Paul Sass is quiet but confident.
The Liverpool man isn’t the kind of fighter who takes the Sonnen-esque route of verbally bashing his opponents in the run-up to a bout, but that doesn’t mean he is any less convinced of his own chances for victory.
And so he tells Fighters Only that he is pretty sure he can be the first person to submit Matt Wiman when they meet in September at the UFC Nottingham show. Wiman has a 14-6 record with five losses by decision and one by TKO - no submissions.
“Its probably the biggest fight of my career, he is definitely a tough opponent. He’s not been submitted before but I am pretty sure I can do it,” Sass says. “Volkmann also has a reputation for being pretty hard to submit but I was able to get it.
“Volkmann was the biggest fight I’d had at that point, in name recognition anyway, but I wasn’t worried about his wrestling skills too much. I’d heard he was strong but we didn’t really have time to feel any of that because the submission came so quick.”
Sass scored the win over Volkmann by clinching, pulling guard and then working away with a style that has been described as a “submission machine-gun” off his back. Volkmann actually escaped to his feet at one point but then made the mistake of re-entering Sass’ guard to try and work from there. Sass got a triangle-armbar on quickly after that.
Despite the submission expertees, Sass hesitates when asked if he would prefer to get a stoppage win over Wiman or continue the triangle-submission run that at one point set the world record for most consecutive wins by way of triangle choke.
“Probably the knockout actually. I’ve not had one before and every fighter wants a good knockout in their career so, yeah, I’d take the knockout if possible,” he muses. Of course, with him being renowned as a submission fighter, people aren’t expecting stoppages from him but he has a trick or two to show them.
Several years ago Sass was almost exclusively a ground fighter, even while tearing through the UK circuit, and when the UFC call-up came around his handlers at the time thought some amateur Muay Thai fights might be in order to help him round out his skills and ringcraft.
A debut was arranged for a low-level regional show and in an odd twist of fate the opponent was to be Stephen Li, who sometimes writes for this site. But then the event was cancelled and Sass’ MMA career began to move at a pace which didn’t allow for sideline Thai fights.
In the event it hasn’t mattered. The Kaobon team, headed by coach Colin Heron, are known for their Thai-boxing background and their heavy sparring. Training in the pro-sessions there is often like having a fight anyway, so Sass has had plenty of time to condition himself.
“We’ve got guys like Terry Etim and Mark Scanlon on the mat, Richie Downes, Paul Taylor, lots of good stand-up fighters, so the standard is very high. When I first moved to Kaobon yeah, I was a bit nervous on the first day but once you are stuck into it, it doesn’t matter,” he says.
“I know every fighter says this but its true - I’m happy wherever the fight goes. We can stand up or we can take it to the floor, either way is fine by way.”