The team of analysts for the UFC on Fox Sports 1 and Fox broadcasts has been providing the most in-depth coverage that mixed martial arts has seen in its 20 years of existence.
With a collection of seasoned fight veterans and a handful of well-versed hosts at the helm, the people who work the pre- and post-fight shows for the UFC have consistently raised the bar.
There is no doubting Brian Stann is a man of many talents. From a decorated military career to a respectable stretch trading leather with the world's best inside the cage, The All-American has proved capable in every avenue he's traveled. That sentiment especially rings true in his latest endeavor, as Stann traded in the chaos of going toe-to-toe inside the Octagon for adding his expertise behind the analyst desk for Fox Sports 1 broadcasts.
It didn't take long for Stann to establish himself as a fan favorite, as his presentation and insight proved to be the type of delivery the MMA faithful wanted more of. Stann became the go-to member of the FS1 analyst crew and was even tapped to sit in on the commentary booth with Jon Anik on a few occasions.
Much like everything else Stann has taken on in his post-fight career, the fights he called with Anik were a big hit with the MMA community, and the UFC fanbase will be seeing more of the duo as the 2014 schedule progresses.
There is no doubt Stann is certainly a busy man, but he's always made time to swing by this column and provide his analyst magic on upcoming cards. He's certainly enjoying a higher profile and is in high demand these days, but Stann's blue-collar fabric keeps him moving forward, and he's not the type to turn his back on the little guy.
Here is what Stann had to say about the upcoming card for UFC on Fox 12.
Bleacher Report: We always start with the main event in this column, and we have a blockbuster on our hands with Robbie Lawler vs. Matt Brown this weekend at UFC on Fox 12. While the stylistic matchup and potential for beautiful violence have made this a highly anticipated affair, both men seem to have made tremendous mental adjustments that have attributed to their respective runs up the welterweight ladder. How important have their mental shifts been to their success?
Brian Stann: Robbie has always been an incredible athlete, but motivation has been a concern throughout his career, and it's kept him from reaching his full potential. But something clicked inside of him, and he's taken his game to another level.
He's always been a great athlete, but he's put in the work to make his game so well-rounded that he's good at everything and can finish you anywhere. He's always been a great striker, but now he can do it all. His striking arsenal is so much more diverse. He's a lot more technical and a lot more difficult to anticipate. He's a different guy now because he took the skills he had and made them that much more dangerous.
As for Matt Brown, he's always been a tough guy. He's always been a worker. The guy went to Cuba to train boxing and wrestling.
First off, for starters, there isn't a way to smuggle yourself into Cuba, but Matt Brown finds a way. That is the lengths he will go to in order to improve his all-around game.
He's hungry and tough, and those things drive him, but I honestly think for Brown it is his family that drives him. The true heart and determination for him comes from his wife and kids. He's a blue-collar guy who puts the hard hat on and goes to work every day. When he steps into that Octagon, you better have packed a lunch as well because he's not going anywhere.
B/R: When Lawler and Brown are mentioned, the word that continuously comes up is aggression. Both of them bring such aggressive styles to the cage, but in totally different ways. What are your thoughts on the different brands of aggression they will bring into San Jose?
BS: There is reckless and then there is calculated, and both Brown and Lawler are capable of both. They each have shown moments of recklessness and each have shown the ability to use calculated attacks in their fights.
Both of them have been around the block...especially Robbie Lawler. He's had fights where he should have won but got reckless and gave away that fight. But he's a different fighter these days. He's not throwing single shots anymore looking to take your head off; he's setting those knockout shots up now. He's playing chess out there, not checkers.
The same goes for Matt Brown. He goes out there and knows his game. He is going to suffocate you into submission or until you break. He's going to put so much pressure and pain on you, and just when he gets you to the edge of what you can take, he's going to push even harder and finish you off.
B/R: One of the major storylines heading into the main event at UFC on Fox 12 is the title shot that will be awarded to the victor. Where a lot of fighters say they aren't looking down the road and aren't thinking about a title opportunity, it has to be almost impossible not to think of the spoils that could come from winning such a big fight. That said, Brown and Lawler legitimately do not seem to be looking a step beyond what will be in front of them on Saturday night. Do you get the same feeling?
BS: A lot of people are favoring Robbie Lawler to win this fight, and sometimes when you are in that position, you can get overconfident. But this is a fight that is so closely matched and both guys are good in so many ways, that I guarantee Robbie is focused on the job he has to do. He knows just like Matt knows, they are going to have to put themselves through hell to come out as the victor on the other side.
This is going to be nothing short of a battle inside the Octagon, and they both know it. In those situations, there is only so much you can do to prepare for something like that. You can only try to prepare yourself to experience that level of exhaustion and pain it is going to take to get the victory in this fight.
B/R: The co-main event on Saturday night will put the focus on the light heavyweight fold as Anthony Johnson welcomes Antonio Rogerio Nogueira back to the Octagon after a lengthy layoff. Rumble has looked like a beast since settling in at 205, and what are your thoughts on Lil Nog coming back to face an opponent who has been firing on all cylinders the way Johnson has?
BS: After watching Anthony Johnson defeat Phil Davis, my thoughts are that this is a really tough fight for Nogueira to come back to. However, Lil Nog showed against Rashad Evans that he's capable of surprises.
