Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight prospects Ion Cutelaba and Jared Cannonier threw down last night (Dec. 3, 2016) at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 24 Finale inside Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In just his third fight inside the Octagon, Cutelaba was planning to announce himself as a serious fighter to watch at 205 lbs. The bruiser had a history of finishing his foes brutally, and that was definitely the plan last night. Meanwhile, Cannonier was making his Light Heavyweight debut. The Alaskan carried a fair few of his own knockout wins into the Octagon, so he was definitely comfortable to stand and throw with his foe.
What a war it was (to watch highlights click here).
Cutelaba wasted absolutely no time in walking his opponent down and firing combination. Both men landed, as Cutelaba found success with pure aggression and body work, while his opponent stabbed at him with quick strikes. At the halfway point in the round, Cutelaba switched it up and threw his opponent to the mat. For most of the remaining round, Cutelaba postured above his foe and dropped absolute hammers on him.
Cannonier was game and hung in there, but he took some heavy abuse in the first round.
Cannonier found a lot of success to start the second round. He was landing long, sharp punches, and he managed to either defend or quickly stand up from a few of his opponent’s takedown attempts. Just as he seemed to be building real momentum, Cutelaba secured a real takedown and did some nice work. With about one minute remaining, Cannonier was able to work back up and land a surprise takedown of his own. He wasn’t able to do a ton of damage, but he did control his opponent until the end of the round.
Things were all tied up heading into the third.
The pace slowed significantly in the final frame, but both men stuck to their established strategies. Cannonier continued to use his movement and land hard counters and quick shots, while Cutelaba simply attacked and relied on ferocity to defend himself. The round was pretty close for most of it, but Cannonier definitely had the bigger moments in the form of hard combinations. Near the end of the round, Cannonier simply walked his foe down with his hands down, eating a couple shots but landing more at the final bell.
At the end of a back-and-forth 15 minutes, all three judges awarded Jared Cannonier the decision victory.
This was an incredibly impressive Light Heavyweight debut for the Alaskan. His conditioning was definitely something of a surprise, and that makes him something of a contender in his new division. His idea of making 185 pounds is interesting, but probably not necessary.
At any rate, Cannonier strikes like a much smaller athlete. He moves and feints extremely well, and his setups were really impressive. He dealt with a flurry of chaos in this match up, but he still managed to stick to his strengths and rally back. In particular, Cannonier’s kicks were nasty. He dug a few to the legs, but a couple body kicks in the middle of the bout seemed to really affect his opponent. Following this big win, Cannonier deserves a step up in competition. Light Heavyweight is starving for contenders, so a match up with someone like Gian Villante would make plenty of sense.
To his credit, Cutelaba fought hard and made this a close bout. He’s truly a terror while fresh, throwing bombs and tossing his opponent in the clinch like a sac of potatoes. However, once he slows down, he becomes a bit more predictable, which allowed a skilled striker in Cannonier to land the sharper blows. In particular, Cutelaba wasted a lot of energy in his top game. He stood over his foe and tried to dive in far too often, which caused him to miss and gave "Killa Gorilla" an opportunity to stand back up. Had he been a bit more conservative and stayed heavy, he may have forced his opponent to tire first.
The bright side of all this is that Cutelaba is still just 22 years old. Considering his obvious wrestling skill and dangerous striking, he’s already a pretty technically skilled athlete. Alongside his will and toughness, that should carry him a long way given some refinement.
Last night at TUF 24 Finale, Jared Cannonier earned the decision win over Ion Cutelaba. Is Cannonier a contender in his new division?
For complete TUF 24 Finale "Johnson vs Elliott" results and play-by-play, click HERE!