Former UFC Middleweight Brian Stann puts his MMA analyst hat back on when he gets back in the booth this weekend for the UFC On FOX 9 card. After formally retiring, Stann took another FOX gig calling ACC Football games and now that the season is over he is back covering the UFC. Feature Writer John Petit spent a few minutes with Stann talking about retirement from fighting, calling football versus MMA and breaking down the UFC On FOX 9 card that will take place this weekend. Stann even gives us a pick on who is going to win in the main event at UFC 168.

John Petit: How has the transition been going into football? how did the season go for you? Did it come easier for you, and did you miss MMA?

Brian Stann: Its been a blast. Obviously I played football a lot longer than I fought and I will always love the sport. It was a lot of fun, but if I wasn’t a part of the UFC and the FOX agreement and earned my stripes and learned from both the UFC staff and the FOX staff who have helped me out, there is no way I would have never been able to do college football. It was alot of fun, but I am definitely excited to get back to fighting.

It came easy to me because I had already had experience doing television. Calling college football is a completely different animal. When you are doing research for a fight card, you only have a certain amount of guys to research. When you are doing football you have all those guys on the field at once, and so there is a lot of research that need to be done, a lot of preparation, and cover a conference I was very familiar with. The first year is always the hardest, and it gave me a great opportunity to spread the brand of the UFC. I uncovered a lot of coaches and players in the ACC who are UFC fans.

JP: I know you didn’t hang up the 4 ounce gloves to pick up 12 ounce beers and couch surf. What have you been doing with your down time? Are you still rolling at all, or doing any training?

Stann: I still train every day when I can. My travel schedule lately has been just brutal in 2013. I am forever a martial artist so I train and I try to help out a bunch of the guys as much as I can.

JP: In your opinion, which of the two do you think has progressed more since the first fight, Demetrious Johnson or Joseph Benavidez?

Stann: Thats a tough one to say. I think both guys have progressed their game quite a bit, and obviously Benavidez has added a brand new coach to his camp (Duane Ludwig) and has developed new striking techniques that have resulted in some really great knockouts. More specifically, he has added some brutal body shots to his game, and has become a more diverse striker, and I think he has integrated them much better.

Much of the same things can be said about Johnson. He has had some tough title defenses where he has taken on some really big guys, and has looked good. In the Dodson fight, he comes from behind, makes some adjustments and picks up the win. In his last fight against John Moraga, he was just absolutely dominant in that fight. As far as who has improved more, I guess we really won’t know until Saturday night.

This fight really comes down to who is better mentally right now. So much of this sport is mental, and when a guy is at his highest mentally and focussed, thats when he is at his best. We have seen Benavidez look like a man on a mission since he lost that title shot. We have seen Johnson be very focused, not turn complacent as a champion, and he is still improving every fight. We have to wonder if these things have changed with either fighter. With Benavidez, he is going in for the second time in the same weight class, and he could be wondering what happens if he loses. With Johnson, once you get the gold around your waist and make more money, sometimes you get complacent and you don’t push yourself as hard. This fight will come down to focus, and I think DJ has the footwork and the takedowns to win rounds and edge out this fight. Similar to what he did in the first fight, but if this fight ends abruptly it will be because of a big strike from Benavidez.

JP: We have two guys who have only lost to champions in the UFC, fighting in the co main event. At 16-2 its hard to called Michael Mayday McDonald inexperienced, but compared to Urijah Faber he clearly is. Does that make a difference in this fight, and how do you see this playing out?

Stann: I think it does make a difference in this fight. Faber’s experience allows him to adjust. If you come out and your initial game plan isn’t working, the guys is doing something different, or you just can’t handle it in a certain area you were expecting too, what do you do? Faber has the experience and the composure to make the adjustments and be successful. We have seen him come from behind before. With McDonald, the fights he has won he has been the front runner. He has been able to manipulate guys, he has been able to be more physical and hurt and knock them out. It’s going to be interesting because I don’t think McDonald is going to be able to out muscle Faber in certain areas, but he certainly brings more knockout power.

JP: Chad Mendez is coming into the fight with only one loss on his record, and thats to Jose aldo who is arguably one of the pound for pound best fighters in the sport right now. He is taking on Nick Lentz who has been undefeated since debuting at featherweight. What do you think of this fight? Do you think an extraordinary finish in this bout could lead to either fighter getting in the title picture?