If Anthony Johnson comes into this fight overconfident and not prepared for a tough fight, then he could have a long disappointing night. If that were to happen, it would serve to void some of the best momentum currently going right now in the light heavyweight division.
If we see the focused Anthony Johnson that came out against Phil Davis, I think this fight could turn into an absolute massacre. With a good performance, Johnson is going to solidify himself as a title contender at 205.
B/R: The race for title contention in the featherweight division is hotter than ever, and there will be an important tilt in the 145-pound division on Saturday night between Clay Guida and Dennis Bermudez. The Ultimate Fighter alum is surging up the ranks, while the savvy grinder is battling to establish himself in the elite tier of his new weight class.
Bermudez has a solid winning streak rolling, but Guida will be a big test. Do you think a matchup against The Carpenter came a bit too soon for Bermudez, or do you feel it's the perfect fight at this point in his career?
BS: I think it's the right fight at the right time for Bermudez. You have to take risks if you want reward in this sport, and Bermudez can't keep fighting guys outside of the top 15. He can't get to where he wants to be not fighting top-tier competition, and Clay Guida is the type of opponent he needs. However, should he lose to Guida on Saturday night, he's certainly young enough to bounce back from it. There have been plenty of future contenders who have lost to Guida...namely Anthony Pettis.
In this fight, I think Bermudez may be a little more skilled in more areas than Guida is. But here is the deal. Clay Guida faces this situation every single fight. Every time he steps into that cage, he's facing someone who is technically superior or is a better athlete. But you have to be better at all those things at Clay Guida's pace to beat him. I can be a better striker, grappler or wrestler than the guy I'm facing at my pace, but when we are fighting I don't get to choose.
If the other guy has a gas tank that is twice as large as mine, then I could be in for a really long night. I could look really good for four minutes, but when I start to get tired, that moment is going to shift quickly.
That's always a question when you come into Clay Guida fights. He typically takes a round before he steps it up a notch to see if the guy he is fighting can handle his pace. The best example of this is his fight with Benson Henderson. It was a tough fight, and Henderson is as athletically gifted a fighter as you'll see on the UFC roster.
B/R: You touched on the risk/reward Bermudez is facing in this fight, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts on what Guida will be facing in San Jose. He came to the featherweight division with a lot of expectation, and while he's had some success, he's also had some disappointing showings.
With how packed 145 is with contenders, there isn't a lot of real estate for fighters outside of the win column. Do you think this fight is absolutely crucial for Guida to keep his foothold in the elite level?
BS: I really do. When you are a guy in the top 10 fighting someone outside of the top 10, it's tough. If you lose that fight, you put yourself in a real predicament. It is also important—and I'm sure Clay Guida isn't thinking about this—that if you do lose a high-profile fight, that it is an exciting fight, and you do put forth a solid performance. Where you get nervous is that you come into a fight, get clipped early and don't get to show all of your stuff. That is going to drop you further than you really deserve because you didn't get to show all of your tools.
I do think this is a crucial fight for Clay Guida. He has to win this fight if he wants to get back to a place where he's fighting guys ranked in a better position than he is because you never want to fight behind you. The goal is to always be fighting in front of you.
That said, Clay Guida does really well when his back is against the wall, and this is not an easy matchup for him. Dennis Bermudez is a very legit fighter. I'm very intrigued to watch that fight go down.
B/R: We'll wrap things with a pair of fights in the lightweight division. The first of which is what should be an action-packed scrap between Josh Thomson and Bobby Green. The former Strikeforce champion is about as game as they come at 155, and Green is taking this fight on short notice. How important do you feel this fight is for both men in regard to the lightweight divisional hierarchy?
BS: For Bobby Green, this is as great an opportunity as he could ever ask for. He is a fantastic prospect turned contender, who now has an opportunity to leapfrog a whole bunch of guys and put himself in some major talks for some big-time fights.
As for Josh Thomson, he's been a guy who has been fabulous in this weight class for a very long time. And he is absolutely still there. He teased and talked a little bit about retirement for a period of time, but this guy is still technically and athletically capable of fighting with anyone in this weight division without a doubt. He's fantastic, and his fight with Ben Henderson is as close a fight as you're going to get in this sport.
B/R: You mentioned Thomson talking about retirement, and I want to dig a bit deeper into that topic. You know firsthand how difficult that choice is to make, and we've heard UFC President Dana White say for years that if a fighter is even remotely considering walking away, then it's best to just retire. Do you think Thomson was able to shore up those thoughts and straighten them out heading into this fight?
BS: I would not be able to speak on that without speculating, but if Josh Thomson is exhausted or not motivated in any way, and retirement is still in his mind, it is going to be a major factor in this fight.
Bobby Green is a guy who is obviously emotionally charged due to the tragedy he's faced with the death of his brother. He's a guy who comes from nothing, and when you fight guys—whether it be in war or a fight—who have nothing to lose, it makes them extremely dangerous.
Bobby Green is a guy who is going to go for it out there. He's as hungry as hungry can be. I think it's crucial that Josh Thomson come into this fight motivated and focused.
If you get a motivated and focused Josh Thomson, he's as good as any lightweight on the planet. Here is a guy who at one point in time shared the crown with Yves Edwards as the best lightweight fighters in the world. He's certainly back in that mix right now, and he'll need to be on top of his game to defeat Bobby Green on Saturday night.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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