In the UFC's middleweight division (unofficially named "The Silva Division" since 2006), the search is on for someone who can step into the Octagon and end the Brazilian's championship reign. The search has taken us from Brazilian jiu-jitsu black-belts, to wrestlers, to power punchers and back again.
So far, no one has been able to fully navigate the web of Anderson "The Spider" Silva.
But 2011's hottest fighter at 185 may have a shot at the belt in the near future. That fighter is former U.S. Marine and WEC light heavyweight champion Brian Stann.
Since dropping from light heavyweight last August, Stann is a perfect 3-0. But what makes those wins so special, are the ways that he's won. He finished all three; two against submission specialists (Mike Massenzio and Jorge Santiago) and another against a known brawler (Chris Leben).
When it comes to finding opponents for Anderson Silva, you want a guy that's been tested in different areas. Stann has risen to the occasion so far.
Should he end up facing Silva in the future, it will be interesting to see how well Stann can fare on his feet. Stretching back to his WEC days, Stann has won seven fights by knockout, six of them coming in the first round.
His best characteristic out of the cage is by far his military background. He was awarded a Silver Star back in 2005 for his leadership in Iraq during Operation "Matador." The Silver Star is the third-highest Medal of Honor in the military. Along with his courage he's also a class act; it's hard not to cheer for Stann no matter who he's fighting.
However, the one area of which he needs improvement is the ground game. Though he earned his first submission victory over Massenzio, it was the Phil Davis fight that exposed the hole is his wrestling and brought about his move to 185.
Stann has been working with Roberto Traven to improve his ground game and his first big test will come at UFC 136 against Chael Sonnen. Sonnen's style is very similar to that of Phil Davis and he will certainly look to test the Marine on the ground. If Stann can get by Sonnen, he will be more than deserving of a title shot in my eyes.
So does he have what it takes to be middleweight champion? He's passed all of the litmus tests so far. He's rapidly becoming a fan favorite and the perfect face for the middleweight division.
But plenty have fallen before him. Last August, Sonnen was on his way to becoming the new champion, but a last minute submission loss and a load of legal troubles have put him a step back on the title ladder.
MMA great Vitor Belfort looked to be the new face of the division last February, until Silva put a foot in it. And next month, Yushin Okami will get his shot to upend "The Spider" at UFC 134.
Should he fail, Brian Stann will move one step closer in line. His heavy hands and improving ground game would make for an intriguing matchup.
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