Mixed martial arts is the fastest growing sport in the world. It garners more attention and new fans daily. The emergence of so many new athletes sometimes makes it hard for fans to notice some of the fi ghters on the verge of making it to the next level. MMAWeekly.com takes you deep inside the sport and presents you with some of the upcoming New Blood.
KEY VICTORIES: Jacob Volkmann, Michael Johnson
WEIGHT CLASS: 155 lbs.
At 23 years old and having fought professionally for almost five years, Paul Sass started putting his fighting skills to use at a rather young age, and, relatively speaking, has rocketed onto the world scene. That’s not to say the submission specialist hasn’t paid his dues.
Sass spent the first three years of his career fighting in his hometown of Liverpool, England, in Cage Gladiators and OMMAC events. Of course, those first three years produced a 10-0 record, with “Sassangle” earning his moniker by finishing his first seven opponents via triangle choke.
His tenth victory came over future UFC fighter Jason “Shotgun” Young, which was enough to put him on the UFC’s radar. Sass made his Octagon debut at UFC 120 in London, finishing Mark Holst by—you guessed it—a triangle choke.
“I didn’t expect it to come around so soon,” says Sass of getting a fight in the UFC. “My goal was always to become a UFC fighter, and I think that because there are so many good gyms and coaches in Liverpool, I have been able to progress quickly. Fighting in the OMMAC and Cage Gladiators shows have really helped.”
Now, just three fights into his UFC tenure, Sass is finally starting to get noticed.
After finishing Holst, he submitted TUF 12 runner-up Michael Johnson. However, it was his most recent victory that proved Sass is a fighter to be reckoned with in the lightweight division. Jacob Volkmann steamrolled into their UFC 146 bout riding a five-fight winning streak, including victories over Antonio McKee, Danny Castillo, and Efrain Escudero.
The Team Kaobon fighter has been counted out before, but each time Sass has stepped up to the plate and delivered. He did so again against Volkmann, putting him away with a triangle choke in less than two minutes.
Not many people knew who Sass was prior to the Volkmann fight, and with that bout being one of the Facebook streamed prelims at UFC 146, he wasn’t exactly catapulted into the spotlight. But with a dominating win over Volkmann, Sass is sure to end up in everyone’s line of site against Matt Wiman on Sept. 29 on UFC on Fuel TV 5.
KEY VICTORIES: Kyle Kingsbury, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Jorge Oliveira
WEIGHT CLASS: 205 lbs.
At 32 years old, Glover Teixeira’s blood may not be new, but he’s New Blood when it comes to the spotlight of the MMA world. Infact, Teixeira could be one of the greatest undiscovered talents to emerge out of the MMA shadows. With 10 years of ring time under his belt, it’s astonishing that Teixeira hasn’t been launched into the spotlight before now.
Fighting out of Brazil, the BJJ black belt has racked up victories in MMA and on the grappling circuit. He was a staple of the pre-Zuffa era of World Extreme Cagefighting, garnering the attention of hardcore MMA fans by knocking out Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou and Jorge Oliveira.
His weight class was exiled from the WEC shortly after Zuffa purchased the organization, so Teixeira has spent the majority of the last four years fighting on his home turf in Brazil, where he originally emerged as a pupil of MMA pioneer Marco Ruas.
Teixeira now teaches and trains at the Pit with John Hackelman and Chuck Liddell, which helped lead to his big break—10 years in the making. Teixeira finally got the opportunity to show off his skills in the Octagon at UFC 146, and he did little to disappoint his trainers—including Ruas, Hackelman, and Liddell who were all in attendance for his preliminary bout against Kyle Kingsbury.
Despite Kingsbury already having six UFC bouts under his belt, Teixeira’s experience carried him through the fight without the usual first-time UFC jitters. Then again, he didn’t allow enough time for the jitters to ever set in. Teixeira initially looked like he might put Kingsbury away on their feet, rocking him early with punches, but when it hit the mat, the Brazilian’s skills truly shined. He wasted no time stuffing Kingsbury’s takedown, taking the Aussie’s back, transitioning to mount, and locking in an arm-triangle choke to finish the fight in less than two minutes.
“I’m really happy. A debut in the UFC feels like my debut in MMA,” said Teixeira after the fight. “It was that exciting to me. I’m just so happy to be here, and after Dana’s speech last night, I just went out there and decided to go for it. I wanted him to remember my fight—and me.”
KEY VICTORIES: Ryan Couture, Bill Cooper
WEIGHT CLASS: 155 lbs.
COUNTRY: United States
Matt Ricehouse is just six fights into his professional mixed martial arts career, but he’s already making a name for himself. Amassing a 7-1 amateur record, Ricehouse quickly moved into the big leagues, fighting for Strikeforce in just his second professional tilt.
Coming from a strong background in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Ricehouse trains with St. Paul MMA & BJJ and Team Vaghi BJJ, and he has done a great job rounding out his game with each successive fight. While he has a win over BJJ black belt Bill Cooper in his most recent fight, Ricehouse’s biggest moment came against Ryan Couture at Strikeforce Challengers 16 in 2011.
Expected by most pundits to be the next steppingstone in Couture’s career, Ricehouse had other plans in store. Despite a pedigree as a strong grapple, Ricehouse avoided spending the majority of the fi ght on the mat, instead taking the fight to Couture on their feet. Although not as widely touted, Ricehouse has a Golden Gloves background in Missouri, and he put it to use against Couture, besting him in the stand-up game.
Not only did the name value of defeating Couture help prove Ricehouse’s promise, but so did showing off his ever-increasing skill set. Ricehouse has been on the sidelines since the beginning of 2012, but keep your eyes on him as he works his way up the lightweight ladder.