UFC 136: The Face-Off

Brian Stann speaks with Heavy MMA's Megan Olivi

Sonnen vs. Stann gets the Face-Off treatment

UFC 136 brings to a close a four-week stretch that delivered UFC events on four consecutive Saturdays. It also brings a chance for Heavy MMA lead writer E. Spencer Kyte to even things up in his ongoing battle with feature writer Duane Finley known as The Face-Off.

Kyte broke his three-fight losing streak last time out. More correctly, Stefan Struve broke it for him by submitting Pat Barry at UFC on Versus 6. Seven days later, it’s time for another rematch, this time with the middleweight battle between Chael Sonnen and Brian Stann taking the lead.

Having learned his lesson after winning the initial installment, predicting an “Anderson Silva-like reign,” and then losing three straight, all he’s saying before this round is, “May the best man win.”

The Case for Sonnen (Kyte 2-3)

Wrestling is still the most dominant base in the sport, and Chael Sonnen is a dominant wrestler.

I love Brian Stann, and fear his power in this one, but the analyst in me can’t get by Sonnen’s wrestling in this one. While I think Stann could catch Sonnen with a well-placed bomb at some point, I know that Sonnen is going to come out and wrestle like a madman.

As much as we focus on what Sonnen says a lot of the time, what he’s done in the cage over the last four fights deserves some attention as well.

While he didn’t get the result he wanted at UFC 117, he came pretty damn close, and put a solid beating on Anderson Silva in the process. Despite everyone knowing that he’s going to come out, grind you into the cage, and out-wrestle you, people haven’t been able to stop him of late.

Dan Miller couldn’t do it, Yushin Okami couldn’t do it, and Nate Marquardt couldn’t do it either, and I don’t think Stann will be able to either.

Sonnen has a more suffocating, grinding, in-your-face style of wrestling than Phil Davis, and Stann had serious trouble with Davis. Even though he has improved since then, I don’t think he’ll have brought his wrestling to the level it needs to be to stop Sonnen from asserting his will in this one.

Additionally, I know everyone wants to win every fight, but you can be damn sure that Sonnen has a little extra motivation heading into this one. He wants another chance to face Silva, and beating Stann is the only way he can make that a reality.

It probably won’t be pretty — Sonnen’s fights seldom are — but we’re not scoring on style points. “The Gangster from Oregon” grinds out a win and gets another chance to fight for the middleweight title.

The Case for Stann (Finley 3-2)

I’ll admit, I’ve really savored my victories over ESK in our Face-Off match-ups. I’ll also concede there has been some gloating on my part, but as we have all come to love about this sport, things change on a dime, and with that Struve triangle, I watched my belt make its journey back to the Great White North.

Thanks to the jam-packed UFC schedule, I don’t have to wait long for my chance at redemption.

Much like my counterpart, I believe wrestling to be the dominant discipline in mixed martial arts, and when it comes to wrasslin’, there are few who do it better than Sonnen. That being said, there are other factors that are hovering around this fight, and I believe those will ultimately prove too much for the former number one contender to handle.

Ring rust is an often disputed issue amongst MMA heads but the fact is time away tends to affects everyone differently.

While Sonnen has been out with his various issues, Stann has been tearing his way up the divisional ladder. As a matter of fact, Stann has looked more like a contender with each outing, leaving the one-dimensional fighter from his WEC days a faded memory. His power has been on point and his overall striking game is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with.

After a long lay-off, it typically takes fighters a bit to adjust to being back in the cage. Paired with Stann’s ability for a quick start, Sonnen could be in trouble early and often.

Stann trains with world-class fighters on a daily basis, so while his wrestling won’t be up to snuff with Sonnen’s, I’m sure he’s worked takedown defense like it’s his full-time job.

Don’t get me wrong: if Sonnen puts Stann on his back early in this fight, it will be a long night for the former WEC champ, but I don’t see that happening in the time when the fight will be decided. If Stann can employ a sprawl and brawl game plan that keeps Sonnen standing, he walks away with this fight. Both men are as tough as they come, so I don’t see Stann putting Chael away the same way he did Chris Leben and Jorge Santiago, but I do see him doing enough damage to walk away with the victory on the cards.

Stann wins this fight via unanimous decision in Houston, and ESK puts the shipping label back on my belt and sends it back to the States where it belongs.

That’s how I see it and that is how it is going to go.