Brian Stann was sitting pretty.
A four-fight win streak in World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) earned the former Marine a light heavyweight title shot, one he made good on when he knocked out Doug Marshall in less than two minutes. Six fights into his career, Stann was already a champion and looked to be on his way to much more.
But, an old opponent in Steve Cantwell challenged for the title in Stann's next fight and dropped the square-jawed American in the second round, ending all the momentum the now former champion had built up for himself. Cantwell would end up going down in the record books as the final WEC 205-pound champion after the weight class was absorbed into Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Stann would also make the jump to the larger promotion, but immediately lost his footing inside the Octagon.
On April 14, 2012 in Sweden, Stann takes on Middleweight mainstay Alessio Sakara in the co-main event of UFC on Fuel TV 2: "Gustafsson vs. Silva." It will be Stann's fifth fight at 185 pounds, a drop in weight necessitated by his less than stellar performances at Light Heavyweight upon debuting in the UFC.
We'll take a look back at the fights in question and in particular, his first fight at middleweight against Mike Massenzio from UFC on Versus 2: "Jones vs. Matyushenko." It was a three round war that won each man "Fight of the Night" honors and helped invigorate Stann's stalling career.
Are you ready?
Despite having just lost to Cantwell and also losing his title in the process, Stann's debut inside the Octagon was looked forward to by many fans and pundits. He was pencilled in against International Fight League (IFL) and The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran Krzysztof Soszynski at UFC 97. Stann would wind up losing by submission in the first round.
His next fight was the trilogy ending bout with Cantwell on a Fight Night card in Oklahoma City. Their first meeting ended brutally when Stann knocked his opponent out in less than a minute while their second fight ended when a barrage of punches from Cantwell left the referee no other choice but to step in to spare Stann any further damage. Thanks to these two violent finishes, it was safe to assume someone to going to sleep in OKC.
Well, you know what they say what happens when you assume, right? Neither man ended up landing the killing blow and for the first time in Stann's career, his fight was left in the judges' hands. He picked up the unanimous decision that night and then another against Rodney Wallace less than three months later. The problem was, this wasn't the Brian Stann fans were used to seeing.
The point was further hammered home when the former Marine took on Phil Davis at UFC 109 and was thoroughly trounced by "Mr. Wonderful." It was the Stann's third loss in five fights after he started his career by rattling off six straight wins. Something obviously needed to change.
Stann decided soon after a drop to middleweight would be what was needed to help his stalling career. One more loss at light heavyweight and his walking papers very well could have been drawn up. It was something he simply couldn't risk. So he shed the 20 pounds and accepted a bout against Mike Massenzio in August 2010. Massenzio, like Stann, found success early in his career but floundered inside the Octagon. Both men were coming off losses and looking to save their jobs.
Stann spent the early parts of the opening round on his back. It wasn't a good start for the former Marine who was throwing kicks which Massenzio was catching. Two times Massenzio did so and soon Stann found himself with a guillotine choke wrapped around his neck as the two grappled on the mat.
The former WEC champion was able to pop his head out and survive and for the first time in the find, ended up in an offensively advantageous position. But from his opponent's guard, Stann couldn't land any ground and pound of consequence and the round ended with Massenzio taking his opponent's back.
The second round seems almost like a carbon copy of the first. Massenzio secures the early takedown and puts Stann on his back. Another guillotine choke nearly ends the bout but for the second time Stann is able to get his head free. But just like the first round, he's unable to put together any meaningful offense. Going into the final round, it seems Stann's time has run out.
It's in the third where Stann finally emerges. Defending takedowns, the former Marine is able to rock Massenzio which forces "The Master of Disaster" to take the fight the ground. From there, Stann is able to secure a triangle choke to secure the comeback victory and a successful middleweight debut.
Can he get back on track with a win over Sakara? Or will his middleweight aspirations derail much like his light heavyweight dreams did?