to the table."
While the fight with Makdessi will hold no bearing on the current title picture, it doesn't stop Stout from setting his sights at the top of the division. For the past seven years he has competed in the 155 pound weight class and believes the time has come to make his run towards the top. Stout understands what it will take for him to get there and that it is a journey taken one step at a time. The next obstacle on his path is Makdessi, and Stout intends to bring more to the cage than the Montreal native can handle.
"I'm bringing a really diverse game plan," Stout said. "It's not just going to be standing and trading for three rounds. I know fans love those fights but it's about me maturing as a fighter. I've been trying to do that and I really want to keep John Makdessi guessing. I want to confuse him and that's what I plan to do in this fight.
"I'm 28-years old, and while that is still young, I've been fighting for the UFC for seven years now. I believe I'm just now starting to come into my prime and it's time for me to make that title run. I can't afford any losses on my record.