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Stann ready to step up

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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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There have been some interesting theories — and a few excuses — why it’s taken this long for Brian Stann and Wanderlei Silva to face one another.

The two middlweights who are atop this weekend’s UFC on Fuel 8 card in Japan were originally penciled in for UFC 130 in May 2011. The one piece of speculation that Stann never bought was that Silva was scared.

“Why would Wanderlei Silva, who has fought guys like Cro Cop (Mirko Filipovic), be afraid of me?” Stann asked rhetorically. “That wasn’t the case at all. He was just at the point of his career that he had a lot to lose in fighting me.”

Silva told MMAConvert.com and other outlets at the time that the reason he didn’t want to fight Stann two years ago was because he was waiting for a more prominent matchup, like champ Anderson Silva. Instead, Wanderlei Silva got Chris Leben in July 2011 — a fight that Silva lost via a first-round knockout.

Silva also reiterated another reason why the Stann fight didn’t make sense initially: Stann’s Marine Corps legacy that included a Silver Star.

“He’s from the (Marines) and a war hero,” Silva said. “He’s a good guy and people like him. There were other guys I wanted to fight at the time. It wasn’t that I was afraid or did not like him. I respect guys in the military. I served in Brazil.”

With both fighters losing two of their last three fights, neither Silva nor Stann are in position to be too choosy. Stann said, however, that this fight — which is atop the main UFC on Fuel 8 card that begins at 10 p.m. ET on Saturday — will have a different feel than if the bout took place two years ago.

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“My skills are much better than back then,” Stann said. “I think I’m better in every area. That’s the biggest difference. I’m more skilled. I’m a better wrestler. I’m a better grappler. If you look back, I wasn’t a complete fighter. I started in the sport late. I’m still learning from every fight.”

Stann is 32, but he said he’s a “young 32.” This is his 18th career pro fight, winning 12 of his first 17. Stann made his MMA debut in 2006 while he was still enlisted.

"It’s not like I had 10 or 15 career fights when I was 22,” said Stann, who has two daughters. “When you do that, you may never see your 30s in the sport. You can only get hit so many times — whether it’s boxing or MMA — and it’s over. Your chin can’t take a shot. This sport is very unforgiving and my fighting style is in-your-face. If my chin can’t take a shot, I’m not sticking around. I have too many children to worry about and I want to do other things outside MMA.”

Silva may have been apprehensive to fight Stann initially, but that’s no longer the case.

“It’s going to be a good fight,” Silva said. “He’s a complete fighter. He’s like an angry dog. He likes to fight and he wants to fight. He’s not going to be one of those guys running around avoiding me.”

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