Cutelaba vs Ankalaev Key For Light-Heavyweight Resurrection
By James Lee
As most fans are awaiting this weekend’s thrilling light-heavyweight headliner between Anthony Smith and Aleksandar Rakic, a fellow main card 205 lbs contest will end an agonising wait for both the competitors and the community.
As widely noted, the first fight between the pair ended controversially and unsatisfactory as the referee deemed Cutelaba to be hurt on his feet and called the contest early, despite the Moldovan fighter maintaining he was pretending and trying to lure Ankalaev into recklessly attempting a strike Although the decision was denied by the Virginia Athletic commission, the fanbase and most importantly, the UFC, deemed the result dubious.
Since the fight in February, the wait for the rematch has been long. The duo was awarded a spot on the UFC 252 main card earlier this month, but a positive COVID-19 test for Cutelaba agonisingly postponed the fight for two weeks.
At one point, it seemed the rematch was not meant to be after two separate postponements, however, the contest looks guaranteed for Saturday in what is the most compelling conflict at the event.
Most importantly though, the fight will be a throwback to the old light-heavyweight era that formed the groundwork for the UFC, which could be about to make a comeback.
Back in the 2000s, the 205 lbs division was the sport’s most thrilling. In comparison to the days when Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz established the sport, the modern 205 lbs fighters do not quite have that same mystique. As Jon Jones’ reign has held a tight grip of the division, a compelling carousel of contenders who guarantee finish is largely unrecognisable now.
Ion Cutelaba and Magomed Ankalaev are two of few who contradict that sentiment. The pair would have likely been at the top of the sport two decades ago, but instead offer the current period an aggressive nature found mostly in the light-heavyweight division in years prior.
Nonetheless, the light-heavyweight division may be given a new lease of life after last week’s surprising announcement that Jon Jones has relinquished the title. Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz will square off for the vacant title next month to crown a new undisputed champion.
Perhaps now as Jones and Cormier are well clear of the division, an opportunity may arise whereby the division resurrects into one much like the old.
Nevertheless, Ankalaev or Cutelaba are unlikely to reach the top in the future as their fighting styles could not allow it. As the ‘Moldovan Hulk’ does little but continuously progress forward with power, consistency has rarely been achieved at that rate.
His Russian counterpart is slightly more preserved, but not much. As flashiness is usually reserved for the smaller weight classes, Ankalaev instead uses it to finish; much like he has in two of his UFC fights already.
Ultimately, the pair shall face off again on Saturday after a torturous wait. As most fans would usually shy away from seeking an immediate rematch, the anticipation surrounding the contest has added more animosity and attention, with a tangible outcome expected.
Consequently, Cutelaba and Ankalaev will relive the former standard of light-heavyweight action, as the division could be set to return to its old ways.