Going into his fight with Chael Sonnen on Saturday night, Brian Stann was being heralded as the next great thing at middleweight.
He was riding a 5-1 record in his previous six fights, had proven his ability to reduce men to rubble in the cage and had great marketing appeal as a former Marine who happens to be as affable and well-spoken as any pro athlete in the world today.
Unfortunately for him, the Sonnen fight served to completely undo a lot of what he’d accomplished. The American hero, that the UFC has so obviously been behind, was left battered and bruised after being outwrestled and choked out in a little over a round.
Not exactly what the company was hoping for. Probably even less so what Stann was hoping for.
However it really begs the question: was Brian Stann fool’s gold all along?
If you look at his UFC matchups since dropping to middleweight, most of them have been favourable. That’s not an attack or designed to be abrasive, it’s reality. Look at the list:
Mike Massenzio, a guy who has been hanging on like grim death just to stay on the roster. Stann finished him via triangle, establishing his ground game against a guy who likely only knew of triangles from math and music before being caught in one.
Chris Leben, the come-forward-no-matter-what slugger that Stann politely called out in an earlier effort to fight a name guy and get on the map. Mission accomplished, as he stopped Leben early in the first round. Still, it’s a guy you knew wouldn’t test anything other than his standup, and it made him look good in a big way.
Jorge Santiago, a fresh face with decent standup but without the durability to take Stann’s considerable punching power. Also enough hubris to try and fight fire with fire instead of fighting smart, which is what led to him being steamrolled by the former Marine.
So really, when you put him in there against Sonnen it was no wonder that he’d catch a beating. He seems like a good guy, and is unquestionably a great ambassador for the sport, but his accomplishments on the battlefield perhaps accounted for him being rushed along a little, just as much as those in the octagon did.
Everyone likes a good story, and Brian Stann is that. He’s the type of guy who is seemingly good at everything he does, and people respect his abilities no matter what they’re being applied to. In this case, he still has respect in his ongoing pursuit of success in MMA, but he’s further away than people realize.
Brian Stann was fool’s gold going into UFC 136. It was proven when he was so thoroughly outclassed by a man many consider to be nipping at Anderson Silva’s heels as best middleweight in the world. People—the UFC included—thought Stann was better than he was, and that injustice cost him a sound beating and a big loss.
He needs to get back in the gym and work on his wrestling and ground game, and then get matched up with a guy who can test it without the relentlessness and ferocity of Sonnen. Demian Maia comes to mind as a guy who makes a lot of sense, but there are others as well.
It was too far, too fast for Stann in the past year, and Saturday night officially marked the stopping point of that journey. Like most, I look forward to the reset that will follow, and the evolution he’ll go through to become better.
His story also needs to be remembered the next time a prospect on the rise looks invincible, because chances are he’s not.