There are very few fights relegated to the facebook prelims that can get me as pumped as this one does. On the surface, you may read the title of this post and immediately call me crazy, and yes, it is a little bold, but I definitely think this fight has a solid chance of being fight of the night. Aside from the main event, this is honestly my most anticipated fight come this saturday. Joe Silva has certainly outdone himself here.
This saturday night, we are treated to watching two very different ground-centric styles clash, and I think this means a fight that will be contested everywhere. Jacob Volkmann (14-2-0, 5-2 UFC) is a dominant grappler, but he takes on the very aggressive Paul Sass (12-0, 2-0 UFC), a fighter noted for his submissions-first, position-later style.
Jacob Volkmann's style of fighting is no stranger to scrutiny for what some people consider "lay and pray", but I easily prefer him to most other grinding wrestlers. His style shows off incredible pressure, and he is very keen on advancing position. He boasts an impressive five fight winning streak in the UFC's lightweight division, after dropping down from welterweight after his first two career losses to Paulo Thiago and Martin Kampmann respectively. In this streak he's put together, he's faced a bunch of different styles, ranging from the aggressive and hard hitting Ronys Torres to noted wrestlers like Danny Castillo and Antonio McKee. In all of them, he's shown amazing positional dominance and some elite MMA wrestling. It would not surprise me to see him break into the top ten in the near future.
Paul Sass is an upcoming British lightweight who is noted for finishing eleven of his twelve fights by submission, eight by triangle choke and three by heel hook. He is coming off an impressive win over Michael Johnson which saw him go all out for some spectacular finish, eventually ending with him getting a heel hook midway through the first round. His style, both on the ground and standing, is very aggressive and very exciting, and he's always looking for a finish. He has faced increasingly difficult opponents as he came up in his twelve fight win streak, and he certainly seems ready to gain even more momentum in the future.
Stylistically, this fight looks very interesting. It is very likely that we'll see both fighters in their favorite positions, Volkmann with top control, and Sass with an aggressive guard.
At lightweight, Jacob Volkmann has shown to be a very powerful and overwhelming grappler. His positional control is on par with some of the best in the world, and he's shown that he can chain wrestle very well. Also, he possesses a slightly underrated submission game, but we have yet to see him use it in the UFC. When fighting a guy like Sass, if Volkmann doesn't want to be caught in submissions, that will probably lead to some interesting scrambles, possibly akin to those we saw in the TJ Grant vs. Carlo Prater fight last tuesday. His strength and balance may be a key factor in winning these ground exchanges.
I expect for Sass to have a few more tricks up his sleeve than just a triangle choke and a heel hook. He clearly is a high level grappler, and may be able to threaten Volkmann from more positions than just his open guard. I expect for him to attack with his bread and butter first, the triangle, and if that fails, move on to some slick ground work. I expect sweep attempts and endless submission threats.
I really hope that in this fight we do get to see some fun scrambles. You can never tell if Sass may latch on a tight submission or if Volkmann can take side control or mount. Scrambles are just fun to watch, and with two very high level grapplers, I am sure I'll enjoy it.
Perhaps even more intriguing than the chess match that will be the ground game is the stand up portion of this fight.
Volkmann possesses a conservative striking style (no pun intended), with few kicks and more straight punches than anything. He is still improving, and I expect him to be ready and willing to engage Sass on the feet. I always love to see fighters use straight punches effectively, and I expect Volkmann to try this in the fight.
Sass is an interesting striker. Clearly, he throws caution to the wind with some of the crazy strikes he throws, such as flying kicks and knees and wild punches. He can get away with such things because he is very good off of his back if his opponent catches him off balance, so he actually has what is pretty much a win-win situation. I look forward to seeing his wild style clash with Volkmann's by the book striking. I wonder whether Volkmann wants this fight on the ground or not, but Sass may very well give him some opportunities he can't pass up.
An X-factor in the striking department here is leg kicks. I believe that either of these men could definitely benefit from taking the spring from their opponent's step. It would give them the edge in footwork standing, and could negate advantages of the other on the ground.
Overall, I definitely think this fight is a surefire fun fight. It can either be a great grappling chess match, or an intriguing clash of striking styles, but I expect a happy medium. I would not want to miss this fight.