Brian Stann, the Iraq veteran, had stated that no one would be able to touch him during Memorial Day weekend.
Turns out he was right.
"The All-American" passed his toughest middleweight test in Jorge Santiago with flying colors. "The Sandman" posed little to no threat to Stann in the near 10 minutes they battled and was constantly in danger of having his night ended with one clean shot.
If the Chris Leben TKO was Stann's middleweight coming out party, his UFC 130 victory over Jorge Santiago was his "contender status" party.
See how it all went down after the jump.
From the onset, Stann looked to keep the former Sengoku champion off balance with some nasty right leg kicks. The former Navy linebacker also displayed excellent use of changing levels and throwing feints to keep Santiago guessing. "The Sandman" never looked comfortable in his Octagon return and Stann's constant movement was a key factor.
"The All-American" also took command of the center of the cage with authority and refused to give the Imperial Athletics fighter an opportunity to relax. Stann continued to stalk Santiago throughout the first round and he utilized a right hook feint to set up a big left hand that dropped "The Sandman."
Santiago's survival instincts were superb and he was able to intelligently defend himself on the ground to endure until the round expired despite Stann's best ground and pound efforts.
In the second stanza, Stann gained confidence and it was more of the same. Leg kicks, feints, combinations to the head, rinse repeat. Santiago attempted to mix in takedown attempts but they were laughably shrugged off. He looked awkward, off balance and sluggish with his striking and the fight ended when a looping left hand from Santiago was countered with a massive overhand right from Stann that clipped him.
For Santiago, his UFC return couldn't have gone much worse. He went on a fantastic 11-1 run outside the promotion but it was more of the same in the Octagon, except this time he didn't show much all-around skill before getting cracked on the chin.
He's still got too much talent to be dismissed, but he'll definitely be on the undercard in his next fight and he'll be in desperate need of a victory if he wants to stick around. Hopefully, his explosiveness returns because that was not the Jorge Santiago that dominated Strikeforce and Japan.
"The All-American" continues to improve every time we see him in the Octagon and he'll likely get another top 10 middleweight in his next UFC fight, potentially for a number one contender position.
Who should Stann fight next, and how close is the decorated armed forces veteran to a title shot?