A native of Sparta, Michigan, Cody Stamann is a dual-division athlete able to lay claim to titles at both featherweight and bantamweight. A representative of Michigan Top Team and training partner to 13-fight UFC veteran and current Rizin FF stand out Daron Cruickshank, Stamann boasts an outstanding 14-1 record, and may be the best kept secret in the American bantamweight division – outside of the north central states, that is.
A veteran of no fewer than 35 pro and amateur bouts combined, Stamann has been terrorizing opponents in the lighter weight classes for almost a decade. Before that, Stamann was a self-confessed sports addict who competed in every sport he could. Speaking exclusively to The MMA Vanguard, Cody said he wrestled and boxed throughout his high school years, which led him to his amateur MMA debut. Stamann would go on to compile a superb 19-1 mark, before, naturally, the professional ranks beckoned.
Reminiscing on the early days of his career, Stamann said: “MMA in Michigan was like the Wild West. When I started [competing] there was no sanctioning body for amateur fighters. It was a glorified street fight, and promoter’s made a killing because they didn’t have to buy insurance or pay physicians. Luckily the state has stepped up and fighters are better protected now,” before adding: “MMA in Michigan is becoming much more legit, and we’re starting to see local guys compete on the big shows.”
One of the current forerunners in terms of Michigan-based promotions are Stamann’s current employers, Knock Out Promotions [KOP]. With the financial clout to bring in tough fighters from all over the United States, Stamann is one of the beneficiaries of an ever-improving fight scene – and an ever-increasing level of competition. But while Stamann has spent the majority of his career competing in Michigan and the surrounding states, one particular fight stands out on his record as a geographical anomaly.
Stamann’s third pro fight, which followed on from two first round stoppage victories (including an 8-second guillotine choke submission of Chris Bourdon), saw Cody in unfamiliar surroundings – Romania, no less. Travelling to Craiova, Romania’s sixth-largest city, Stamann found himself facing off against debutant Benjamin Alexandercu. So how exactly did that come about? “It was a short notice fight,” Cody told us, “I basically showed up, weighed in, knocked a dude out, collected a check, and flew home,” Stamann laughs – not bad work if you can get it (much less get the job done)!
Returning to home soil, Stamann would best Terry House Jr, Adam Alvarez and Jeremy Czarnecki to improve his record to 6-0, and earn a fight with fellow unbeaten prospect Ruben Baraiac (5-0). This fight, with Stamann’s recently won TXC Featherweight title on the line, brings back great memories for ‘The Spartan’. “Everyone was sure he could beat me,” he told The MMA Vanguard. That didn’t happen, however. A third round knock out victory underlined Cody’s potential – not only to onlookers, but to Stamann himself: “It made me realize I was legit, and could fight anyone,” he says, describing the bout as one of the favourites of his career so far.
Many of his most cherished memories don’t relate directly to competition, however. Rather, Stamann is most fond recalling time spent competing with the support those closest to him: “My favourite memories in this sport are the ones I’ve shared with my team and family. There is nothing better than knowing that you have a group of people who selflessly love and support you, no matter what happens in the cage,” he says – and while Stamann’s career has seen far more ups than downs, there have been challenging times. One outcome in particular still rankles with Stamann.
Speaking of a split decision loss to Larry Digiulio in August 2014, Stamann’s only professional loss, Cody says: “To this day I’d urge anyone to watch that fight and see who they think won. I believe I did, but it is what it is. [Losing like that] made me hungry, and helped me realize I should always push for a finish.” That fight saw Digiulio display good boxing and counter-striking, with Stamann combining angles and movement with effective takedowns. While the first round saw Cody controlling the majority of it’s duration, Digiulio scored with the more telling strikes, and it’s possible to make a case for either fighter.
The second round was also closely contested, but with Cody landing a good one-two early, he seemed to have the initial momentum. Threatening for a takedown, Cody found Digiulio countering with a tight-looking guillotine that Stamann would ride out and escape from – but it was, nonetheless, a warning sign. Back on the feet at Cody’s behest, the hyper-confident Stamann scored with effective leg kicks, while Digiulio looked to counter body and high kicks, eventually landing a good left hook towards the end of the round. Again, both fighters had their moments, though Stamann undeniably controlled much of the pace.
A highly competitive fight up to that point, the two could scarcely be separated as they went to a third and final round, both athletes providing ample evidence of their toughness and stamina. Shots had landed, and both men had barely flinched; the action had been pushed, and neither man looked like wilting. With everything to play for, both fighters continued in much the same vane – Cody landed kicks, Digiulio loaded up on punches, and the latter would go on to deny Stamann a takedown at around the 60 second mark. Perhaps the first notable strike of the round went ‘The Spartan’s’ way, a crisp right hook landing from a short-range exchange, before a big takedown from Cody gave him a great position with less than half the round to go. A superb pass to side control, from where he briefly threatened a North-South choke, could have spelled the end for Digiulio with the clock running down – but after a brief scramble and a quick separation, Digiulio, impressively, found a way back to his feet. Here, Stamann landed one of his flashier strike attempts, a flying knee, that left Digiulio reeling. After a little Diaz-esque taunting, Stamann continued to make statements with some solid counter-striking against an ever-more desperate Digiulio. Another one-two combination and a takedown in the final second must have left Stamann in no doubt of his superiority, but that couldn’t detract from the fact the first two rounds were a little too close for comfort.
