After losing an incredible "Fight of the Night" to Wanderlei Silva last March in Japan, Brian Stann decided that would be his last hurrah inside the Octagon, and in July of 2013, he announced he was leaving his fighting career behind him.
However, the former middleweight brawler hasn't strayed far from the sport and has embarked on a very successful new journey as a broadcaster for FOX. Lending his knowledge from his fighting acumen to pre and post-fight studio shows, and also providing excellent color commentary for live UFC fight cards when called upon, Stann hasn't skipped a beat.
On top of that, the former Marine and Navy linebacker also transcends his football I.Q., calling live NCAA gridiron games for the ACC conference during the fall.
MMAmania.com caught up with Stann earlier this week and he gave us his predictions on the main and co-main event for UFC Fight Night 36. He also gives his thoughts about the lighter weight classes and chimes in on Daniel Cormier's new opponent, Patrick Cummins.
Congratulations on your new career in broadcasting on FOX. I've also heard you call some of the ACC games as well. Hats off to you.
"Thank you very much man. I'm blessed. When you get the opportunity to do stuff like this for a living, and talk about sports and watch them. Come on, I've done way harder things for a living. I'll ride this wave as long as they'll have me."
UFC Fight Night 36 takes place on Saturday night in Brazil, How would you analyze the main event between Machida and Mousasi?
"This is one of the most intriguing fights that you could do and there's a lot of ways you can go about this. Both guys have a laid back, systematic approach at times, and other times they have an aggressive, knock you out or finish you in the first round approach. A lot of this fight -- how it unfolds -- is going to depend on what style. Do they both come out apprehensive? Or do they come out aggressive? The X-factor really lies with Machida. He has had so many controversial losses and wins and he gets frustrated with both of them. The Phil Davis fight, he was very frustrated. The Dan Henderson fight, he was very frustrated. Whether he wins or loses, he's tired of it, and he knows he's got to go out there and put on more aggressive performances so he doesn't keep losing shots at the title."
"So in this particular fight I think it's important for Mousasi -- who is also a master of range and understanding distance -- he's got to throw volume at Machida. Because Machida is going to just sit back and counter strike and land only a few strikes every minute. He's got to put more volume on him and put more out there and steal these rounds from Machida, but at the same time he needs a lot of movement and feints to disrupt that rhythm. If you just go straight at Machida, he's going to put you down. He's going to knock you out. It's a problem, so you've got to fake and feint and get him hesitant, get him guessing at what you're doing and then come after him. Utilize a lot of leg kicks too, because Machida, when he gets out of the way of strikes and punches, he's so hard to hit in the head, but he leans back a lot and he leaves that lead leg hanging there. You can accumulate some points with some attrition of your opponent by kicking that leg."
I don't know if he has an aggressive approach in him, because he's such a counter striker like you said and he's so patient, usually waiting for his opponent to pounce or to make a mistake. In the Phil Davis fight, I thought Davis did a good job of keeping him guessing and he was able to catch up to him and get him on the ground. When you look at Mousasi, he's no slouch on the ground. Do you think this fight goes to the ground at all?
"You know, I do think it goes to the ground, but I think it's Machida that puts it there. Machida when he closes distance, he has some really nice body locks and inside, outside trips and takedowns from there. I don't see Mousasi having the ability to get it to the mat. Machida has a sumo background. His base is so strong and so tough that there were times when even a guy like Phil Davis... Phil can take down anything with two legs and I know from experience. To see him struggle to take Machida down, I just don't see Mousasi having much of a chance doing that. He's going to have to stick with what he has on the feet and wrap up points there and be very unpredictable. Because once you get predictable and Machida can dial in, he's so accurate he lands that one big kick, that one big punch and it could be the end of your night. If you're not aggressive against Machida and you kind of play the same timing game as him, number one it makes for a boring fight. Number two, most guys don't win on the score cards in that kind of fight against Machida."
I never feel that Mousasi gets the amount of respect that he truly deserves as a veteran of the sport. How do you feel about that?
"Well it's tough and I can understand it at times. There's a lot of guys that come up in the UFC that fight the best. Then there are guys that come in highly touted from other organizations, that get big contracts right away and they've beaten guys in different promotions. We so many times see those guys fail when they get to the UFC. They come in as champions. They are highly touted and they never reach that kind of potential because they come over and fight the best in the world. That's just something that Mousasi has got to earn. You are not going to bring this reputation from overseas and fighting in those shows and until you come over here in the biggest show on earth and fight these guys and win consistently, you are just not going to get it. I'm not saying he doesn't have the skills to deserve that respect. That's just fact. That's just the way the fans are and certainly the way the UFC organization is. All those things are right in front of him. He comes out and he beats Machida and he's going to get all the respect he needs and get some huge fights on the back end of the middleweight division. Put it this way, if he can finish Machida and gets people hyped up and excited, he could leap frog a whole lot of people and possibly get himself a shot at the title."
