Brian Stann is a fighter who's truly come into his own.
After starting out as a pure power puncher and nothing else, he's become a completely different fighter since moving over to Greg Jackson's gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The evolution of his game was emphatically stamped after his initial drop down to the middleweight division when he scored the first submission victory of his career against junior college national champion wrestler Mike Massenzio in a "Fight of the Night"-winning performance.
As a human being, Stann is a public relations' wet dream: a war hero, head of a wonderful charity, incredibly well spoken, even an author. If he can pull off a victory against Chael Sonnen this Saturday night (October 8, 2011) on the UFC 136 main card, he could be on the road to adding 'UFC middleweight champion' to that list.
Stann opened up about his training and political aspirations in part one of our interview posted yesterday and today, he opens up about Anderson Silva, how Chael Sonnen has been successful and what exactly he needs to do to get the 'W' in Houston on the 8th.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): While everyone knows that Chael Sonnen is a terrific wrestler, he's been able to outstrike just about every opponent he's ever faced including Anderson Silva and he doesn't get nearly enough credit for that. I'm sure you've watched a lot of tape on him. What is so special about Sonnen's striking that allows him to beat his opponents to the punch?
Brian Stann: There's nothing special about it except for the fact that Chael comes in in such great shape that he can go for 15 straight minutes. The other thing is when you have such great takedown ability like Chael does, it limits what the opponent can do to you. Everybody is worried about getting taken down so they're not going to throw their full arsenal of strikes against Chael because they know if they throw a kick, if they throw a knee, if they throw this combination, he's gonna come in under the punches and he's gonna double leg and take you down.
Anderson Silva couldn't sit there and use his kickboxing against Chael because of the fear of the takedown. When you have such great wrestling, it opens up the doors for you to be a great striker because you have the ability to put the fight wherever you want it to be and that's why you've seen so many wrestlers focus on their striking because they know it's an advantage. When you can fake a shot, come up with an uppercut or fake a shot, come up with a knee and completely make your opponent never want to throw kicks due to a fear of being taken down, now you only have to worry about their hands.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): That makes a ton of sense, you actually answered my follow up question of whether it was just the fear of the impending takedown. You've mentioned that you had a bunch of terrible habits in your striking originally and Mike Winkeljohn is a terrific coach and helped fix them. Footwork was one, was there anything else particularly glaring that you almost look back on and laugh about now?
Brian Stann: Oh there's plenty. I had no head movement. I never threw any fakes or feints. There's no level changes. It was always a straightforward, very predictable attack. I didn't understand any of the subtleties of the sport and Mike Winkeljohn being a three time world champion himself and having trained numerous world champions in mixed martial arts, he probably has also coached the most knockouts in the UFC, he sees all those things and he's very open to creativity.
He's very open to what you already know or what you've learned somewhere else and are already incorporating into your game but he's really good at taking your style and making it better. He doesn't try to make every striker on the team his style of striking, he tries to bring their individuality and their creativity into that fighter's style and he really has such a depth of knowledge that helps all of us. He single-handedly completely turned around my striking game and kind of had to break me down and build me back up.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've got to ask, I know 99% of your focus is on Chael Sonnen right now, but you've talked about earning a title shot with a victory. Is there anything you've seen out of Silva in his last few fights that gives you confidence that you can beat him?
Brian Stann: I haven't really thought about it. The fact of the matter is, I don't care who you are. If I hit you on the chin, there's a good chance you're going out. Anderson possesses that same ability. He's only a man. I don't put any fighter on a pedestal of being unbeatable. I train with guys like Jon Jones every day who is every bit as devastating. I haven't studied him to be quite honest but the things I've seen in his last two fights is that Vitor and Okami kind of played right into his game.
Anderson is very patient. He'll stand there with his hands down and wait for you to move and Okami didn't do any fakes or feints, didn't fake a shot or do something to pull out what Anderson had up his sleeve when he had his hands down. He literally just threw exactly what Anderson wanted him to throw and he got knocked out for it. It was easier said than done when you're armchair quarterbacking it and watching the greatest fighter of all time so I'll cross that bridge when it's time. I have a big puzzle in front of me right now that I have to figure out. Anderson Silva is the biggest puzzle in the history of our sport and I'll worry about that if I'm fortunate enough to ever get a shot at him.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In your book you certainly weren't afraid to really bring out the lowest points of your life in there, losing fights, getting in trouble in the Marines, losing friends in combat, it was just really compelling and it takes a big man to open up the way you did. Was it difficult bringing up a lot of those tough memories and sharing them?
Brian Stann: It was extremely difficult. I wasn't fully prepared for what it was going to be like, not having gone through that process before. It was tough on my wife because I would leave and go work on the book and come back 45 minutes later and be in a completely different mood but I felt that it was important. I didn't originally want to do a book and when I finally agreed to do it, I was like, "I'm I'm gonna do this, we're gonna do it right and we're gonna go all out."
This isn't gonna be some autobiography where someone tries to tell everyone how great they are because I can't stand books like that. I want to go out there and put it all on the table and talk about all the lessons I've learned in my life because smart people learn from their own mistakes but wise people learn from other people's mistakes. If a young aspiring leader whether it be in the military or just a leader in life in general is looking to learn something about leadership and dealing with adversity and they read my book, I wanted them to get something from it. Not just reading it and thinking, "Okay, nice story, whatever," I wanted them to learn from some of the mistakes I've made in my life.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Nearly every fighter visualizes success thousands of times before they enter the cage against their opponent and I know that's a big thing over at Jackson's as well. How do you see yourself winning the fight against Chael Sonnen at UFC 136?
Brian Stann: The only way I ever truly win fights is by knockout. I visualize it constantly and I see myself catching him in one of the scrambles for position. I have power in really short space where I can knock guys out in the break of a clinch or while a guy is trying to come in to clinch me, things of that nature and that's where I can see me stunning him and immediately going in for the finish. It's very difficult to beat a guy like Chael Sonnen by decision because his wrestling is so good. You have to go after it and I would much rather go out there and get after him and take it to him for three straight rounds going for the finish than try to win the fight by points.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Any last shoutouts, trainers, sponsors, your charity Hire Heroes?
Brian Stann: One of the other great things about TRX is they've really gotten behind Hire Heroes USA and they're actually sponsoring our marine corps marathon team this fall which has just been great. It's really special to me when I can partner with a company and not only do they give me the gear to get better but they send their head of human performance to my fight camp to help me train for this fight, get in better shape and really learn how to use this system for my specific gameplan. They're getting behind Hire Heroes USA and helping us with unemployed veterans right now and that's just really important.
For part one of our exclusive interview with Brian Stann, click here.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Does Stann have what it takes to prevent Chael Sonnen from getting another shot at Anderson Silva? Could he potentially be the one to dethrone "The Spider?"