Brian Stann was supposed to fly out of Japan with a legend's designation newly printed at the top of his resume. A check mark establishing his bona fides, a way to bolster his own legacy. Instead he's leaving with his name on a legend's CV, somewhere between Yuki Kondo and Kiyoshi Tamura, just another man on a long list of Wanderlei Silva's victims.
How did it come to this? How did Silva, widely dismissed by critics like me, put another notch on his pistol grip, outslugging the younger and supposedly sharper fighter?
The answer is "the moment." More specifically, how easily Stann got caught up in it. Silva was everything critics thought he might be—flat footed, he winged hooks, waited for a smart fighter like Stann to control the distance, zoom leg kicked in and landed straight punches into the heart of the Silva storm.
But instead of trying to beat Wanderlei Silva, Stann got caught up in the moment trying to be Wanderlei Silva. He pounced when he smelled blood—pure Marine aggression. There were no more tactics, not after the first time he hit Silva. There was only bloodlust and animal rage. And that's just the kind of fight Wanderlei Silva wants.
After the fight he paid Stann a compliment—one that inadvertently explained how he was able to pull out the upset of the night.
"He's a strong guy. A warrior. He came to fight," Silva said at the postfight press conference.
"No going away. No going around. He met me there, to do the job. I like to fight guys like that."
Run that tape back and listen again. "I like to fight guys like that." If your opponent is giving you the faintest of praise like that, you've probably had a very bad night.
Sure Stann now has his name chiseled on a mythical tablet of "warriors" and guys who "bring it." But, I suspect he wanted to walk away with more than that. He had opportunity in his hands and let it go, all in pursuit of something that was never to be.
You could see the pain written on his face as he faced the music with Jon Anik after the fight. He hadn't processed the bout then—he was still clearing the cobwebs. By the time MMA Junkie got to him, he understood exactly why he lost the fight:
I'm obviously heartbroken. It was a good, tough fight, and I abandoned my plan a little bit by getting overaggressive. I think the fact that I hurt him early multiple times, it made me get overaggressive, leaving me susceptible to what he's best at, which is throwing a hard, overhand right.
Contrary to popular belief, you only rarely fight fire with fire. It's much more effective to use baking soda or a fire extinguisher. Stann tried to play Silva's game, stood right in front of him, winging his own punches in.
For a time, it worked. He cornered the bear. And, like that, with one right hand and some furious ground and pound, he was on the wrong side of history.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.