One of mixed martial arts' most respected fighters makes his return Saturday, as former WEC light heavyweight champion Brian Stann faces off with Alessio Sakara in a middleweight co-feature bout at UFC on Fuel 2 in Stockholm, Sweden.
Before rising to MMA prominence, Stann gained attention for his military heroics, as he earned the Silver Star for valor in the Iraq War. Since then, he's continued to build on his reputation as a stand-up, no-nonsense sort of guy. Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole recently detailed how, when Stann's brother-in-law passed away over the holidays, Stann chose to honor his commitment to fight Sakara and simply moved his training camp from New Mexico to Atlanta in order to stay by his wife's side during a trying time.
Stann was put in the spotlight early in his MMA career due to his military background. But that's only served to make Stann all the more respected among those who have followed his progress: Fans have seen Stann get knocked down, only to pick himself back up and return a stronger fighter.
With that, a look at the greatest hits of the fighter known as "The All American."
5. Def. Steve Cantwell, March 24, 2007, Las Vegas. Stann didn't take long to make a first impression in his first Zuffa-era World Extreme Cagefighting bout. Stann and Cantwell went toe-to-toe from the get-go at WEC 26, and "The All-American" dropped his foe in the opening minute. Stann landed a pair of big right hands on the ground before the bout was stopped at just 41 seconds. This served as the opening volley of a trilogy; Cantwell took the WEC light heavyweight title from Stann at WEC 35 and Stann won the rubber match via decision at UFC Fight Night 19 in 2009.
4. Def. Doug Marshall, March 26, 2008, Las Vegas. Stann was the recipient of an all-out marketing blitz heading into his WEC 33 main event, in which he challenged for Marshall's WEC light heavyweight belt. At this point in his career, Stann was 5-0 and had yet to be pushed out of the first round. He was also still an active-duty Marine leader and thus a part-time MMA fighter. How would he respond to the newfound pressure? Stann answered the question in short order, as he patiently waited out a wild flurry of punches by "Rhino" and responded with a bulls-eye of a left hook. Herb Dean called off the fight at 1:35 of the first round and Stann claimed WEC gold.
3. Def. Chris Leben, Jan. 1, 2011, Las Vegas. Fans expected fists to fly in this UFC 125 co-main event bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, and they got what they wanted. It didn't take long for Stann to get the better of his brawling foe, though, as he connected with a nasty body kick and a huge right which dropped Leben to the mat. Stann went to town with a series of knees and punches on the ground before referee Josh Rosenthal finally stepped in and called a halt to the action at 3:37 of round one.
2. Def. Mike Massenzio, Aug. 1, 2010, San Diego. The Leben win was the most high-profile of his career, but this victory at UFC on Versus 1 was the moment that signaled to the MMA world that Stann was not only planning on sticking around the MMA world, but was intent on making waves. A unanimous-decision loss to Phil Davis at UFC 109 six months earlier was Stann's third in five fights, and came during a period of change in his life: He finished with his Marine Corps active duty; began training with Greg Jackson's MMA in New Mexico, decided to drop to middleweight. The bout with Massenzio was Stann's first at 185 pounds, and it showed off a new, improved, more well-rounded fighter. No longer just a slugger, Stann scored his first career submission victory in an excellent third round. Stann attempted three chokes during the final frame. The first came after a Massenzio takedown. The second came after a grounded Stann dropped his opponent with an upkick. The third, a textbook triangle, got the job done at 3:10.
1. Iraq War exploits. Sure, you've heard this story before, but nothing Stann accomplishes in the cage can ever match the courage he displayed in service to his country. Stann's bravery under fire as a Second Lieutenant while his unit was attacked by insurgents in May, 2005 near the Syrian border earned him Silver Star honors. I don't claim to be a military expert, so I'll let the Silver Star citation speak for itself: "Second Lieutenant Stann personally directed two casualty operations, three vehicle recovery operations and multiple close air support missions under enemy arms, machine gun and mortar fire."