Alas, headlining UFC on Fuel TV: Silva vs. Stann is everyone's favorite axe murderer, and the tolerable marine. Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann promises a very early exit for one of the pugilists.
There's a whiff of dread to this fight. You read fans talk amongst one another about it, and it's like the whispering at a funeral; everyone communicating to one another in hushed, reverent tones. Wand's shelf life ended a long time ago, and now we're just watching the coffin lowered into the ground.
If this reads facetiously, it's not deliberate. To be perfectly honest, if Wand gets brutally knocked out, a lot of people will feel that knot in their stomach. The same thing happened with Chuck Liddell vs. Rich Franklin at UFC 115. Liddell's last knockout loss is still one of the more visceral, his body crumbling like a retired building getting the demolition treatment. Is this what Wand's last hurrah will look like?
I don't mean to depress everyone with these opening paragraphs, but it's in the back of my mind, and I know it is for others.
Wand was a special talent when he burst onto the scene. A moderate start blossomed into a violent streak that lasted almost half a decade after brutally acquiring the Pride Middleweight belt from Kazushi Sakuraba. Now here he is again, back to his old stomping ground. His first fight at Saitama Super Arena was at Pride's Cold Fury show. It wasn't a memorable event, but Silva's scrap with Dan Henderson was the part that outshone the sum. There's a good chance fans back then haven't forgotten the lasting image of Silva's eye post-fight.
Is there enough left in Silva to beat Brian Stann? Stann has had a rocky career. We appreciated what he did early on, allowing us to forget Doug Marshall was primed to be Chuck Liddell 2.0 for the WEC crowd, but he left unceremoniously, losing to Steve Cantwell, and making his UFC debut with a quick first round submission loss.
Stann has improved his game, but for now he seems consigned to losing to elite fighters, while being more than capable of beating the lesser and/or shot scrappers. Will this be the case here?
What both men can do: One of the things that always impressed me about Wand, is how he got away with such primitive boxing. But like I've said before, victory doesn't discriminate against technique. His punches ended up landing, and his opponents ended up falling. It's all that matters in this sport. Liddell's boxing wasn't pretty either.
However, that's not to say Silva isn't technical. True, when you watch him strike, it's always the same from-the-hip left hook right hand combination, but what Silva does so well, like Chuck, is time his punches. He anticipates well how his opponents will approach him, and his willingness to take a few to give a few doesn't hurt. I think some fans seem to forget that he was utterly competent on the feet against Mirko Filipovic in his prime when they fought mixed rules at Pride 20, landing the best punch (a lunging right hand that landed clean) of the fight (but not the best kick, granted). The fight was a draw because of the wonky rules, but I seem to recall the bout ending with Wand landing hard punches on Mirko from top position.
He's also capable of tricks. We can talk all day about his days in Pride, but I won't because I can only glean so much from watching a Japanese pro wrestler do their best imitation of Jabba's little pig soldiers encountering the Rancor for the first time.
I'd prefer to walk about his bout with Chuck Liddell; a fight that's always sold as Wand's official decline, but that I think is anything but. There's a fantastic little sequence 2 minutes in where Liddell lands a glancing blow. Wand retreats, as if hurt, and as soon as Chuck comes in with a punch Wand violently unloads and the two begin a fantastic exchange. Silva playing possum?
These are the kinds of things Silva will have to do to beat Stann, who doesn't offer much on the ground, but who throws straight punches, and will have the reach advantage.
What both men can't do: Stann's potential problem in this fight is that he's prone to forgetting his jab, and seems to hesitate if his opponent can put him on his back (or cause him to back pedal).
I highly doubt this will be Silva's gameplan. He's fighting in Japan after all. And Stann would likely thwart his attempts anyway.
I'd like to think positive here, and say that Wand will muster some flurries, which he will. Who knows, maybe not having to cut weight will benefit him as well, but I have to suspect this is Silva's swan song. Frankly, the sooner the better. And just as frankly, what better place, win or lose, to say goodbye than in Japan?
Prediction: Brian Stann by TKO, round 1.