Lost in the multitude of storylines coming out of UFC 235, one may have missed the emergence of a new top-10 contender at 135 pounds.
At least according to the official media-generated UFC rankings, Cody Stamann’s unanimous decision win over Alejandro Perez at UFC 235 bumped him up a few spots closer to someday challenging for the bantamweight title. The 29-year-old Michigan native now sits at No. 10 on that list.
But rather than crow about his steady climb up the charts (Stamann wasn’t even aware of his new ranking when he recently spoke to MMA Fighting), Stamann, 29, lamented how light in action his bout with Perez was relative to what he expected going into the matchup. “Turbo” was unbeaten in his last six fights before UFC 235 and Stamann regrets not pushing the pace more.
“I think my real issue in that fight was that I was waiting too much for him,” Stamann said. “But that was also the game plan. I didn’t want to deviate away from my game plan, I knew that when he throws his offense that he’s out of position a lot and that there’s always a lot of opportunities for counter-strikes against him, but it’s hard to counter-strike a guy who’s not doing anything, who’s backed himself up against the cage and not throwing. So it wasn’t a fan-favorite fight at all, I did my job, but I was the only guy dancing in there.”
Making the situation worse is that even though Stamann got the win, the most memorable moment of the fight may have been when Perez scooped Stamann up in the third round and nearly dropped him straight onto his head. It was the last thing that Stamann, a proud wrestler, expected to happen.
“He picked me right up over his own head, I was way up there,” Stamann said. “I landed pretty gracefully though, I tucked and rolled and it didn’t hurt at all. I was more embarrassed and pissed that I got taken down.”
The move didn’t cause Stamann any significant damage and in fact, he said he’s as healthy as he’s ever been coming out of a fight. That’s why he’s already planning his next booking, aiming for either UFC 238 on June 8 in Chicago or UFC 239 on July 6 in Las Vegas (where Stamann has already fought four times for the UFC).
When it comes to surmising where he sits in a crowded bantamweight division with an unclear situation at the top due to champion T.J. Dillashaw’s ongoing feud with flyweight champion Henry Cejudo, Stamann isn’t overly concerned. He’s won four of his five fights in the UFC, with split decision wins over veteran Bryan Caraway and French prospect Tom Duquesnoy, but sees himself needing to put in a lot more work to be considered a serious contender.
“For me, I feel like I’m still really young in the UFC,” Stamann said. “Everyone talks about, wow, I’m one or two fights away from a title shot, I still only have five fights. I feel like there’s more that I need to do. I think that I’m more like three or four wins away from a title shot. There’s a pecking order and I haven’t punched that ticket yet. I haven’t been noticed on the mainstream of MMA for bantamweights yet and I think it’s just about me chipping away at it.
“My next fight, I would like to fight a guy like Ricky Simon or Thomas Almeida, one of these guys 10-15 and then after that I would like to go after a No. 5 guy, I would like to go beat a contender. And then I think I’m still one more fight away from the title.”
Another name that has been brought up to Stamann on more than one occasion is rising star Sean O’Malley. However, Stamann doesn’t want to waste his time pursuing that fight, saying, ‘That kid’s got a life jacket on,’ and that officials wouldn’t want to risk putting O’Malley in the Octagon with him.
What Stamann really wants the most is something he has control over and that’s getting a definitive finish, which he hasn’t done since his last fight before signing with the UFC two years ago.
“I feel like that’s exactly what I need. I feel like a win isn’t really enough,” Stamann said “The division is too competitive. I think I can scratch out wins against all these guys and I think that’s why I was disappointed against Perez, because I was ready to counter him and put him to sleep, but you can’t counter a guy that’s not throwing. The win wasn’t all I needed in that fight, I felt like I needed a finish, so when it was over I really wasn’t that thrilled with how it all went down.
“Moving forward, 100 percent want to fight a guy that’s gonna bring it, that’s gonna come after me, that’s not super meticulous. If you look at the top five, top six guys, one, these guys never get finished and two, they all fight pretty safe. Everyone’s kind of fighting really safe because they’re holding onto that title opportunity. If you watch the fights when they fight a guy that’s ranked less than them, they fight extremely safe, they just edge rounds out. And I don’t want anymore fights like that. That’s not gonna get me fan recognition, that’s not gonna get me where I want to be in this sport as an athlete.”