Monday, September 14, 2009

Steve Cantwell looking for win in rubber match with Brian Stann

By Anthony Fenech

Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2009 | midnight

When Steve Cantwell opens the Octagon door Wednesday night in Oklahoma City, he’ll be looking to close a different door on an old rivalry.

Opposing him will be Brian Stann, a man Cantwell knows all too well from two previous fights in World Extreme Cagefighting.

“I’m looking to put an end to this rivalry and expose his weaknesses,” said Cantwell, who renews his rivalry with Stann at Ultimate Fight Night 19 at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Wednesday.

In their first meeting in March 2007, Stann shocked Cantwell by knocking him out 41 seconds into the bout with a blow to the jaw that sent the Las Vegas-based fighter to his knees.

Both were undefeated light heavyweights at the time — Cantwell fighting in his first WEC match and Stann fresh off signing a five-year deal with the UFC’s sister organization.

“He caught me with a shot early and the ref stopped the fight,” said Cantwell (7-2), who is coming off a unanimous decision loss to Luiz Cane at UFC 97 in April.

“He broke my shot at the title and I wanted him again.”

Cantwell got that wish the following August, this time with a title on the line.

Cantwell won via second-round TKO, claiming the WEC light heavyweight belt, making him the last fighter to do so, as the organization has since eliminated the division.

“Obviously, it was an honor,” Cantwell said. “But I wanted more.”

That carrot came in the form of a UFC contract late in 2008.

But his first fight was a disappointment as he lost to Cane at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

“It was close,” he said. “We stayed close until the third but I let him slip away. He threw a couple of combos and stole it from the judges.”

Although on the losing end, Cantwell, who is dubbed “The Robot,” credited the bout as the best experience of his fighting career.

“That fight did wonders for my mental game,” he said. “To bang with someone like that for a full match on national television in front of 23,000 fans, you can’t get that kind of experience in a gym.”

And now they meet again in a rubber match on a much higher stage.

The two are polar opposites in the Octagon. Stann is known as the heavy-handed, durable ex-Marine, while Cantwell is a young submission artist who came to Las Vegas as a rebel from California.

But both have one thing in common: They each are in desperate need for victory as back-to-back losses for the loser paints an uncertain picture for their future in the UFC.

Still, Cantwell insists he has the upper hand.

“The pressure’s on him,” he said. “He hasn’t earned his respect in the UFC yet. Brian Stann would get more respect from beating me than I would for beating Brian Stann.”

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