In the days leading up to tomorrow's UFC 130, there have only been two main aspects of the card discussed: the implications of Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Matt "The Hammer" Hamill on the light heavyweight division and the implications of Roy "Big Country" Nelson vs. Frank Mir on the heavyweight division.
There is one fight on the card that is being overshadowed by all this talk: Brian Stann vs. Jorge Santiago.
It is perhaps easy to forget this fight; Santiago might as well be a UFC newcomer since it's likely that few of today's casual fans actually remember his previous stint in the UFC in 2006.
Stann, on the other hand, is a known fighter thanks to the fact that he is a legitimate war hero—a fact that marketing has not forgotten and will never forget—as well as his recent stunning TKO victory over the popular slugger Chris "The Crippler" Leben.
Despite Stann's popularity, there is little talk of him climbing up the division with a win over Santiago. Instead, much of the middleweight musings are centered on the future of Michael "The Count" Bisping and the suspension status of Chael Sonnen.
Has this effectively made Stann the "dark horse" of the middleweight division?
The answer is twofold and complicated.
First, Brian Stann isn't a dark horse in the sense that he is the one that can beat long-running middleweight champion Anderson Silva but is getting no credit or hype. Stann is a good striker, but just good. We have all seen what Anderson Silva can do to strikers who are great, let alone just good.
However, it is important to note that when discussing anything within the UFC, there are really two parallel "realities" occurring at once: There is a physical reality and a marketing reality.
The physical reality is the fact that Stann has very little chance against Silva. The marketing reality is that Stann IS the dark horse and IS a threat to Silva.
So, to answer the question in a more succinct way: Yes, Brian Stann will be trumpeted as a dark horse should he be victorious over Santiago on Saturday. But at the same time, the answer is also an emphatic no: Brian Stann does not and will never have the skill set to top Silva.