While an argument could easily be made for a 30-27 scorecard in Stamann’s favour, two of the judges scored the bout 29-28 for his opponent. A shocked commentary team mirrored the visual aesthetics of Cody Stamann himself in the moments immediately following the verdict, but for ‘The Spartan’ it was, nonetheless, a lesson learned: never leave a fight in the hands of the judges.
The memory of that defeat was later consigned to history with consecutive wins over Giovanni Moljo and Chris Dunn, victories that would result in a call up for Titan Fighting Championship. A slated bout with Kevin Croom never transpired, however, and as fate would have it, Stamann found himself facing another impressive opponent instead, in the form of Kyrgyzstan-born Farkhad ‘Frank’ Sharipov (15-6) in his KOP debut. The importance of the fight was not lost on Stamann – while he had faced talented opposition, Sharipov was a cut above in terms of experience and skill set, and had the record to prove it. “Farkhad is the most well rounded guy I’ve ever fought,” Stamann told The MMA Vanguard, “In the past I had fought good strikers and good grapplers, but never someone who was good at both. Farkhad was a BJJ black belt and an awesome boxer. I have never worked harder to prepare for a fight. When I started my camp, I wasn’t sure I could beat him,” he admitted, “But on fight night, I knew there was no way I could lose.”
By now a 9-1 contender, Cody needed a win like this to cement his place as one of the best fighters operating in the lighter weight classes outside of the elite promotions. While this particular fight would take place at bantamweight, Cody’s desire for competition had seen him fluctuate between 135 and 145 lbs. On that score, Cody considers himself a ‘natural’ featherweight, but this would not be the first – or last – time he would dedicate himself to a cut to bantamweight – it just takes “a lot of dedication to a good diet”, Cody told us.
That dedication would pay off in a huge way on March 26, 2016. A clearly amped up Stamann would put on one of the finest performances of his career to date, with the state of Michigan having ‘not seen a fight of this magnitude in a long time’ according to one of the KOP commentators.
Clearly respectful of Sharipov’s boxing acumen, Stamann looked to focus on his utilizing his feet early on, a spinning back kick giving ‘Frank’ something to think about, while also displaying vastly improved striking defence. Evidencing a much higher, tighter guard than had been displayed against Digiuilio, Stamann was able to avoid much of the wrath of Sharipov’s trained fists. Still, Stamann would land his own share of punches, and continue to time his kicks well. By the end of the first round, it was clear that it was Sharipov who had something to find.
If the Baraiac win had taught Stamann that he was indeed cut out to beat legitimate opposition, the Sharipov performance must have acted as a signal to the rest of the MMA world. With an intense focus, and often preternatural timing, Cody continued to dominate in his most testing challenge to date, and his growing self-belief was on display for all to see. Sticking to his aggressive stylistics and reaping the rewards because of it, Cody would dump Sharipov on his back early in the second stanza courtesy of a leg-catch, bull-rush combination, and would continue to land strikes the entire round. Sharipov may have had the experience advantage, but it felt like Stamann had more to prove; and prove it he did!
With constant motion and ever-changing angles, it was almost possible to see the belief grow within Stamann, and eat away at the confidence of the battle-tested veteran Sharipov. Battle-tested veterans, however, are always liable to find that little something extra…
Immediately following a front kick-flying knee combination from Stamann in the third and final round, Sharipov landed a spectacular axe kick, under the weight of which Stamann’s right knee clearly buckled, his hand momentarily grasping at the injured joint. Stamann, with thirty seconds left, was suddenly vulnerable. A body punch from Sharipov found it’s mark, and with Stamann effectively disabled and left to cover up, Sharipov poured on the pressure with beautiful boxing combinations against the fence, more than likely taking the round by sheer weight of numbers.
Still, the judges decision this time went the way it should have. A sublime, non-stop performance from Stamann had seen him rise to the toughest challenge of his career, and emerge victorious. This followed by a 72-second win over veteran Erik Vo, as well as impressive performances against Stephen Cervantes (6-1), Bill Kamery (13-6), and most recently Zac Church (8-4), have earned Stamann an outstanding 14-1 mark. If the Sharipov win hadn’t already put UFC brass on notice, surely the succession of impressive victories have caught the eye of the sport’s biggest global promotions.
In the words of Stamann himself, “I’m the best prospect at bantamweight in the world. I can fight, talk, and sell tickets. If you don’t know me now, I promise you will.”
The MMA Vanguard have no doubts about that!