Brian Stann had some huge shoes to fill last night (Aug. 3, 2013) when he temporarily took over color commentary duties for Joe Rogan at UFC 163 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Rogan, beloved by the fans, had only missed two of the previous 100 pay-per-views, so this was a pretty big deal.
The recently retired UFC middleweight didn't just step up to the plate in his first opportunity to call fights live, he passed with flying colors. On a night with some freaky finishes, controversial calls, slow pacing and multiple UFC debuts, it was Stann who shone brightest of all.
Check out some of the more over-the-top Twitter reviews of his performance from last night:
Stann remains the high point of this card so far for me. Enthusiastic w/o being obnoxious, knowledgeable w/o being smug, smooth in delivery— Brent Brookhouse (@brentbrookhouse) August 3, 2013
Brian Stann put a wounded Facebook broadcast on his back, carried us across treacherous terrain, got us back to safety. Thank you, Hero Man.— Jordan Breen (@jordanbreen) August 3, 2013
The reception to Stann's commentary on my feed ranks somewhere between that to the discovery of the polio vaccine and liberation of France.— Todd Martin (@ToddMartinMMA) August 4, 2013
So what exactly made Stann so good?
1. He did his research - Stann is a professional in every definition of the word. "The All-American" already had experience working the analyst booth for UFC on Fox events, but he went above and beyond last night. He pointed out details about even curtainjerking welterweight Viscardi Andrade, discussing how he'd quit his job to focus on MMA full-time while noting the improvements in his striking....moments before Andrade dropped Bristol Marunde with a combination and finished the fight. He managed to bring up multiple important points for each fighter from either having talked to them in the lead-up to the bout or even better, having talked to their coaches who are usually more honest.
2. His observations were usually spot on - Stann went out of his way to explain interesting details of in-fight situations like Rani Yahya putting himself between Josh Clopton and the fence to prevent cage-walking, noting Ian McCall's improved footwork but also his tendency to drop his hands as the round goes on and perfectly predicting Francimar Barroso's likelihood of utilizing leg kicks to earn himself a victory due to his affiliation with Nova Uniao. He also noticed things very quickly, like Jose Maria Tome's knee buckling or immediately realizing Chan Sung Jung had dislocated his shoulder in the main event. This kept the viewers informed throughout nearly every fight.
3. He avoided hyperbole - Oftentimes, commentators will go out of their way to make a fighter sound better than he actually is. Note all the misinformed All-American wrestling credentials brought up at last week's UFC on Fox 8 event or the multitude of occasions where a fighter's skill is mislabeled "world class." Stann did a commendable job of giving listeners information without misrepresenting the fighters, and that's to everyone's benefit. A huge talking point about the main event was that Jose Aldo gasses, but Stann practically cut off Mike Goldberg to explain that Aldo was very ill and had a horrible weight cut the one time his cardio failed him and that he'd actually held his own conditioning-wise against cardio machine Frankie Edgar in his last fight.
4. He toned Goldberg down - Fans critical of play-by-play commentator Mike Goldberg often poke fun of his over-the-top phrases like "Michael Jordan-esque in his grappling is Travis Lutter" but Stann's measured and even-keeled approach to the commentary seemed to keep Goldberg in check. Instead of making broad generalizations or exaggerations, Goldberg actually was looking to point things out to keep up with Stann as the former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion smoothly kept the fans updated on the action in-cage. There were very few "eye-rolling" moments last night, and that's always a plus.
5. He was a natural in post-fight interviews - Stann was kept busy with post-fight interviews last night due to a large amount of quick finishes and he handled them very well. He asked the important questions about setting up the finish and wasn't afraid to go after controversial subjects like getting Machida's thoughts on the controversial decision loss or having Jose Aldo explain why he targeted Chan Sung Jung's injured arm with left high kicks. He came across as very friendly despite having a language barrier with nearly everyone and while some didn't like it, I loved the hand on the shoulder as they checked out the replays of the action.
Now of course, nobody's perfect. Stann didn't get nearly as excited when something crazy happened like Joe Rogan does with his "OOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHH's" in the middle of a fight and he may have leaned a bit too much on Machida's side during the co-main event, but that's just nitpicking.
Stann will be taking over commentary duties for ACC football on Fox Sports 1 later this fall, and if last night was any indication, he should be able to make the transition just fine. It's also great to know that if for whatever reason Rogan or Kenny Florian can't make a future event, UFC still has an ace in the hole.