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An Awkward Pair: Questioning Chael Sonnen vs. Brian Stann

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: .

Last night the UFC announced that a matchup between middleweight contenders Chael Sonnen and Brian Stann had been verbally agreed to and would take place at UFC 136 in October. For Sonnen, the bout serves as his first since losing to UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva last August, while it marks another leap forward in competition for the former Marine Stann. Yet while on paper the match makes sense, and even sounds exciting, when breaking the bout down one can’t help but wonder: What is the UFC thinking?

Confirming that “all the red tape is in his past” to MMA Fighting (in a rather amusing interview), it was revealed this past weekend that Chael Sonnen was no longer under suspension from the California State Athletic Commission and would again be able to apply for a license to fight. In the days that followed the ever-outspoken Sonnen went on to call out everyone from Wanderlei Silva to Lyoto Machida, making it known that he was again ready to return to the Octagon. The UFC’s decision to keep him at middleweight rather than allow the jump to light heavyweight for a fight against someone the likes of the former champion Machida isn’t surprising, but the decision to pair him against Brian Stann is.

Though 2-2 in the UFC as a light heavyweight, Stann has been on a tear since making the cut to middleweight, knocking out Jorge Santiago and Chris Leben on his way to going 3-0 in the division. Though tremendously impressive in his victories, Stann has modestly tied himself to the notion that he has at least two or three fights against elite competition before he hopes to see a title match. But pairing him against Sonnen — who many still believe to be the number two middleweight in the world — would seem to suggest that he’s closer that he believes he is in terms of reaching his goal. Dominant in his last three fights however, how does Stann match up though?

Simply put: One of the greatest weaknesses in Brian Stann’s game to this point has been his wrestling defense and Chael Sonnen is a dominant wrestler.

It’s not the first time such a matchup between powerful fighters has been made and it surely won’t be the last. But what makes the pairing even more awkward is the roles that each fighter plays for the UFC in terms of their outside-the-cage personalities: a longtime Marine and all-around class act, Stann is widely respected by fans and peers while the well-rounded veteran Sonnen’s abilities in the Octagon might only be outdone by his capabilities as a loudmouth shit-talker.

The UFC needs Brian Stann to win at this point in his career, something which seems less likely to happen when paired against someone with such a skill set as Chael Sonnen than it might against another high-ranking competitor the likes of Mark Muñoz. Likewise, the UFC needs Chael Sonnen to make a strong return to the Octagon following his year of “red tape” every bit as much as the company needs his voice as the uninhibited hype man: something which he has to be especially careful with when it comes to someone as universally admired as Stann. The match-up is an interesting one on paper, and one that is still intriguing, but pairing the two against one another at this stage in their climb up the divisional latter fails to make much sense in reality.