Do you see it going the distance? Who wins and why?
"I do see it going the distance, but you never know. I think Machida wins. I think Machida is just a little sharper, a little more consistent on the feet and I think he actually pulls of a couple of well-timed takedowns, similar to what Phil Davis did to him, to really close out the rounds. He's learned his lessons. You can't just rely on a couple of really good strikes landed in a round to win a fight and win rounds easily with the judges. You've got to close those rounds and do something definitive. I wouldn't be surprised to see some of those takedowns from Machida."
I think it's going five too, but I can't really put my finger on it. I'm guessing it's going to be a coin flip as a lot of these close fights usually are. Either of them win it. You think there will be title talk because we still have the co-main event with Jacare, who has been really coming up also ... you think they would be quick to talk about a potential title fight with either of the two?
"In my opinion, if we were to talk right now on this card, who deserves the next shot at the middleweight title, in my opinion, it's Jacare. When you look at who he's fought, his performance, and how he's beaten them, I don't think there is a scarier guy in the division than Jacare right now. Not that Chris Weidman would be afraid, but when you look at what he's done since he's come over to the UFC, the improvements he's made since Strikeforce. I mean, nobody does to Yushin Okami what he's done. When you look at the skill match-up between Chris Weidman and Jacare, I think it gets a lot of people excited. There's a lot of good argument back and forth, it's what makes us fans love to diagnose a fight and then watch how it plays out."
"Chris can strike. Chris is phenomenal on the ground. He's a great wrestler and very difficult to take down. Jacare can do all these things as well. It's such an intriguing match-up. So it wouldn't surprise me if Machida and Jacare both win but if Jacare is very dominant -- you know how it is in the UFC -- they are going to give title shots to guys that go out there and aggressively win and garner a ton of hype and get the fans hungry to see them fight for the title. We could see Jacare leap frog Machida."
Absolutely, and I agree with you Brian on Jacare. He's been outstanding and he blew the doors off of Okami worse than Anderson Silva did. I think he will come out guns blazing and get another finish over Carmont. And Carmont has looked great himself, I just think Jacare is on another level.
"He is and Francis is an incredible fighter. He doesn't get the credit he deserves because of the way he has won fights. He's been conservative so far and he's going to have to, to advance his career, he is going to have to let go of some of that. But, because of his size, he's a huge middleweight. He's very long. He's very difficult to take down and he's hard to close distance against because of that length and how good of a striker he is. He has the ability to slow the pace of the fight down with Jacare. Maybe out land him on the feet. Avoid the big shot and getting knocked out and defend the takedown, he can make this a much closer fight than people realize. It's going to be really interesting to see how Jacare deals with that length, what further improvements Jacare has made on his takedowns. He may have to chain wrestle to get Carmont to the ground and the to watch him deal with a huge opponent like that could give great insight to what skills he brings to the table against the champion Weidman."
When you always thought about Jacare, you thought about submissions and his grappling. When you look at his last couple of fights, his striking has closed the distance towards the level of his grappling. Finished Okami with strikes and looked outstanding doing so. So, to see him be as well rounded, as he is becoming, it is pretty scary.
"It is. When you get an athlete like that... sometimes you get these guys who come from one background and they were fantastic at it and they never really live up to the hype that they receive. Sometimes it's due to the fact that they are not overall a really great athlete, but Jacare is. Jacare is an incredible athlete, very similar to the champ, Chris Weidman. Chris is a phenomenal athlete. You get athletes like that and you put them in a training environment and they are disciplined and they train often, they continue to get better and better and the tap to their potential is so much higher than your average athlete in the UFC. Jacare, as you said, super aggressive and he has shown, you get on the ground with him and he will rip your arm off. You stand on the feet with him and stone cold, he will knock you out, it's impressive."
Who wins between the two and why?
"I think Jacare wins but I think it's going to be a closer fight than people realize. If Jacare can't finish Francis with one strike, it could be difficult, because Francis is pretty good everywhere. He's pretty good at nullifying strengths of other guys. I think Jacare wins and if he can finish Francis Carmont, I think we may see a different title challenger than we expect."
If you had one other fight to look at on the card that sticks out to you that you yourself want to watch, which fight would it be?