Stann: This is a tough fight for Lentz. He dropped down into the featherweight division that is probably the most competitive division in the UFC. If Lentz pulls off the upset, I think its going to be because its a grinding style fight. He is going to struggle to get Mendez on his back and I don’t think he will be able to do it. However, what he may be able to do is clinch Mendez, control him against the cage, and grind on his arms and wear out his arms so Mendez won’t be able to throw those punches with the same knockout power. Basically, make it so Mendez can’t execute his own game plan. All around, I think Mendez is the more physical fighter and better athlete. If anyone is going to get a title shot based on this fight, it’s going to be Mendez. In order to do it, he is going to need a first or second round finish, and it has to be something very exciting and dominant to get the hype behind him. Lets face it, you got Cub Swanson who is on a tear, Frankie Edgar is in the division now, and this division is all around the most exciting in the UFC. It’s going to be very interesting to see who gets that next shot against Jose Aldo.

JP: Both Mac Danzig and Joe Lauzon are coming off of two losses. While Lauzon will probably get another crack in the octagon if he loses because of his 12 fight night bonuses, Danzig is likely against the wall in this bout if he puts up another loss. Who do you think rises to the occasion, and how do you see this fight rolling?

Stann: If there is a fighter who has had some of the worst luck in the UFC, I think it would be Danzig in his career. He is a very complete fighter and is polished everywhere, and its always the slightest things i each fight that have cost him. In the case of Melvin Guillard just a brutal knockout. I do think his back is up against the wall and we will see him fight one of his best fights, but Lauzon has a unique ability ina really close fight, to find a way.That’s where he lives and breathes. If he needs a takedown to win the fight, or if he needs to turn it into a slugfest, he has a lot of experience to be able to do that. We have seen Lauzon rise to the occasion so many times, so I give Lauzon a slight edge in this fight.

JP: Do you have a fight of the night prediction for the card?

Stann: I do. I am going to go away from all of the obvious ones on the main card, and go with Abel Trujillo vs. Roger Bowling. These are two violent men, and its going to be a fun fight. Bowling looked to be getting the better of Trujilo before the illegal blow. Trujilo is a very good fighter and a very good athlete, and the addition of Kenny Monday to the Blackzilians is obviously having an effect. There is a new attitude, and there is a new guy instilling the championship attitude down there. Both guys are ‘draw a line, and you cross the line’ type of fighters and this one will be a fun one to watch.

Roger Bowling after the first bout against Abel Trujillo courtesy of MMAFighting:

JP: Do you have thoughts on the Bobby Green vs. Pat Healy bout?

Stann: Bobby Green really caught my eye when he took on Bobby Volkman. He is a tremendous athlete with alot of upside. With the right training and the right focus, he is as athletic as anybody. Healy is a grinder, and this fight will be interesting because Green is a little more physically talented than Healy, but can that overcome his experience and grit because Healy is tough. Healy can’t give Green the space he needs to get off, and if he does that he can win this fight.

JP: Do you have thoughts on the Scott Jorgensen vs. Zach Makovsky bout?

Stann: Cool fight. What has Scott done in the last few months to add to his game besides dropping in weight class. Has he done certain things to break through that performance front gear. He is very good at what he does, but you have to be constantly looking for that edge to improve your game to make yourself more well rounded and more predictable. Its going to be interesting to see if he has done that. Makovsky is a champion from another division and he has been a very good fighter for a long time. he has a golden opportunity to take on a guy with a great name, who is an exciting fighter, and I think Makovsky has an opportunity to be in a fight where his stock rises no matter what. If he can put on an exciting fight against a guy who has been at the top of the heap in other weight classes, then I think his stock rises and he will find he has a good home in the UFC.

JP: You mentioned earlier that you think the middleweight division is going to be one of the most exciting divisions to watch, and having fought in the division I would kick myself if I didn’t ask you this. Who takes the rematch at UFC 168 UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman or Anderson Silva?

Stann: I think Chris Weidman will repeat. I really do. I think Anderson Silva is going to go down as one of the greatest fighters of all time, but I think Chris has all the right things around him. I think there is enough uncertainty and things said after the last fight, that he still has a big chip on his shoulder and he still feels like he still has something to prove. I think we will see a hungrier Chris Weidman than what we saw in the first fight.

Cover photo courtesy of MMAWeekly