Well it now appears to be official. As Eric reported earlier this week, rumors were swirling that a returning Chael Sonnen would be moving up in weight to battle Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida. However, according to MMAJunkie.com, those plans have since changed. The new plan is for Chael Sonnen to return at UFC 136 in Houston against “All American” Brian Stann.
This is surely going to be a big fight for both fighters. Stann is currently riding a three fight-winning streak since dropping to the Middleweight division from his previous home at the Light Heavyweight division. Sonnen is returning to the cage after an extended layoff due to his outside-the-cage exploits. However, he does enter fresh off of a loss to current Middleweight Champion Anderson “The Spider” Silva.
This fight is likely going to have immediate impact on Middleweight Contendership. The winner of this fight is likely to get the next chance at a title fight, be it against Anderson Silva or Yushin Okami; who challenges Silva for the title at UFC 134 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
[adinserter block=”1″]The betting line was recently opened for this fight and I found it to be a bit surprising. Renowned MMA Expert and Odds maker Joey Odessa was on MMAJunkie.com Radio earlier today and announced the opening line and his reasoning for the line. Sonnen opened as a significant favorite, opening at -215 (This line means that a bettor must wager $215 on Sonnen to win $100.) On the opposite side of the coin is underdog Brian Stann who opened at +175 (a bettor would win $175 on a $100 wager.) There has already been some early action on the fight and Sonnen has increased to a -250 favorite, while Stann is now a true 2-to-1 underdog at +200.
Let’s take a look at Odessa’s reasoning for opening the line as he has, “Brian Stann’s a great fighter on a definite roll, but we have to put it in a numbers perspective. I’m not going to remotely compare Chael’s wrestling to Phil Davis’, but I think I think Sonnen can put together a solid game plan for Stann.” Phil Davis of course is the last fighter to defeat Stann. Davis used a strong wrestling-based game plan to dominate Stann and deliver him a lopsided Unanimous Decision loss that convinced Stann to drop to 185 Pounds.
Perhaps the most interesting thing in the build-up to this fight will be the antics of Chael Sonnen. He is a marketing genius and has increased his stock dramatically with constant trash talking that intrigues casual fans. It will be interesting to see what he does against a fan-favorite and true American hero in Stann. (For those of you who don’t know, Stann served time as a United States Marine and has served time overseas in warzones.) It’s just a guess, but if Sonnen tries his usual antics here, it is likely that he will lose fans.
I have some interest in placing a small wager on Stann if the odds continue to trend for Sonnen, and so far they have, which is actually great for me. The better the odds, the more likely it is that I will be able to find some value. Let’s take a look at the fighters involved and the fight itself.
Sonnen is a 34-year-old fighter from West Linn, Oregon. He stands 6’1″ tall and fights in the Middleweight 185 pound division. Sonnen has a reach of 74 inches, however, he rarely puts his stand up to use. Instead, he focuses on a wrestling-based approach to grind and wear on his opponents. Sonnen has very good Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling skills, making his takedowns very hard to stop. In fact, Sonnen was able to control Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, for 4 and a half rounds, before a Hail Mary submission from the champion stopped the Cinderella story in the final chapter.
Sonnen has a career record of 25-11-1. Of his 25 victories, he owns 7 by way of TKO or KO, 3 by way of Submission and 15 by way of Decision. As you can see, Sonnen isn’t much of a finisher, usually allowing his opponents to survive until the final bell, but often without much hope of winning. Of his 11 losses 2 are via KO or TKO, 8 are via Submission and 1 is via Decision. As you can see, Sonnen has a weakness against Submission artists. Jiu Jitsu seems to be the wrestler’s Kryptonite.
Key Strengths: Takedowns, Cage Experience, Gamesmanship, Fight IQ
Key Weaknesses: Sub-Par Boxing Skills, Prone to Submissions
Last 3 Fights:
LOSS to Anderson Silva (UFC Middleweight Championship) via Submission in Round 5 3:10 (Triangle Choke/ Armbar) at UFC 117 – August 7, 2010
WIN over Nate Marquardt via Unanimous Decision 3 Rounds 5:00 at UFC 109 – February 6, 2010
WIN over Yushin Okami via Unanimous Decision 3 Rounds 5:00 at UFC 104 – October 24, 2009
Path to Victory: It’s not a secret what Sonnen is going to try and do to win this fight. He’s going to win it with constant takedowns, ground and pound and top control. Sonnen has great wrestling and is very strong on top. He will use takedowns to earn points on the scorecards and grind out a decision victory and is perfectly happy to do it.
