Since I started blogging in January, I haven’t had the pleasure of previewing a Chael Sonnen fight yet. Sonnen has done a remarkable job of making a name for himself… by essentially saying so many ridiculous things that it’s impossible not to notice him. There’s no doubt that Sonnen is entertaining, but there are very few things that he says that should be taken seriously. This includes assertions that Sonnen himself is “defending his middleweight title” at UFC 136 against Brian Stann. Notice that Sonnen never picks on fighters that people don’t care about. Instead, the targets of his absurdity tend to be fighters or topics that get people riled up: Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Cro Cop, Anderson Silva, Fedor Emelianenko, PRIDE fighting, the Nogueira brothers… and the list goes on. Obviously nobody would care if Sonnen talked trash about people like Peter Sobotta.
Meanwhile, despite all of his assertions that he is “the best,” Sonnen has lost 11 times in his career, including to Anderson Silva by triangle choke… and Demian Maia by triangle choke… and Renato “Babalu” Sobral by triangle choke… and Forrest Griffin by triangle choke…
Still, I have to give Sonnen respect for doing what he did to Anderson Silva last August, at UFC 117. Sonnen took the longtime champion to the ground repeatedly, and basically made Silva’s life miserable with a constant onslaught of strikes for over 20 minutes. Nobody had ever done anything like that to Silva, and so it’s easy to see the appeal of a rematch between Sonnen and Silva.
First, Sonnen will have to defeat Brian Stann, an opponent who’s been on a roll since dropping from light-heavyweight to middleweight. At 205 pounds, Stann was 2-2 in the UFC, losing to Krzysztof Soszynski and Phil Davis while beating Rodney Wallace and Steve Cantwell. Since dropping weight classes, Stann has won three consecutive fights, submitting Mike Massenzio while knocking out Chris Leben and Jorge Santiago.
One of the claims Sonnen has made is that he’s never been out-struck in a fight. This claim actually may be true; at least, it is according to Fight Metric. As it turns out, Sonnen out-strikes his opponents on a very consistent basis. There’s no doubt that many of these strikes take place from top position on the ground, as Sonnen’s game plan is always to take his opponent down and proceed with ground and pound. This also explains why Sonnen is vulnerable to triangle chokes and armbars: every strike Sonnen throws from his opponent’s guard makes him a target for those techniques. I’d like to see Sonnen focus a little bit less on striking and a little bit more on advancing position on the ground, but at this point, Sonnen is who he is, and his fighting style isn’t going to change.
There are then two questions for Brian Stann. The first is: can he defend Chael Sonnen’s takedown? The second is: if not, can Stann submit Sonnen?
To answer the first question, it seems unlikely that Stann would be able to consistently defend Sonnen’s takedown attempts. While Sonnen is able to take down almost every opponent he faces, Stann had a lot of trouble defending takedowns throughout his UFC career. Stann was taken down twice by Soszynski, seven times by Wallace, five times by Massenzio, and three times by Phil Davis (who presumably was able to hold Stann down and therefore didn’t need more takedowns). Historically, when Stann faces wrestlers like Chael Sonnen, he goes down.
About the second question… it’s interesting, since Stann was able to submit Massenzio with a third-round triangle choke. I have to believe that Stann will be looking for that submission, as Sonnen is infamous for being caught in it. However, even if the opponent in question is Chael Sonnen, being in bottom position and looking for a triangle choke is generally not an efficient way to fight.
SILVA PREDICTION: CHAEL SONNEN (41.45) OVER BRIAN STANN (29.10)
Sonnen has an exceptionally high Fight Level despite losing three of his last eight fights. This is because of who he lost to; there’s no shame in losing to Anderson Silva, or an undefeated Demian Maia, or an undefeated Paulo Filho. Keep in mind that I’m talking about a pre-insanity Filho, who was legitimately one of the best middleweights in the world. The fact that Sonnen came back and beat a 16-0 Filho is hugely impressive to SILVA, which doesn’t know about Filho’s mental issues in that fight.
Regardless, Sonnen has a better recent resume than Stann does, and presents a very tough stylistic match for Stann as well. As much as I like and respect Stann for his military service and heroism, I have to pick against him in this match.