MMAFrenzy’s pre-fight coverage of UFC 136 continues with our head-to-head preview of the non-championship bouts on the UFC 136 main card, including middleweight contenders Chael Sonnen vs. Brian Stann, lightweight contender Melvin Guillard vs. Joe Lauzon, and the featherweight rematch between Leonard Garcia and Nam Phan.
UFC 136 takes place Saturday night in Houston, Texas and is headlined by the second rematch between UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. UFC 136 will be co-headlined by a UFC featherweight title fight between champion Jose Aldo and Kenny Florian.
Chael Sonnen vs. Brian Stann
Keys for Sonnen- with Dana White recently promising a title shot to the winner of Sonnen-Stann, motivation for Chael to win will be even higher. Not that Chael needed help with that, nor is it that surprising that a title shot is on the line, but it certainly helps. So how does Sonnen beat Stann? Well it is actually quite simple… keep doing what has worked and not do what has not.
Sonnen’s strengths are also his weaknesses however, that applies outside the octagon as well, and that is what he has to make sure to avoid. Sonnen storms his opponent with all the subtlety of a wounded bull in a china shop and while this should not work, it works for him. The reason it does is because Sonnen has a method to his madness, when he storms his opponents with strikes it is all in an attempt to get the fighter looking high when he plans to shoot for the legs and impose his will on the ground.
Sonnen’s recent quote saying “In what parallel scoring system do you punch a man 300 times, he hits you 11 times, wraps his legs around your head for eight seconds and they declare him the winner?” is in many ways a referendum on his career in general and not just the Anderson Silva fight. The irony in that statement is that in nearly all combat sports, and this is especially true in wrestling, it only matters what the score was if you make it to the end of the match. Sonnen’s biggest issue is that in nearly every fight he has lost, he has been winning before making an aggression-based mistake.
Stann may not be known for his grappling but his one submission of a very good grappler (Mike Massenzio) is impressive and showed the evolution of his ground game with the help of Coach Greg Jackson and Master Roberto Traven. So Sonnen cannot relax as both men have prepared Stann to be prepared for this thing to go sideways at times and we all know that Stann is cool under pressure.
In the end, Sonnen is his own worst enemy here. The biggest problem for him is that in order to correct his past mistakes it involves him dialing back on the aggression that has him where he is. Sonnen is unwilling, and should not do that. Sonnen has a lot of questions after the long layoff, a convincing win against an up-and-comer will go a long way to answer the critics.
Keys for Stann- It may not seem ideal, but one thing Stann can do against Sonnen is meet him in the middle and beat the former number one contender to the punch. Sonnen often charges forward with wild and winging punches. So if Stann can clip Sonnen as he is winding up he can disrupt his rhythm and launch counters of his own. The trick is that Stann has to land a few shots and then immediately move before Sonnen can take him down. This means you cannot be over-aggressive and that you often have to sacrifice a kill shot for good footing. This takes a lot of discipline and often seems counter-intuitive as a fighter. It is the right move though.
If, and likely when, this fight hits the ground. It is important to maintain an active guard against Sonnen. The more active the guard, the more time Sonnen is forced to defend and the less time he can spend hitting you. The other upside there is that wears Sonnen down. Stann has worked hard as a fighter and, much like his WEC/Jackson’s MMA brethren Carlos Condit, his game has grown exponentially since joing the UFC. While Stann’s ground game is largely forgotten, it is there, and he has trained with many of the best in MMA to develop it. Stann staying active with the guard while looking to chain submissions could more than frustrate Sonnen and even lead to the second submission victory of Stann’s career.
For Stann, poise in the face of an onslaught and attacking when the chance presents itself is the key the longer this fight goes.
Melvin Guillard vs. Joe Lauzon
Keys for Guillard- Guillard is arguably on the best run of his career right now, with his name becoming very popular to throw around in title shot discussions. Guillard is arguably the fastest fighter at lightweight, which benefits his explosive striking and wrestling. Guillard has an advantage in the striking game with that speed and power, as he can pepper Lauzon from the outside and maneuver for a killshot better than most. It may seem counter intuitive for Guillard to take down Lauzon but I expect Guillard to at least use the takedown to disrupt Lauzon’s timing and possibly finish the fight. If Guillard seizes control of where and when the exchanges occur, he should be able to win a victory in violent fashion. If he lets Lauzon tie him up and slow the fight down, the fight could become a coinflip like his fight with Jeremy Stephens.
Keys for Lauzon- Joe Lauzon will attempt to derail the considerable momentum that Melvin Guillard has built up this Saturday. The key for Lauzon is to avoid unnecessary striking exchanges against a very explosive striker but not just dive into bad shots, which expose him to further damage. Lauzon has the ground game to match up with most lightweights in the UFC and that is where he should try to keep this fight. If he adopts a heavyweight boxing style striking attack for this fight, he has a better chance to get it to the ground via takedown or by using the cage. By heavyweight boxing style, I am not referring to any particular punch but rather the pattern of firing a combination and then clinching. The combo is not nearly as important as the effective clinch. The more time this fight spends on the ground, the better chance he has of winning.
Nam Phan vs. Leonard Garcia
Keys for Phan- This one is pretty easy… technique Garcia to death and avoid the brawl. Garcia is at his worst against guys who choose to avoid the brawl and stick closely to a “stick and move” game plan (ala Mark Hominick). Phan is sometimes a slow starter, and Garcia comes out swinging, so if Phan avoids getting too far behind early he should be able to pull out a victory. If Garcia starts putting Phan on his heels, Phan may begin shooting for takedowns. If Phan does that, there is no reason he should not get the win unless the judges decide they do not like him… again. Of course Phan could always take the fight out of the hands of the judges, but with Garcia only being finished twice in his career (both due to subs) that is easier said than done. Phan’s UFC career is likely on the line here, so if by the third he is trailing on the scorecards I expect him to throw everything that is not tied down at Garcia.
Keys for Garcia- Garcia needs to make this fight so ugly that hipsters buy it and call it “vintage.” Garcia is one of those fighters whose ability to entertain has often exceeded his technical prowess. Garcia has been a Zuffa mainstay, going 6-6-1, since his first UFC stint starting at the infamous UFC 69 in Houston, Texas but a bad loss could lead to the end of that relationship. With that said, it is highly unlikely that Garcia will put on a poor performance in his rematch with Phan. Hopefully, Garcia learned through his rematch with Chan Sung Jung that you do have to change some things in a rematch. Garcia must be careful not to chase too much against Phan and if the fight goes to the ground he must use the ground game. Garcia trains out of Jackson’s Gym, so hopefully he decides to use whatever game plan Jackson gives him and does not just resort to brawling.
For complete coverage of UFC 136, stay tuned to MMAFrenzy.