UFL championship game preview: Stallions vs. Brahmas

Daniel Isom grabs pick-six for the Stallions (0:43)

Daniel Isom jumps the route and returns it to the house to draw the Stallions even with the Panthers. (0:43)

The last American professional sports franchise to win three championships in a row is the Los Angeles Lakers, who won three consecutive NBA titles from 2000-02. And now the United Football League's Birmingham Stallions are one win away from joining that exclusive three-peat club.

The Stallions (10-1) won USFL titles in 2022 and 2023 and can take the UFL crown Sunday, when they face a stingy San Antonio Brahmas squad at 5 p.m. ET at The Dome of America's Center in St. Louis (Fox). The inaugural UFL championship game pits arguably the most exciting player in the league (Birmingham quarterback Adrian Martinez) against the league's most impenetrable defense in San Antonio (8-3). The Brahmas are the only team to beat the Stallions this season, shutting them down 18-9 in Week 9.

So will it be a Birmingham three-peat, or will Brahmas coach Wade Phillips offer up another defensive masterpiece? We break down the matchup below.

Birmingham Stallions vs. San Antonio Brahmas

Time: 5 p.m. ET, Sunday
Site: The Dome at America's Center, St. Louis
TV: Fox
Line: Stallions -3, O/U 41.5

Skip Holtz has the Stallions back in championship position, but it hasn't been easy recently. Birmingham won its first eight games, extending its winning streak to 15 games dating to its final USFL season. But the Stallions lost to San Antonio in Week 9 and had to survive a game-winning field goal attempt by the Michigan Panthers in Week 10. Then they fell behind 18-3 to the Panthers in the second quarter of the USFL conference championship game this past Saturday. The Stallions showed their championship mettle, though, scoring the final 28 points to put themselves one win away from a three-peat.

Backup quarterback Matt Corral was one of the main heroes of the victory, replacing Martinez -- the UFL MVP -- in the second half and throwing two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to put the Stallions ahead. Corral finished 9-of-11 for 120 yards and the two touchdown passes after replacing Martinez, who threw an interception and lost two fumbles before being yanked. Martinez is expected to start Sunday.

Birmingham's defense also stepped up in that win, picking off Michigan quarterback Danny Etling three times (one of which was returned for a game-tying touchdown by cornerback Daniel Isom), sacking him five times and recovering a fumble. Defensive end Dondrea Tillman had two of the Stallions' five sacks.

As far as defenses go, no one has been able to solve what Phillips & Co. have drawn up in San Antonio. The Brahmas have given up a UFL-best 15.3 points per game and have held opposing offenses to a mere 13 touchdowns, as the St. Louis Battlehawks mustered only one offensive TD against San Antonio in this past Sunday's XFL conference championship game. Only one team (the Battlehawks in Week 3) has hit the 20-point mark against the Brahmas, who have held their past eight opponents to 15 points or fewer.

The Stallions struggled against the San Antonio defense in Week 9, mustering only nine points in their only loss of the season. The Brahmas' D will try to duplicate the task after sacking St. Louis quarterback AJ McCarron four times Sunday. Defensive tackle Prince Emili had two of those sacks, while All-UFL linebacker Tavante Beckett had five tackles against the Battlehawks.

The Brahmas' offense doesn't get as much buzz as the defense, but it has several former NFL players who stepped up in the St. Louis win. Former Raiders quarterback Chase Garbers -- who has split time with Quinten Dormady this season -- threw for 197 yards and two touchdown passes against the Battlehawks, one of those going to former Bills receiver Marquez Stevenson. Former Steelers running back Anthony McFarland Jr. ran for 115 yards and a touchdown, as San Antonio rushed for 213 yards.