UFC 130 Preview Part Four: Brian Stann vs. Jorge Santiago

In a most highly anticipated match-up, “All American” Brian Stann (10-3) welcomes Jorge “Sandman” Santiago(23-8) back to the Octagon following his four year hiatus from the world’s premier proving ground for mixed martial artists. Both men are looking to progress from candidate to contender in the ever increasingly shallow pool of middleweight standouts worthy of a shot at the title, and ‘pound for pound king’ Anderson Silva.

The two fighters have built impressive resumes in other organizations, having been legitimate title holders in their own right, with Stann formerly holding the World Extreme Cagefighting light heavyweight strap and Santiago having just vacated but  World Victory Road’s Sengoku middleweight championship.

Stann a former captain in the US Marine Corps and recipient of the Silver Star for ‘valour in duty’ is a marketing man’s dream. He says and does all the right things outside of the cage, and his stirring KO victory over ‘tough as nails’ Chris Leben inside the cage back at UFC 125 remains fresh in the minds of the UFC faithful. He represents everything the UFC is looking to promote going forward as it bids to attract new fans who are perhaps deterred by perceived notions of what mixed martial arts represents and who should choose to take part. In fact, Stann’s popularity has begun to rise to such levels that many a potential opponent it seems is reluctant to face him with ‘Pride legend’ (and no slouche in the popularity stakes himself!) Wanderlei Silva reportedly refusing to take the fight.

Santiago is a much lesser known commodity to the casual UFC fans having fought all over the world but most recently making a big impact in the troubled and reportedly now defunct Japanese outfit Sengoku WVR. He will be looking to make a more positive impression this time around after an unimpressive first run in the UFC (back in 2006) which after initial success, saw him cut from the roster following two consecutive knock out losses to Chris Leben and Alan Belcher respectively. Since his UFC exile The “Sandman” has gone from strength to strength picking up honours in Strikeforce and Sengoku (grand prix winner in both) and boasts notable wins over UFC veteran Jeremy Horn (by way of early submission) and a consensus ‘fight of the year 2010′ victory over tough Japanese standout Kazuo Misaki. The later is a fight that if you haven’t seen it already you really should.

The pressure is on for both men to perform and to win impressively as the UFC’s head honcho’s look to build up new stars to face or even replace the likes of Anderson Silva, as the thirty-six year old champion has all but cleaned out the middleweight division. There’s also a gapping hole left by the inimitable Chael Sonnen. A victory for either man could realistically put them as close as two fights away from a shot at middleweight glory.

Look for the cerebral Stann to try and force Santiago onto the back-foot and impose an aggressive pace from the outset. Trained by Greg Jackson, Stann will be looking to demonstrate improvements both in his striking and more importantly his wrestling after choosing to step down to middleweight following his loss to Phil Davis. If he can keep his opponent guessing and remain standing he should have a decisive advantage.

Santiago must protect his suspect chin and use the whole of the octagon to create space in which he can work his reach and solid Muay Thai. He ought to resist getting into a slugfest with Stann, and if he can take him down he should have the distinctive edge with his far superior Ju Jitsu.

I believe Stann’s iron will and aggression allied with his strategic nature and mental strength will make the difference on this Memorial Day weekend.

Prediction: Brian Stann by unanimous decision.

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