Cutelaba vs Ankalaev Key For Light-Heavyweight Resurrection
By Ross Markey
As most fans are awaiting this weekend’s thrilling lightweight headliner between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje, a fellow main card contest will end an agonising wait for both the competitors and the community.
As widely noted, the first fight between Ion Cutelaba and Magomed Ankalaev 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 appeal 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 in August, but a positive COVID-19 test for Cutelaba agonisingly postponed the fight until later that month when the fight was called once again a day before the event due to the recurring problem.
At one point, it seemed the rematch was not meant to be after four separate postponements, however, the contest looks guaranteed for Saturday in what could be called the most compelling conflict at UFC 254.
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 long time champion Jon Jones relinquished the title and Jan Blachowicz was crowned the undisputed champion last month after beating Dominick Reyes.
Perhaps now as Jon Jones and Daniel 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. #ufc254 #ufc