For the better part of the day I was thinking about who were possible MVPs going into last night's UFC 130 pay-per-view. The card did not lack enough big name fighters, but it did lack any interesting bouts that carried all that much consequence.
The main event was a light heavyweight tilt pitting former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson against Matt Hamill. An upset by Hamill could vault him towards the top of the list as far as MVP's are concerned or Rampage could gain some momentum with a highlight reel knockout.
The co-main event had occasional training partners Frank Mir and Roy Nelson going toe-to-toe in a matchup of two heavyweight fighters with exceptional grappling skills. Could a slick submission by either man gain them the vaunted Most Valuable Player award for UFC 130?
When it was all said and done I had two fighters in mind. I looked at Rick Story and the fact that he gained the biggest victory of his career against Thiago Alves and backed up all of the pre-fight talk he had unleashed. He kept his promise and proved that calling out and requesting a fight with Alves was a great move on his part.
Then there was Brian Stann, the man who has been making a lot of noise since dropping down to the middleweight division. He was taking on the returning and versatile Jorge Santiago in a bout that could put the winner very close to a shot at the middleweight title.
Both men had impressive showings, but the deciding factor in choosing Stann was he finished his opponent while Story won by unanimous decision. I can't lie and say that this being Memorial Day weekend and Stann being a decorated Marine and an American hero didn't add some drama to this story.
The poise Stann showed inside the Octagon no doubt comes from the experiences he has gone through while serving in Iraq. His composure will only help him when the tough gets going and he finds himself in trouble during a fight. There is nothing that can happen to him inside the cage that he hasn't already seen on the battlefield.
He took on a returning Santiago, a fighter who had gone 11-1 in his last 12 fights. During that time he won the Strikeforce Middleweight Grand Prix by defeating both Sean Salmon and Trevor Prangley in the same night. He then traveled east and went to Japan where he won the Sengoku Middleweight Grand Prix and Middleweight Championship.
Santiago has defeated some very good fighters including Kazuo Misaki twice, the last fight between the two was named the 2010 Fight of the Year. This all goes to show you that Santiago is for real and a legitimate threat in the middleweight division.
That is why Stann deserves the credit he gets and why he deserves to be the UFC 130 Most Valuable Player. He not only defeated Santiago, he had him in danger throughout much of the fight and completely stifled any offense that Santiago tried to muster.
So enjoy your Memorial Day weekend Mr. Stann, enjoy your win over a very good fighter and thank you for putting on a performance worthy of being the UFC 130 MVP.