I've been watching my next opponent, Alessio Sakara, fight for years -- long before I even became a contender in the WEC, in fact. Consequently, this fight on April 14 between him and me didn't come as any kind of surprise or shock.
After my recent experiences, I was keen to fight again, keen to fight a "name" opponent and, all things considered, Sakara kind of fit the bill.
When his name was given to me, it made sense and I was happy. I don't want to fight guys who aren't good fighters or don't come with any kind of reputation. We all know Sakara is a good fighter, and we've all seen him fight before. He's been a mainstay of the UFC for many years now and is probably as good now as he's ever been. That keeps me on my toes, both in training and during the fight itself.
Alessio was on a three-fight win-streak of his own recently, and that just goes to show the kind of level he is operating at right now. Believe me, it's no mean feat to win three fights back-to-back in the UFC, especially when you are being paired with top fighters on a regular basis.
This fight just makes total sense right now, and acts as a kind of crossroads fight for the both of us. We both saw our winning runs broken last time out, and now one of us can use victory on April 14 to get back in the saddle and, hopefully, start up another win streak.
Ultimately, I think our styles will make for a very exciting fight. I'm not going to lie, it's also nice to go from a pure, out-and-out wrestler in Chael Sonnen to a guy like Alessio Sakara, who is known for his boxing and his willingness to stand and bang. Although you can never second guess, I may find myself going from an opponent who didn't throw one punch against me to somebody who throws lots of them. That's just the way mixed martial arts works, though, and you have to be prepared for all styles and all types of fighter.
But, yes, I've no doubt Sakara will be more suited to my own skill-set.
Despite that, I've still worked incredibly hard on my wrestling and my ground game, well aware that these are areas I need to work on. I also put myself in Alessio Sakara's shoes and I ask myself, "How do I go about beating Brian Stann on April 14?" If I'm him, I look at my best way of winning the fight, and I realize that won't be standing in the pocket and throwing bombs. No good can come from that.
Sakara is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, however, and clearly has a decent ground game. Therefore, it won't surprise me in the slightest if he starts shooting for takedowns against me and tries to take the fight to the mat. I have to be prepared for that, as it is a very distinct possibility.
Nothing will surprise me on April 14, I can assure you that. I've watched a ton of footage on this guy, both before the fight was mentioned and after it was signed. In fact, I've watched every single strand of footage I could get my hands on. We've used it all to break him down, find gaps, find openings and pinpoint areas I can potentially exploit. I'm sure Alessio is doing exactly the same thing.
That's the fun part of the sport for me. I love the tactical side of mixed martial arts, as it gives you the opportunity to dig for weaknesses long before you touch gloves with your opponent on fight night. To my way of thinking, a fight begins eight or nine weeks out, not the moment you set foot in the Octagon.
Of course, Sakara's danger in this fight will always be his greatest weapon: his boxing. Even though he's a big middleweight, I still believe he possesses probably the fastest hands of anybody at 185 pounds. He throws very fluent and fast combinations and is able to switch between head and body as though it's nothing. Don't get me wrong, he's good everywhere else, too, and obviously has a jiu-jitsu black belt to his name, but I still consider his punching ability a notch above. Boxing is what he does naturally, without thinking. He's programmed to do it.
The biggest thing I see in my favor is my sheer athletic ability. I believe I possess an edge over Sakara athletically and that this will be a key aspect in the fight. A lot of the time in this sport we focus primarily on skills when breaking down a fight and, of course, this is very important, but it's equally important to take into account a fighter's athletic ability and sheer physicality.
I think the big question on April 14 will be, which of these two guys is capable of being more physical and commanding in that Octagon? I believe that person will be me.
How do you think I should go about winning the fight? Tweet me your thoughts @BrianStann.
Middleweight contender Brian Stann battles Italian striker Alessio Sakara on April 14 in Stockholm , live on FUEL TV.