Brian Stann is a 30-year old fighter from Scranton, Pennsylvania. Stann stands 6’1″ tall and despite formerly being a Light Heavyweight, he now fights at Middleweight. Stann has a reach of 75 inches, and often puts it to good use. Stann is an extremely talented boxer with knockout power in both hands. He prefers to stand and trade with his opponents and has often shown a weakness against elite-level wrestlers. Stann is nicknamed “All American” due to his past as a member of the US Marine Corps.
Stann has a career record of 11-3, not entering the MMA game until the end of his military career. Of Stann’s 11 career wins he has 8 wins via KO or TKO, 1 via Submission and 2 via Decision. Of his three losses, he has one each via TKO, Submission and Decision. Stann struggled early in his UFC Career as a Light Heavyweight, but has since rejuvenated himself with a move down to Middleweight and joining famed MMA Trainer Greg Jackson’s camp in New Mexico.
Key Strengths: Strong Boxing and Kickboxing Skills, Explosive Knockout Power, Constantly improving overall skill set
Key Weaknesses: Has been dominated by strong wrestlers in the past, Little Big Fight experience
Last 3 Fights:
WIN over Mike Massenzio via Submission (Triangle Choke) in Round 3 at 3:10 at UFC Live on Versus – August 1, 2010
WIN over Chris Leben via TKO (Knees and Punches) in Round 1 at 3:37 at UFC 125 – January 1, 2011
WIN over Jorge Santiago via TKO (Punches) in Round 2 at 4:29 at UFC 130 – May 28, 2011
Path to Victory: Exploit Sonnen’s less than amazing stand up skills. Avoid takedowns by using a sprawl and brawl style, making sure to land big punches as Sonnen shoots. Off his back, be constantly active, always searching for sweeps or submissions.
Fight Prediction: This one could truly go either way. I believe that Sonnen should be the favorite in the fight, as he has a clear path to victory by repeating what Phil Davis did to Stann. However, Davis is a significantly larger fighter, with more impressive amateur wrestling credentials, so it likely won’t be quite so easy for him. Stann has shown a lot of improvement since joining with Greg Jackson in New Mexico and I think that might have a big impact on this fight. It’s probably not a secret of what Sonnen is going to try and do, it’s very likely that Coach Jackson will have a strong game plan for Stann.
Another thing to consider is the mindsets of these two fighters entering the fight. Sonnen is coming off of a disappointing loss in a title fight, that he dominated for 4 and a half rounds, before giving the fight away in the final minutes by getting caught in a sloppy submission. (Say what you want about Anderson’s under-rated ground skills, but a blind person could see those legs creeping up for that Triangle attempt.) Compound to that, he was suspended after the fight by the California State Athletic Commission for “elevated testosterone levels” and then was denied licensing by them. Add to that fact, he was involved in a Money Laundering scam, which threatened jail time and drew the ire of UFC President Dana White.
[adinserter block=”1″]On the other side of the coin you have Stann, who is riding high on a three fight win streak since dropping to Middleweight and joining Team Jackson’s MMA. After his last win Dana White called Stann a “future star” and this seems to be his reward. This is a big step up for Stann, but if he is able to answer the challenge, his reward will likely be a title shot.
Currently I’m not ready to bet. I won’t be betting on Sonnen however unless his odds significantly improve. However, the trend seems to be that Sonnen will become a bigger and bigger favorite. Stann is currently being offered about a 1 in 3 chance to win the fight, which is probably close to accurate. However, if more money comes in on Sonnen, the odds on Stann will continue to improve, which means we should be able to find some value for an underdog play. Remember, when you bet on an underdog, it’s a bet you expect to lose regularly, but if there is value, than you should be able to win over the long run.
Currently, I’m watching this line closely, and you should too. And hey, if you think I’m wrong, go ahead and lay some money on Chael Sonnen. I’ll be waiting for the line to move, so I can make a bet on The All American Hero.
Lee McGregor is a fan of all combat sports including both Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts. When not catching fights or watching hockey, he can be found as an Author and Editor at his own website MyManCave.ca