Ion Cutelaba (+320) vs. Magomed Ankalaev (-405)
Weight Class: Light Heavyweight (205 lbs)
It doesn’t get much better than a low-key fight that turns into a highly anticipated banger. Ion Cutelaba vs. Magomed Ankalaev is certainly that following a controversial early stoppage back in February. In the initial match-up, Cutelaba played possum and pretended to be hurt. To the naked eye, it appeared as though Cutelaba was wobbled, but replay showed that Ankalaev’s repeated head kicks were almost all blocked. The fight ended as a clearly stable Cutelaba was throwing a powerful right.
The rematch has been highly anticipated ever since and has been subject to multiple cancellations. Initially slated to go down at UFC 249: Khabib vs. Ferguson, the fight was of course scrapped due to COVID. It was then rescheduled for UFC 252, but that was also cancelled when Cutelaba tested positive for the virus. I was honestly as hype for this fight as I was for the main event, so I’m definitely glad that the rematch is finally on.
I picked Ion Cutelaba last go around, and I’m going to do the same here. The Moldovan born Cutelaba closed as a (+190) underdog in February and now finds himself as an absurd (+320) dog now. These odds are insane, and even if you think Ankalaev will win, it’s tough to see the value there.
Stylistically, Ion Cutelaba brings the heat early. He gets in close and throws absolute haymakers, winning most of his fights via first round KO. “The Hulk” also has a great ground game, highlighted by a very heavy Greco-Roman wrestling game. Expect Cutelaba to immediately hop in the phone booth and trade.
The problem for Ion Cutelaba lies in his gas tank. He has gassed out in just about every one of his UFC losses, including a tough submission to Glover Teixeira. The Moldovan was ahead on the score cards in that fight, out-striking the Brazilian in rounds one and two while stuffing all seven of Glover’s takedown attempts. He was only choked out when he fell down and was unable to escape the mount.
Against a technical fighter like Ankalaev, gassing out could be a huge problem. If there’s no knockout, it’s easy to see Ankalaev running away with a decision and wining the third round handily. The Dagestani is very technical and is arguably the top prospect in the LHW division, so I understand the respect from the oddsmakers.
With that said, I’m sure we’re going to see an even more wild Cutelaba than usual. Known for his pre-fight antics, Cutelaba generally walks up to his opponents during the introductions. In the first fight, the Moldovan ran across the Octagon and got in Ankalaev’s face. The end result was the frantic brawl we were robbed of just a minute in, a fight in which Ankalaev had already expended a-lot of energy.
Ultimately, I think Ion Cutelaba secures the win here via brute force. Ankalaev won’t be able to show off his technical striking if Cutelaba’s game-plan is normal. The Dagestani also hasn’t faced anyone on the level of Cutelaba, so it feels as though this hype train departed a bit early.
I’ll stick with the money line (+310) because it’s fantastic, but a KO is certainly possible. Either way, Cutelaba is certainly worth a bet at this price.
Prediction and play: Ion Cutelaba moneyline (+310)
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