Jimmy Spicuzza knows a thing or three about submissions -- 50 percent of his six professional mixed martial arts (MMA) wins have ended via tapout.
With only one loss to date in his four-fight tenure with World Series of Fighting (WSOF), Spicuzza is "in the mix" for a future date with Lightweight champion Justin Gaethje. In fact, with an impressive win over Islam Mamedov (11-1) this weekend (Sat., Aug. 1, 2015) at WSOF 22 inside Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, could vault him into contention that much quicker.
Standing in his way is a Russian prospect who is coming off a sensational WSOF debut with a first round technical knockout of Leon Davis at WSOF 20. He, too, has to feel like a title shot is just one or two fights away.
MMAmania.com recently spoke with Spicuzza about his huge opportunity at WSOF 22: "Palhares vs. Shields" this Saturday night, as well as his performance at WSOF 19 against Benny Madrid and much more.
"To be quite honest I didn't think it should have been a split decision. I don't know actually how it was. I outstruck him on the feet, gave up no takedowns, I got all my takedowns and ended every round on top. I'm not quite sure how they scored it a split decision, but sometimes you get a little hometown favor and he was from Arizona."
Despite the alleged hometown cooking, the day and the fight ultimately went to Spicuzza, and he got to watch possible future opponent Justin Gaethje have a contender for "Fight of the Year" in the main event.
"He definitely puts on entertaining fights. I was thinking 'Wow this is honestly one of the best fights I've ever seen in person.' It makes for great fights for the fans, but he's still pretty young, and if he wants to have a long career I don't think that's in his best interest. Those style of fights also favor him y'know? He's a very tough kid with a strong chin and he hits hard. He draws people into his game."
Spicuzza fights for longevity and not brevity, and his team at Drysdale Jiu-Jitsu takes a strategic approach to every fight, including the one coming up against Mamedov.
"I know he's gonna be tough, I know what to expect from everybody at this level, but it's not going to be anything I haven't seen yet. He's a submission guy, so he's gonna want to take me down and try to wear me out there. I'm confident in my wrestling, and I've been training my jiu-jitsu under Robert Drysdale for a couple of years now and I'm confident in my ground game as well. I have more tools and threats against him than he does against me."
Boxing and head movement have also become a focal point for Spicuzza as he works on his overall fight game.
"I have worked a lot with my boxing and I have incorporated boxing sparring with a 17-0 pro who is just a monster. It's showed me like a whole 'nother level of striking. I've learned so much about the sport from doing that as far as timing and distance and when to use your power, when to use your speed, really bringing up my fight IQ."
That disciplined approach to self-improvement is the same as when Spicuzza first got into the sport, although back then he had a different motivation for wanting to win.
"It wasn't until after high school that I got back into mixed martial arts. When I was 17 years old, my father passed away. I was angry, making some bad choices, not doing the greatest things. (MMA) gave me an outlet to harness that anger and turn a negative thing in my life into a positive."
These days Spicuzza has shed the anger and found inner peace, so all he wants to prove is that he can compete and win at the highest levels of the sport.
"Fighting Justin Gaethje is something I've thought about since I got into World Series of Fighting. After this weekend I'm gonna be right there knocking at the door if not next in line. Fighting is all about challenges, and I want those challenges so I can put my skills to the test. Fighting someone like that, going after the belt or being the first person to beat him would be a great accomplishment - and it's something I know I can do."
Bold words from Spicuzza, but the high confidence level he has going into the fight with Mamedov suggests that future is within his reach.
"I'm very confident that (Mamedov) doesn't have the footwork to be able to hang with me to tell you the truth."
Tune in to NBC Sports Network this Saturday night to see if he's right.
The complete audio of our interview is below and complete WSOF coverage resides here at MMAmania.com.