This fight reminds me of Griffin vs. Franklin, in the sense that the two men involved in the UFC on Fuel 8's main event are more or less doppelgangers of each other in terms of combat style and mentality, and that is what makes this fight so enticing. Both Stann and Silva won't look to wrestle, they won't look to cage clinch,and they most certainly won't attempt to engage in a technical battle of feints, angles, and head movement on the feet. In all likelihood, the former marine and PRIDES finest are going to charge to the center of the Octagon, plant their feet, and look to get well acquainted with each other's wheel houses on more than one occasion throughout the bout. It is going to be glorious. Heck, it may even bring a nostalgic tear to the eye of one or two veteran Saitama goers as they are transported back to flashes of The Axe Murderer vs. Jackson, The Axe Murderer vs. Hunt, and just The Axe Murderer in general. But I digress- lets take a more microscopic look at both combatants, starting with the deservedly favorite to win, Brian Stann.
Brian Stann, 12-5, 6-4 in UFC
Stann is very heavy handed. With nine of his 12 wins coming via (t)ko, that one statement right there is the be all end all to Brian's entire game plan going into every fight. But having the power to render one's opponents unconscious is only half of the ingredients necessary to produce highlight reel knockouts- a fighter also needs to possess the proper means of delivering that force on a consistent basis. And while Brian has recently utilized low kicks in an attempt to disperse his opponent's focus ( to his detriment and advantage against Sonnen and Santiago, respectively), his main means of delivering knockout blows is not a series of masking techniques, but his mentality and attitude. Stann is an offensively minded fighter, and is more than willing to simply wade into range, absorb one or three shots, and deliver one of his own lethal head torquing hooks. His crushing of Chris Leben is a prime example of this strategy, and goes to show that there probably aren't many individuals currently on the planet who can hope to sloppily brawl with the former marine and stay conscious. But there are holes in his standup game, the most obvious being his refusal to tuck his chin during exchanges and his tendency to throw bombs from his hips instead of resetting at his aforementioned chin once he finds himself in a firefight. So far, Stann's iron jaw has held up and his fists have found his opponents' off buttons first, but continuing to utilize the same "Come back with your shield or on it" mentality will always carry the risk of being tagged in a big way, especially against Wanderlei.
In the other areas of his game, Stann's indomitable spirit and unwavering work ethic have also helped him become a fairly well conditioned athlete, and we have yet to see him gas and fade in a fight at this point in time. However, this will be Stann's first five round fight, and while the odds of it making it past the third are logically slim to none, you just never know with this sport. If minute sixteen is reached, expect The Axe Murderer to test Brian's cardio with a frenetic and inescapable pace.
besides the cardio question, the only truly glaring shortcoming in Stann's mma arsenal has to be his defensive wrestling. Soszynski, Davis, Sonnen, Bisping... all of Brian's UFC losses can be attributed solely to his inability to stay on his feet when the other man has opposing ideas. Luckily for The All American, I have a feeling that Wanderlei won't be looking to take advantage of that weakness. Speaking of Wand...yeah here's Silva's bit.
Wanderlei Silva, 34-12, 4-7 in UFC
Ahh, Wanderlei Silva... As much as I want to spend a few hundred words detailing the reasons why he was able to stomp and flail all over competition for years back in PRIDE, I'm afraid a fight taking place in the near future requires up to date and relevant analysis. In regards to Silva, that means assessing his skill set based solely on his recent UFC career, which sadly has its fair share of rough patches. Wand's fight strategy is a mirror image of Stann's; close the distance, throw monstrous hooks, and finish the opponent. But where Stann has that one punch power to rely on, Silva is more of a "Tag em, swarm em, finish em" kind of fighter. While he most definitely looks for that single shot ko, he usually ends up only staggering and stunning his opponent. This is where he blends his do-or-die Val Tudo approach with world class cardio to turn himself into one of the most rabid and unrelenting finishers in the game. In fact, I believe that it is Silva's excruciatingly brutal conditioning regime and resulting cardiovascular excellence that has allowed him to remain competitive in today's middleweight division despite his eroding chin. If Silva stings his opponent he can let go with a slew of hooks and knees with reckless abandon, knowing that even if he doesn't earn the finish in that blood streaked moment, he'll still have gas in the tank. And on the other side of the spectrum, he can unleash that same savage fight ending offense deep in the fifth after twenty-some minutes of action. No matter how far mma evolves, cardio will always be an ace up the sleeve for fighters who find themselves at a disadvantage in other areas of the game (just ask Clay Guida and Matt Riddle), and Silva has it. The Axe Murderer is also able to employ a hectic and feral striking attack due to confidence in his solid ground skills. In the event of a take down, Silva's black belt in BJJ, and more importantly his active hips and cardio-boosted escape game, allow him to usually return to his feet in a timely manner and to continue stalking his adversary.
In recent times, Wanderlei's biggest weakness has been his refusal to put self preservation ahead of offense, and his ever-decreasing ability to absorb a big shot and stay awake has magnified this. He came into the UFC off of knockout losses to Mirko Cro Cop and Dan Henderson, and has since been shut off by Jackson and Leben, and put on roller skates by Liddell and Le. Now that list right there is a pretty impressive gathering of heavy hitters, and being finished by any one of them is far from embarrassing. No, the problem was and is Silva's knowledge that these men possessed the ability to end his night, and his complete refusal to alter his game accordingly. He also has a fondness for groping for the Thai Plum as both an offensive and defensive hail Mary play, which may allow Stann to simply fire off short shots over the top of Silva's arms, very similar to how Leben earned the win against Wanderlei back at UFC 132. If this is anything to go by, we may very well be witnessing Silva earn his 3rd loss by ko in the UFC when he steps into the cage with Brian Stann.
Overall, I think the fact that this fight is taking place at light heavyweight, and it being five rounds, adds a unique angle to things, and may help to tip the scales in The Axe Murderer's direction. As I have already stated, Wanderlei Silva puts his body through a horrendous workout routine to achieve the level of conditioning that he possesses. I believe that that regime, combined with his age (36), and cutting anywhere from 15-20 pounds of water weight in the weeks leading up to fight night have had a more negative than positive impact on his performance at 185. Regardless of whether this is a permanent move that sees him touching weights again, or just a one off fight to give his body a break ala Rumble Johnson, I believe that not having to cut weight will have a monumentally positive effect on his performance against Stann. Not only that, but the extra two rounds that Wand potentially has to work with might provide us with the first glimpse of a tired Brian Stann, should Silva decide to avoid exchanging heavy artillery in the opening rounds.
B in the end, I believe that conditioning and the long game won't make themselves relevant; this fight is a violence packed coin toss, and it'll be decided in the opening round or two. But I'm going with the upset. I see a rejuvenated and properly hydrated Wand absorbing a few glancing blows from Stann before landing his own thunderous looping shot in the pocket, and swarming on the dazed marine with brutal knees and punches for a referee stoppage.
Wanderlei Silva, first round tko. Come on Wandy, one last time big guy.