13th-ranked Bantamweight Cody Stamann is a force to be reckoned with in the 135-pound division. The UFC has a loaded card put together for May 1st, headlined by Light Heavyweight contenders Dominick Reyes and Jiri Prochazka.
The main card includes a matchup between rising contenders in 12th-ranked Merab Dvalishvili and 13th-ranked Cody Stamann. This fight was initially set to occur in December of 2020, but Stamann had to pull out due to undisclosed reasons. The bout was later rescheduled for March, but this time Dvalishvili had to pull out due to COVID-19 (Stamann was given Askar Askar as a late replacement for that March date, but Askar was not medically cleared after Stamann had weighed in for the fight). Having signed the contract three separate times, these two are finally set to match up.
Bantamweight Cody Stamann: Fight Preview
Cody “The Spartan” Stamann (19-3-1 overall, 5-2-1 in UFC) is looking to get back on track after losing his last fight to Jimmie Rivera in Abu Dhabi last July. Stamann has a background in boxing, with six career wins by knockout. He’s also a solid wrestler, including two submissions. His ability to fight both on the ground and on his feet makes him an intriguing name in the 135-pound division.
Merab “The Machine” Dvalishvili (12-4 overall, 5-2 in UFC) is currently riding a five-fight winning streak, including wins over Casey Kenney, Gustavo Lopez, and John Dodson. Unlike Stamann, who is a very balanced fighter, Dvalishvili is a pure wrestler but one of the best in the division at his craft. If Merab can get this fight to the floor, it could be a long night for Stamann.
I was lucky enough to be able to interview Cody Stamann, and here were his responses.
Bantamweight Cody Stamann: Interview
How did this fight with Merab Dvalishvili initially come together and what has your training schedule been like?
Cody Stamann: Well, this fight initially came together in December, but it ended up getting pushed to March. That date got pushed back again and hopefully the fight will finally happen on May 1st. So I’ve been training for nearly six months now. Obviously, with the fight in March, I weighed in, but didn’t get a chance to compete. Now with [Merab Dvalishvili], his name keeps coming up and I had already signed two contracts to fight him so I wasn’t hesitant to sign a third.
You had to pull out of the initial date of December and then Merab pulled out for the February date. Was it frustrating having to reschedule this fight twice?
Cody Stamann: Yeah, it was frustrating because he was giving me hell in December because there was a rumor that I had COVID and that’s why I didn’t fight. He publicly said it was bull**** [that I couldn’t fight], but then karma got him and he had to pull out in February because of COVID. He actually got sick and couldn’t compete from that.
It wouldn’t have been a big deal if I had gotten a replacement fight, but having the fight fall through the day of the event was super-frustrating. I had six months of super-hard training and to not have the opportunity to perform sucks, but it will only serve to make me more competitive against Merab this time around.
*Note: for context, Cody Stamann was given Askar Askar as a replacement fighter for March after Merab Dvalishvili pulled out due to COVID. However, on the day of the fight, Askar was not medically cleared, and Stamann’s fight fell through.
Is there any animosity between you and Merab Dvalishvili now because of how the fight was canceled the first two times?
Cody Stamann: No, Merab is not the type of guy that you can have personal animosity with; I’ve actually seen him here in Las Vegas where I train [at Xtreme Couture]. It’s a bit awkward for me to see him, but he’s a nice dude and I think he is just very happy to be a fighter. I’ve never really seen anybody like him that was so happy just to work out all the time.
For the past two years, you’ve been with XTreme Couture. How has that helped you to elevate your game, especially with all the great fighters in your division that train there as well?
Cody Stamann: It was kind of what I had been missing in Michigan. I knew I needed tougher rounds, I needed harder training partners, and I needed like-minded people that wanted to compete at the highest level the same way I do. It was something that I was missing in my fights and it’s a big learning curve going from fighting on the regional scene in Michigan to fighting the best guys in the world. I wasn’t prepared for it initially; but now that I’ve had time to compete against these guys day in and day out at the gym, I feel like I plateaued for a while, but now I’m easily top five in the world.
I don’t think there’s too many guys at this point in my career that can honestly beat me. I’ve just been dying for the opportunity to fight these top guys. I fought Jimmie Rivera on a week’s notice and went all the way to Abu Dhabi to do that. I didn’t do well in that fight, but I want the opportunity to show people how good I am.
How much of a difference does it make having a full camp and then some because of how it’s played out, compared to stepping in on short notice?
Cody Stamann: For me, it’s all about preparation. I need time to make weight, I need time to get sharp. I don’t need a ton of time, I could do it in four weeks. I did it against Brian Kelleher in four weeks so if I have a little bit of time to get ready, I’m good. If I have a lot of time to get ready, then I’m hitting on all cylinders. This is the hardest training that I’ve ever done for this long of a time span and I’ve been doing three workouts a day for six months.
It’s definitely going to level me up, especially preparing for a guy like Merab who has a huge gas tank. That’s how he wins, he wears people down in the wrestling exchanges, he’s a guy that can just go so you definitely need ample time to prepare for a guy like him. Having that extra time was the worst thing that could have happened to Merab because now I’m in the best shape of my life. There’s nothing that really scares me about Merab anymore; the first time we were scheduled to fight, I was nervous that he would come into the fight in better shape than me.
