One of the best young lightweights in the UFC will face perhaps his sternest test to date this Saturday afternoon (Sept. 29, 2012) as submission ace Paul Sass takes on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season five veteran Matt Wiman on the UFC on FUEL TV 5 main card in Nottingham, England.
Paul Sass has impressed just about everyone in his three UFC bouts thus far, tapping out all three opponents in the first round with his unique Brazilian jiu-jitsu attack. He's not only tapping out high level fighters like Jacob Volkmann but he's making it look easy.
If it weren't for injuries, Matt Wiman would be a much more household name in the UFC lightweight division. He's a proven winner and has stepped up whenever the promotion has asked him. After fighting once in 2010, he seemed to put his injury woes behind him with three fights last year. Instead, he'll be fighting for the first time in 2012 after some more setbacks. There would be no better way for him to put his name in the hat of contenders than if he can derail the Paul Sass hype train on Saturday.
Sass has never been defeated at 13-0. Wiman has never been submitted in 20 professional fights spanning over eight years. Something's gotta give. What's the key to victory for both men on Saturday night?
Let's find out:
Record: 13-0 overall, 3-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Based out of Liverpool, England, Paul Sass got his professional mixed martial arts career kicked off in 2007, a day after turning 19 years old. He earned the well-deserved nickname "Sassangle" by submitting his first seven opponents via triangle choke.
Sass continued to succeed on the local UK circuit, defeating elite UK fighters along the way like current BAMMA lightweight champion Rob Sinclair and current UFC combatant Jason Young, with the Sinclair bout being the only one in his career to go do a decision.
Sass made his UFC debut in 2010 and it was splendid. He aggressively pulled guard on Mark Holst and attacked with a triangle choke, eventually forcing his opponent to submit. A year later, he followed it up with another submission, this time over impressive lightweight prospect Michael Johnson via inverted heel hook.
The true feather in Sass' cap came at UFC 146 earlier this year against Jacob Volkmann, a hard-nosed wrestler with an affinity for the ground game. Sass was taken down and tapped "Christmas" in less than two minutes, a fighter who had never been defeated at 155 pounds. Now, he's earned another high level fight against another well-rounded wrestler in Matt Wiman.
How he gets it done: We haven't seen much of Sass' striking because he's so eager to get fights to the ground and work his magic. While Matt Wiman isn't the most dangerous stand-up fighter in the lightweight division by a landslide, it would still be highly recommended that Sass get this fight to the ground by any means possible, and that includes pulling guard and giving up position.
Sass is so flexible and dangerous on the ground that he's capable of tapping out anyone at any time. As long as he can get this fight to the ground, he's got a good chance of winning. His ground game is that good, one of the best in the UFC. The second he can bring it to the canvas, expect to see him attack aggressively and try to wrap Wiman up in his web and not allowing him to get back to his feet until the bout is finished.
This kid is special.
Record: 14-6 overall, 8-4 in the UFC
How he got here: Matt Wiman made his professional debut by winning three fights in one night in 2004 when he was just 20 years old. He first caught the notice of the UFC after a back and forth fight against Roger Huerta that he lost. They remembered his name and he was called on with two week's notice to take on Spencer Fisher at UFC 60.
Wiman would lose his promotional debut to Fisher, but the UFC came calling again when they needed competitors for season five of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). He advanced to the second round of the show before falling to eventual finalistManny Gamburyan via decision.
"Handsome" won his next four fights in the UFC, including a "Fight of the Night" winning performance against Thiago Tavares at UFC 85. His competition level would be raised, and while he put on tremendous performances against both Jim Miller and Sam Stout, also winning "Fight of the Night," he would fall short via decision both times.
Wiman built himself back up with three straight victories including a controversial stoppage against Mac Danzig at UFC 115. He most recently lost a very close decision to Dennis Siver at UFC 132 and decided now would be the perfect time to settle the controversy of his win over Danzig.
How he gets it done: Wiman's biggest strength is his ability to put people on their back and nullify their skills. He's very difficult to submit and he usually takes little damage during his bouts. Despite being a neutralizer, he should still avoid Sass' ground game at all costs.
Wiman isn't a great striker, but he's competent and his goal for this fight should be to use his wrestling in reverse and keep it standing.
If he can force Sass to stand and trade, we might just see a repeat of the Jimy Hettes vs. Marcus Brimage bout from UFC 152 where Hettes looked completely outclassed in the stand-up. If the fight does somehow get to the ground, Wiman can't panic but he should immediately look for every escape opportunity that's available to him.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is whether Paul Sass can get the fight to the ground. It's one thing when an opponent lets you pull guard or if a confident wrestler like Jacob Volkmann isn't intimidated and takes you down anyways. It's a completely different thing once fighters wise up to your game and try to avoid it.
If Sass can't get the fight to the canvas, this becomes a completely different fight.
Bottom Line: Paul Sass is a special fighter. Injuries have plagued him in the UFC thus far and kept him from being as active as a talented prospect should be, but he's already got two quality wins in his three UFC fights and at just 24 years old, he's got a boatload of potential. Fans could be witnessing the beginning of something great or perhaps the hype train could be derailed by a very solid veteran in Matt Wiman. We just don't know yet and that's why you should tune in to see this fight play out.
Who will come out on top at UFC on Fuel TV 5? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!