There are certain points in combat sports that turn viewers into fans, and fans in to fanatics. Boxing had a moment like that in 1985 when Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns met for the middle weight title. The Marvelous one and The Hitman tore into one another as if they were gladiators marked for death with a loss. Hagler marched forward, and swung for the fences as if his mits were clubs; while Hearns played the matador (although he didn’t exactly make the bull miss) while attempting to land the nuclear missile that was his right hand. Each fighter was wobbled in the first 30 seconds of the fight, and the mayhem just grew from there. Hearns’ shots continued to land on the skull of Marvin as he came forward, but the force of the shots ended up breaking his vaunted right hand in the process. Unable to match fire with fire, Hearns continued to eat shots and had little left in his legs by the end of the round. The second and third rounds were mere formalities as Tommy stumbled around the ring while eating shots, and finally succumbed to the man who once called sneakers “sissy shoes” in the third.
The first round of that fight will forever be imprinted in to the mind of boxing’s fanbase. Its a moment that solidified two stars as legends in a way that few can attest to achieving. Its three minutes that can be shown to any person interested in contact sports that will automatically have them itching for more. Its a round that signifies everything that fight fans love, and mixed martial arts had a moment like it March 2nd.
Wanderlei Silva and Brian Stann put on a display Leonidas of Sparta would have been proud of two Saturday’s ago. The first minute played out as each attempted to end the fight early. Both with threw caution to the wind with flurries, and Wanderlei also used hard knees from the clinch. Stann was dropped first with a hard counter, but Wanderlei followed twenty second later. After Wanderlei took a brief respite by pushing Stann up against the fence, they went back to trading ninety seconds in. Silva landed a good counter right hand, and gained confidence as he invited the decorated veteran in for some more fun. However, when he moved forward Brian stood toe-to-toe with the MMA legend and dropped Wand again. Silva looked for the takedown a second time, but was rebuffed for his troubles. Then, apparently missing being punched, they went back to trading at two minutes in. Stann moved forward, and Silva looked to counter. They both landed decently (nothing flush), and an inadvertent knee to the cup from Stann halted the action at 2;30. At this point, Stann’s nose was clearly broken as it gushed blood, but he trucked forward nonetheless. They each appeared measured for the next minute and change, as each lands without committing to much of their shots (seemingly both trying to recover from the carnage already caused, and saving up for more violence to come). With about a minute left, the action heats back up as Brian pushed forward with nine or ten punches (landing about half while at the same time eating counters). A short left at the end drops Silva, but he barely hits the ground and rises to continue the trade all in one motion. Both warriors land rights and lefts, and Silva drops Stann again as he seems to punch Brian off the mat with a hard right. Not to be deterred, Stann arises instantly and before Wanderlei can land a knee he is eating shots while being bull rushed in to the cage. After eating more shots, Wanderlei grabs a double collar before falling to the ground while trying to attempt a knee. He is met immediately by a right hand upon hitting the canvas. Stann continues to land rights and lefts on the mat as Wanderlei seems unfazed by each shot, and the round ends with each heading to the corner covered in blood (most of which is Brian Stann‘s).
Round #2 was all Wanderlei as the cut on Stann’s nose clearly affected him. Silva picked his shots well, and countered every time Stann attempted to come forward with a wild flurry. The end came with just under a minute left, and saw Wand time a beautiful right hand-left hook combo that were punctuated by right hands on the ground. Stann’s night had ended, and with it another foes desire to trade leather with the beast known as “The Axe Murderer”.
What we as fans should take away from this is of little debate. Sure, one can look at the fight as mostly a brawl which showcased a little bit of skill. An ugly fight, and a match that Stann could have attempted to compete in with a different game plan. However, the blood and guts shown by both men far outweighs anything else that could be perceived.
In 20 years, I’ll speak fondly of mixed martial arts (probably a bit of an understatement). I’ll speak of the great champions who dominated the sport, the fighters who peaked my interest the most, great knockouts, great submissions, and any other number of things that stick in the memory of somebody who follows an art so closely. One of those things will be the first round between Wanderlei Silva and Brian Stann. The facts showing Wanderlei being passed his prime years, and Stann a high-level gatekeeper will be of little consequence. In the end, it was just two men competing for our pleasure. Both looking to add another high-light reel KO to the annals of history, but instead taking part in so much more.