Tuesday, July 12, 2011

MMA: Sonnen vs. Stann

A lot of guys are into traditional sports: basketball, football, etc. While I follow most of the major sports, keeping an eye open for major players or important games, I’m not emotionally involved until playoff time comes, usually, and not even always then. But then there is MMA.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat at the edge of my seat, be it at a sports bar or at a friend’s house watching the PPV. My adrenaline gets pumping like it never has when I actually participate in sports myself. I’m emotionally invested in these fights. I know these fighters. I know their backgrounds, how good their records are, their strengths and weaknesses. I’m ready to root for someone and know exactly who and why I’m rooting for them. Most often, I have a clear favorite, but sometimes I run into a dilemma.

The Forrest Griffin and Rich Franklin fight was one such dilemma. Both guys are so likeable it wasn’t fair to match them up. Who was I supposed to root for? No matter how the fight played out it was going to be bittersweet for me.

I’m running into a similar problem at the moment, but for very different reasons. Chael Sonnen recently got slated to match up with Brian Stann . I love both of these fighters for very different reasons. I don’t know how many people would say Chael Sonnen is straight up likeable. He talks trash, a lot of it. He calls out everyone and everything, saying as many insulting and derogatory comments as he possibly can. For some people this behavior makes Chael an easy person to hate. But to me… well, it’s just too funny! Not because he’s overly clever in his approach, it’s the absurdity of it all. The guy has an ego and balls the size of Texas. I can’t help but root for him, despite the fact that I usually root against the smack talkers of MMA.

Brian Stann is socially (or at least in the media) about as much of a polar-opposite from Chael as is possible. Stann is a former Marine Captain who received a silver star for his service in Iraq. If you’re patriotic –and I am- this guy is impossible not to cheer for. He’s got major talent and an entertaining fighting style. He oozes genuine respectability. I haven’t met Brian, but from everything I’ve heard or read, he’s as genuine as people come. A lot of sports figures try to act respectful -they want to keep up a certain persona- but with Stann, it really doesn’t seem like an act. He actually and effortlessly appears to be what he’s portraying, no if ands or buts.

The interesting thing I’ve found, so far, is that Chael hasn’t yet come out with a single negative, backhanded remark about Stann. In fact, in the only comment he’s made that I’ve found… well, I’ll just let you read it:

I ask Brazil for a fight, and Machida answers. I ask for a REAL fight, and a Marine steps up. I see you hiding Lyoto, and I won't forget this.

He’s insulted an entire country, and a champion caliber fighter, in just a few sentences, but he actually seems to be showing respect for Stann. Am I surprised? A little, but not really. Even a guy with a mouth bigger than… well, Mouth from the Goonies, has a line he won’t cross. Maybe he’s reached that line with Stann. Chael Sonnen is an American. He’s run for public office. It’s hard to believe he doesn’t have respect for the man he’s slated to face later this year. So instead of the usual trash-talk, I wonder what Chael will say leading up to the fight. I have no doubt he’ll say something, it’s just a matter of what.

To the average person I’d have to say Stann is the man to root for. But I’m torn. Part of me hopes he can avoid being taken down at will like Sonnen did to Silva. Part of me hopes he can use the same power and precision he used against Santiago and Leben… But part of me wants to see Sonnen pull it off and get another crack at Silva.

This fight is months away and my blood is already racing and I’m clinging to every bit of news about it. Some guys breathe football. I breathe MMA.

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