After listening to middleweight contender Michael Bisping repeatedly express his intention of standing toe-to-toe with Brian Stann in Toronto, just about everyone is convinced he will stay true to his word.
“I have the advantage,” Bisping told ESPN.com. “He has some punching power, but that’s it. I’m a way better boxer and a way better kickboxer. I’m faster, have better head movement and better foot movement.
“I recognize that he’s knocked some people out, but I have a good chin. I’ve been stopped just once in my career by Dan Henderson, and there’s no shame in that.”
With Bisping putting it so strongly, can anyone expect him not to fight Stann on the feet Saturday night at UFC 152? One man isn’t ready to fully take Bisping at his word. And that man would be Stann.
The former WEC light heavyweight champion respects Bisping’s striking skills and self-confidence, but he gives more credence to his opponent’s intelligence.
“I welcome him standing with me and trading shots,” Stann told ESPN.com. “That’s an area where it’s always been one of my best opportunities to win fights.
“But I don’t think that’s exactly what he is going to do. He'll use his footwork. He’s not a pocket-puncher-type of guy. He’s a stick-and-move-type of guy.”
Trading strikes with Stann inside the cage has been proven to be a disastrous strategy. Stann, who is powerful and displays exceptional stand-up technique, also has a very sturdy chin, which he often invites opponents to test.
The invitation is difficult to resist, and fighters who have given in to that temptation have paid a hefty price. Nine of Stann’s 12 wins have come by knockout.
Stann’s devastating punching power was on display in his most recent bout, when he needed slightly less than 2½ minutes to knock out Alessio Sakara in April.
Yet Bisping remains eager to take the bait.
“I stand with every one of my opponents, so why should Brian Stann be any different?” Bisping said. “He’s the one coming into the lion’s den with me. We’ll see what happens.”
In a few more days everyone will learn whether Bisping is playing coy. But on further thought, it might not be Bisping who is taking everyone for a ride. The more Stann responds to Bisping’s stand-up comments, it becomes increasingly difficult to discern if he isn’t the one pulling our legs.
After spending a good amount of time saying he welcomes a stand-up war, Stann tossed in this enticing tidbit: “I’m not expecting Michael to go out there and get into a kickboxing match with me. Mike’s going to try to mix it up, and that’s fine with me, too.
“I’m very excited to surprise him in the other realms of mixed martial arts. I feel he’s underestimating me in my other skills and that’s fine; I’m not going to tell him how good I am, I’m going to show him.”
Despite his relatively busy fight schedule, Stann has spent additional time in the gym improving on all non-standing aspects of his game. He has fought four times since 2011, and none of those bouts have gone more than two rounds.
Aside from an injury to his right shoulder that knocked him out of a fight against former Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard in July, Stann has avoided the injury bug.
Staying healthy, active and getting out of the cage quickly has put Stann in a comfortable rhythm heading into Saturday night. It’s an advantage he expects to to come in handy against Bisping.
“That’s pretty common for me,” Stann said. “I have a lot of one-round performances. The layoff’s bigger for Mike. He’s been really spread out.
“He had a long layoff before he fought [Jason] ‘Mayhem’ Miller. And he had a decent layoff until he fought Chael Sonnen, and now he’s coming off another big layoff.
“For me it’s not about how long your fight is, it’s about going through the whole training camp, going through the actual fight and the events the week of the fight. That’s what keeps you in a rhythm. It’s not about how long the fight actually lasts in the Octagon. I’m in that rhythm. I’ve been fighting frequently -- three times a year. I don’t feel any rust; I'll be ready to go.”
That said, Bisping remains unmoved. More than proving that he is the better stand-up fighter, it is the stench of a disputed unanimous decision loss to Sonnen on Jan. 28 that fuels Bisping. The setback cost him a 185-pound title shot, and Bisping is determined not to be denied again.
“I want to put this guy away; I want to make an example of him,” Bisping said. “I have nothing against Brian Stann, but I want to send the message out that I’m the No. 1 middleweight contender. I’m going to put a beating on this guy. I’m not leaving it to the judges and get robbed again.
“I’m very confident I can put this guy away within three rounds. I’m predicting a second-round knockout or TKO. And I’m going for it 100 percent.”