Have you gotten to watch any of Merab’s previous fights and is watching game film a big part of training for you?
Cody Stamann: I watched a little bit of film. I like to know what a guy’s go-to moves are and I studied very hard initially in camp, but now I feel like I have to focus on myself. I think in every aspect of MMA, I’m a better competitor than Merab. He’s very sloppy and I’ve fought sloppy wild dudes like that before and I’ve absolutely tuned them up. I don’t see this fight going any differently. I saw him in the gym, the kid’s stand-up is amateur level. I don’t think that he’s going to be able to compete with me on our feet. He’s going to get desperate and shoot a ton like he normally does and when we get in those wrestling exchanges, I have the advantage.
If there’s one thing I know I can do, it’s my wrestling in the cage. I wrestle well, I’ve only been taken down a handful of times in my career. If people think that Merab is going to ragdoll me like he’s done to some other guys, then they clearly haven’t seen me fight.
In your career, 8 of your 19 wins are by finish including 6 knockouts and 2 submissions. Would you consider yourself better in the stand up or better as a ground fighter?
Cody Stamann: Honestly, as far as being an MMA fighter, I’m great at blending things. I’m really good at finding takedowns when I need them and I’m good at winning rounds. That’s never the athlete that I wanted to be, I wanted to go out and knock people out, but I’m a Golden Glove State champion and knocked everyone out in the tournament in Michigan. Then, MMA happened, my skills got sharper, and I started edging people out instead of putting them away.
I want to get back to finishing people because if you’re going to make it in the sport, then you have to put guys out. No one really cares when a guy wins eight decisions, but you get two knockouts and it’s a big deal. So I think that in order to catapult my career the way that I’d like to, I have to start knocking people out and Merab is going to be one of those guys. I think he’s probably the worst guy that I’ve fought as far as his stand up in the UFC by far. Obviously, he’s probably the best wrestler, but he has no stand up so if there’s a guy that I can put out, he’s number one.
I don’t want to make you give away any of your game plans, but is your goal to keep the fight standing and knock him out?
Cody Stamann: It’s hard to say that you’re just going to stand up and knock someone out, and sprawl and brawl the whole time when you have a guy like Merab that will shoot 40 times in a fight. We’re definitely going to the ground at some point and I’d like to initiate those takedowns. If I start taking him down and he started thinking about the takedown, then I’ll tell you right now, that’s my gameplan. I’m going to take him down a few times, and after I take him down, I’m going to knock him out.
You’ve also fought at 145 in your career. 135 is extremely deep and you’re the 13th ranked guy, but in the long run do you see yourself moving up a division?
Cody Stamann: Man, I would love to fight at 145 pounds. The weight cut to get 135 is hell for me, but I’m only 5’6” and I have a 65 inch reach. I don’t see myself competing against guys like Max Holloway, whereas at 135 pounds, I’m way more physical at the same size as the best guys in the world. I don’t want to be at the disadvantage so I have to go in there at 135 pounds if I’m going to become a world champion. At 145 pounds, it would definitely be a stretch for me.
If all goes well and you beat Merab, how busy would you like to be in 2020 and do you have an opponent in mind that you would like to fight in the future?
Cody Stamann: As far as a specific guy, I want to fight big names; I want to fight Frankie Edgar. Frankie is someone that I’ve always dreamed of fighting since I started watching him ten years ago and if he’s willing, then I think Frankie Edgar would be a perfect matchup. He’s a big name, he’s ahead of me in the rankings, and that would be an ideal fight; but I know I have to have a pretty outstanding performance against Merab to get a big name like him.
There’s a ton of guys that want to fight Frankie and a ton who are deserving of it at 135 pounds. It’s the deepest division in combat sports right now by far, so I have to string together some big wins to get to the top. I think Frankie would definitely be a nice guy to have on my résumé.
Finally, I want to ask about that bantamweight championship fight from earlier in the year. Earlier in your career, you had a fight end in a draw against Song Yadong after Yadong landed an illegal knee that warranted a point deduction. Tying that into what we saw a few months ago with Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling, whom you have fought, where the championship was won on account of Yan getting himself DQ’d, do you think the UFC needs a more consistent punishment on how to deal with illegal strikes?
Cody Stamann: I mean that’s definitely up to the athlete that gets kneed. I could have sat down when Song Yadong kneed me in the head and decided that I didn’t want to fight, and take the win and walk away. I could have done that, but that’s just not the kind of competitor that I am. Literally, in my fight, it was in the first round, and there’s no way I would have said that I can’t continue. Honestly, I’ve seen guys get hit starched dead in boxing matches, stumble around for 10 seconds, and then the next thing you know they’re able to fight again.
If you’re going to tell me that Aljamain Sterling gets hit with a knee and five minutes later he can’t recover, that’s a complete joke. He’s gotta be running the numbers in his head; it was probably the smartest financial decision of his life to lay down. But you can’t fool a fighter and say that he couldn’t get up and compete. There’s no question in my mind that Aljamain could have gotten up and finished that fight. He wasn’t so out of it that he wasn’t able to compete anymore; that’s just not the truth. But props to him, any publicity is good publicity in this game and it’s going to make a great story for their next fight. He’s going to be getting championship money, but there should be some kind of rule that says you can’t win a championship that way and it should be a no contest.
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