Former WEC light heavyweight champion and Fox Sports analyst Brian Stann recently sat down with MMAWeekly.com to talk about the key match-ups on the upcoming UFC Fight Night 38 fight card.
UFC Fight Night 38 takes place on Sunday, March 23, from the Ginasio Delio Dias in Natal, Brazil, and is headlined by one of the most anticipated rematches in UFC history, Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Dan Henderson
I don’t think we see Dan Henderson come out and immediately shoot for a takedown. If he does, Shogun is so good from his butterfly guard and his half guard. It’s very difficult to suffocate him and control and avoid a referee stand up. This fight is going to be forced to take place a lot on the feet.
The threat of Shogun’s takedowns, Shogun took Dan Henderson down in the last fight. The threat of that takedown combined with the improvements Shogun made in his last fight with his footwork. He was bouncing around. He was hitting angles. He wasn’t just a static Muay Thai fighter. Those two things could be incredible factors that come into play in this second fight. Not to mention, Dan Henderson was finally knocked out for the first time against Vitor Belfort. So a lot of interesting things could take place. We either see a similar epic five-round battle, or someone is going to go to sleep and get finished early in this one.
If Dan Henderson loses, that’s four losses in a row. Now granted, that’s against the best of the best in the division. But it still brings up question marks as to whether he should continue or not.
For Shogun Rua, people did write him off. He came out against James Te Huna and he looked fantastic. He showed some variations in his striking that I don’t remember the last time that I saw them. He showed some excitement and rejuvenation. Sometimes it just takes a win like that to start believing in yourself again, to get excited to go to the gym every morning.
There’s a lot on the line. It’s hard to really pick one of the two guys there that have more on the line when you really look at it. Dan Henderson could be fighting for his career at this point and time. Shogun Rua is fighting for relevancy.
It’s not like the UFC has a set standard on how many you can lose before you get cut. If you go out there and you fight, and you make them say to themselves, we can’t get rid of this guy, that was just too good of a fight. If they fight like they did last time, nobody is going anywhere. Dan Henderson, regardless – win, lose or draw – is still one of the biggest names in the sport. And you look at the guys that he fights. These are the best guys in the world. It’s a coin toss anytime you fight those guys as to who is going to win.
Cezar Mutante vs. C. B. Dollaway
I love this match-up. I think that C.B.’s last fight was probably a fight where he looked his best ever. He showed some significant improvements in his striking game in a lot of different levels, his footwork, his head movement to his feints, the variety of strikes thrown, his control of range and integration with his wrestling. He looked really good against Tim Boetsch. He had a few unfortunate eye pokes and just didn’t get the nod from the judges. But he had a reach advantage in that fight and he played to that very well. This fight, coming in, he’s not going to have that.
Cezar is very unpredictable with his strikes. So I want to see how C.B. handles that, and does the integration of his wrestling skills that he’s always had play a bigger factor and how does Cezar respond to that.
For C.B., that’s a tough fight. I think a lot of people that he won that last fight. And it’s nice to see him get rewarded even though it was a controversial loss. He’s still in a co-main event here and in a big fight that matters. A win over Cezar means something. It means get him right back into a top ten fight with somebody in the middleweight division. They guy is improving. He’s putting on great fights.
On the flip side, if Cezar can beat a seasoned veteran like C.B. Dollaway, who is still improving, we know that this kid is for real. This kid is for real. Get him some big fights in the middleweight division. He’s going to be a future contender. This has some major implications.
I called Cezar’s last fight. I was a very big middleweight when I fought. Cezar is absolutely huge. He is huge. He’s flexible. He’s fast. He’s got a lot of skill attributes that make him a very difficult match-up for anybody in the division. But with guys with that skill set, the big question is always how are they going to perform when they go against a wrestler who may be able to neutralize them? Now we’ll find out if C.B. Dollaway chooses to use that part of his skill set against him.
Leonardo Santos vs. Norman Parke
Santos, he’s got a big weight cut. How does he handle the weight cut? For Norman Parke, there have been a lot of expectations levied on him. You hear him say himself that he’s probably his own worst critic, and he hasn’t been happy with some of his performances despite his win streak. So I wonder if we’re going to see a more aggressive Norman Parke.
What he’s got to be careful with there, though, against a guy like Santos is if he gets too aggressive it makes you more susceptible for that takedown which I can not imagine Norman Parke wants to be on his back with Santos on top of him.
Santos is a phenomenal submission artist. He can slow the pace down, grind you out and methodically work to the finish whether he takes an arm, a neck, a leg. It doesn’t matter. It’s a big fight for both guys. And we’re going to see who can make some quick adjustments, but an exciting fight nonetheless. It could be a factor in the weigh division, who comes out on the other end.
Fabio Maldonado vs. Gian Villante
We know what to expect from Maldonado. If he shoots for a takedown, maybe I’ll do some cartwheels with the headset on. This is a guy who has a brand. He’s going to go out there and draw a line in that mat. And I love his brand. It’s my kind of brand. He’s going to draw a line in that mat and say, look, step to it. I’ll be here all night. And we’ll see what happens. He’s very tough. He’s very durable.
In Villante’s case, Villante has some options. And I think at this point in his career with him training with Chris Weidman it would be very surprised to me if he’s gone through this training camp with a game plan to stand and bang with Maldonado. That gives Maldonado his best chances to win the fight. So barring any untold and unforeseen injury that Villante may be training through, I think we see a Villante who goes in there with the intent of mixing it up. And he likes to exchange too, so there are going to be times where this thing is an absolute brawl. But I think it would be smart for Villante to try and transition and get it to the ground.
Maldonado has shown some decent takedown defense, some ability to scramble back to his feet. For both guys, it’s a big opportunity. You’re on the main card for a reason. Show us a great performance, but I think both guys need to show us some versatility as well.
Rony Jason vs. Steven Siler
This could certainly be a Fight of the Night-type of performance. The thing that’s so cool about both of these guys is, you asked me what can we expect, and you don’t know. Both are versatile. They’re both really well-rounded. That’s what makes it fun to watch, and I think that’s one of the reasons they matched them up.
These guys take the fight everywhere. They like to strike. They’re very good. They have a good variety of strikes. They’re very fluid on the ground, lots of good scrambles, submission attempts. I think it’s going to be a really fun fight to watch, and both guys need the win. Those are the fights that always have that greatness in the making. You have two guys that are good at everything. They need the win. They’re young. They’re determined. They want to get back in the win column. So it should be interesting.
We saw Jason just get brutally knocked out by Jeremy Stephens. Sometimes people change after they take knockouts like that. They become more cautious. It still sticks in your head. We’ll see if that plays a factor, and if Steven Siler tries to test him right away and get into the pocket and exchange a little bit right away in round one to see if he’s made it all the way back mentally from there.
Two Preliminary Fights to Keep an Eye On
I think it’s really between two of them. Rony Markes vs. Thiago Santos. Markes is a guy that I’ve had my eye on for a long time. He’s a guy that I thought could really make some waves in the UFC.
And obviously there’s Jussier Formiga vs. Scott Jorgenson. Jorgensen has dropped down to flyweight. We expected a lot from him. He came up short against Zak Makovsky, who really just ended up being a pleasant surprise. We didn’t realize just how good that kid was. I think that Scott has to get settled into this weight class. He has to go out there and perform in this fight. And it’s a big opportunity for Formiga. I think those two fights are the ones that I’ve really got my eye on in that prelim card.