"It's tough. You got Erik Silva's fight, that's going to be a fun one to watch. You got Charles Oliveira, that's going to be a fun one to watch. I think they both have good match-ups where not only should they win but, I think they need to win impressively or else they are going to stall their own progression. People are getting tired of hearing that they are big-time prospects and the future of the UFC. They've heard that. They've seen them falter against the top competition. They've got to get themselves back into a big fight and beat a top name now to really fulfill the hype and potential they were expected to have in the UFC."
"The other one, I really want to see how Yuri Alcantara... how he does. He looked pretty darn good against Urijah Faber, one of the best fighters in the world and he showed a lot of ability. Now, Wilson Reis is a tough, tough fighter. The winner of this fight can certainly be a future title contender. Yuri has a lot of potential to fill. That's an interesting one that gets me excited for the prelims."
I'm looking forward to that, too. I love the bantamweight division. All the bantamweights and the flyweights are exciting. Look at the performance Alcantara had against Faber. That's Faber! Let me see what he can do against another guy that's not as tough as him. These guys keep showcasing more and more skills. The lighter weight classes are almost stealing the show from the big guys.
"They are incredible. You have to be more athletic and more skilled. They can do different things with their bodies that guys my size can't dream of. Some of the things they do, I would probably pop a hip trying to do. You have to be a more skilled fighter. They are more technical. They are faster. Their conditioning is through the roof. And for guys that can finish at those weight classes, it really says something, because they don't have the size to tap the kind of pop that guys like me do. They really have to put together great combinations, timing and everything else. It's really impressive to watch those athletes. That's what makes Jacare so impressive, because rarely do you see guys that can finish you in such a wide variety of places in the Octagon."
I talked to Neil Melanson recently and he was talking about how the athletes in the smaller weight classes, people don't realize that they could be football players or basketball players. They have all those kind of athletic skills, they just don't weigh as much and they go into fighting. But they should be recognized with Lebron James and other pro athletes at that top level.
"No doubt about it. When you look at the things that Demetrious Johnson can do it's incredible. Demetrious Johnson, Jose Aldo, Renen Barao, these guys are phenomenal athletes. I would put them up with athletes in pro sports across the spectrum anywhere in the world, they are that athletic."
Lastly, Daniel Cormier's new opponent, Patrick Cummins, do you know anything about him?
"I've been hearing about this kid for about a year and a half. I'm buddies with Ryan Parsons and I'm very good friends with Tom Watson. When I saw Ryan and Tom in Rio for UFC 163, that was probably about the fifth time I had heard of this kid Patrick Cummins and Parsons was telling me he said ‘I can't get fights for him. Nobody will fight this kid at the lower level. I just want to keep getting him developed before he goes to the UFC, where I know he will be successful, but I don't want him to go through the growing process while he's there. I want him to go through it at the lower level.'"
"Tom looked at me and said, ‘This kid is a freight train and everyone body at Reign that he trains with doesn't want to go with him. He just mauls people there.' So I'm excited for this fight. It's a huge opportunity. When you fight a guy like Cormier, your stock can go up in a lot of ways. Daniel is one bad dude, you have a good showing against him, you push him a little bit, your stock skyrockets. So it's a win-win situation for Cummins. It's a really different scenario now for Daniel Cormier. He's got a lot more mental gymnastics to go through now. Wait, I get this new kid in the UFC, who has a pretty impressive skill set, who he is obviously very familiar with. It's going to be interesting to see how he takes that."
What's crazy to me Brian, is the UFC must really think highly of this guy because he's in with just over a week's notice. You would think they would put maybe a savvy vet on the lower rung of the division in there, someone like that. Instead this kids first fight in the UFC is against DC, that is crazy.
"Well it speaks to two sides: One, they know this kid. Joe Silva and company know that this kid is the real deal. On the other hand, you don't have many guys signing up to fight Daniel Cormier. You are talking about a man... putting weight back on Cormier, when he's 240, if you have him stand next to me, you wouldn't believe he was a heavyweight. Not only has he fought in the heavyweight division, look at the guys he's fought against and how easily he's beaten them. It's insane. He's a bad dude. He's extremely athletic. There's nobody that wants to say, ‘Yeah UFC, I'll go fight DC in a week's notice when he's pissed off and hungry.' This kid is the perfect storm because look even if I go in there and I push him a little bit, the UFC is going to give me a great matchup, probably for stepping up on short notice. It's two sided. This kid is the real deal. Patrick Cummins is better than people are giving him credit for, but at the same time, there ain't a whole lot of people on the planet who want to fight Daniel Cormier."
Before you go, when can we expect to hear you next?
"I'm doing this one this weekend and then I'm going to be calling the fights on FOX Sports 1, in Natal, Brazil."