Fight vs. Sonnen big step up for Stann
I’m cutting weight for my fight tomorrow at UFC 136. It is never fun but it is getting easier as I learn more about how my body reacts to fighting at 185 pounds rather than at 205 pounds.
The fight is almost here. I don’t feel nervous. In the grand scheme of the world, this is a fist fight, a sporting contest, and as exciting and big as it is for us and for the fans watching at the time, it is really nothing more than that.
But at the same time, in my own career, this is the biggest step up yet. The week before I received the call to face Chael Sonnen, I naturally started to wonder who I might end up fighting next. I was at UFC 132 watching Chris Leben defeat Wanderlei Silva, when it suddenly dawned on me that I would probably end up facing either Mark Munoz or Chael Sonnen in my next fight. I’d already beaten Leben so I figured the UFC wouldn’t do a rematch there.
At the time I felt fighting Chael was a bit of stretch, simply because of his ranking and reputation, and the fact that everybody seemingly wanted to see him fight Anderson Silva again in a rematch. So, when I got the call to fight Chael it surprised me, but also excited me nonetheless. I never turn down fights and have only knocked back one fight in my whole career, and that was because I was asked to fight somebody the weekend my baby was supposed to be born. I just couldn't risk it. It was never going to happen. But, apart from that, I have never before even thought about turning a fight down. Chael represented a huge opportunity for me and it was one that I jumped at as soon as I got wind of it.
I see myself as perhaps the sixth- or seventh-ranked guy at middleweight in the world right now and Chael is sitting unanimously at No. 2. Therefore, it was a no-brainer to accept this fight. A win over Chael on tomorrow will change a lot for me in my career, and I know that on any given night I can beat anybody in this middleweight division.
If you're a fighter — and if you're a real fighter — these are the kind of fights you want. It doesn't get much bigger than this for me. I'm hungry for opportunities like this in my career and I couldn't feel more equipped to deal with it right now. On Saturday night I will be given the chance to test my skills against somebody who has been doing this sport since I was still in high school. Not only that, you could argue Chael Sonnen hasn't even lost a round in the UFC yet, aside, of course, from rounds in which he has been submitted. I haven't even seen Chael get beaten up yet in his career. I haven't seen him dominated or overwhelmed.
Ultimately, I love it when people tell me I can't do something. I thrive on that sense of having my back to the wall and then coming out fighting. This fight with Chael offers me the chance to prove a lot of people wrong and, for that reason alone, it represents a major moment in my mixed martial arts career.
I've met Chael on several occasions and he is a very intelligent guy. I even had the opportunity to train with him many years ago, so I feel I know the guy fairly well. In person, Chael has never been anything but respectful, courteous and kind to me and, for that very reason, I have nothing bad to say about the man. I know for a fact that he has been happy for my success in the Octagon and I too have been delighted with the form he has shown in recent years.
Chael rubs people up the wrong way from time to time, but I really don't think he's a bad guy at all. I'm only speculating, but as far as I can see, Chael has cleverly created a persona with which to market himself and it works for him. He is considered one of the most entertaining and engaging characters in the sport now, and when Chael Sonnen talks, we all sit up and listen.
As for the fight itself, I think the advantages we hold over each other are fairly obvious. I feel as though I am the more powerful and technical striker, and also the stronger athlete mentally.
Chael is a good striker in his own right, of course, but I think a lot of the success he gets in the striking area is due mainly to the fact that most guys he faces are wary of his tremendous takedowns. That threat lone allows him to express himself on his feet a bit more freely. Chael is a very stronger wrestler with superb takedowns, and he's both relentless and technical with it. Nobody has ever had an easy night with him.
I remember watching Chael's world title fight with Silva in the basement of a neighbor's house and I was caught screaming at the television in excitement. I was amazed by the performances of both men and stunned by just how incredible the fight turned out to be. On one hand you had Chael overcoming the odds and backing up all his talk for 4 1/2 rounds, and then on the other hand you had Silva, the greatest fighter in the history of the sport, showing the heart of a champion and turning defeat into victory at the 11th hour. He found a way to win when there didn't seem to be one.
Fast-forward to Saturday night and I see a very fast-paced and grueling battle, with both Chael and I trying to impose our will and strengths. I think there will be countless momentum changes and shifts during the fight, and it is my job to be prepared and ready for each. Eventually I believe I will land something that hurts Chael and there is no way I will let him recover from that shot. I will finish him.
Visit www.brianstann.com and @BrianStann for more information on Brian "All-American" Stann