Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight talents Sage Northcutt and Zak Ottow will collide this Saturday (July 14, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 133 inside CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho.
Despite some ups-and-downs, Northcutt has accumulated a solid 5-2 record inside the Octagon, quite impressive for a 22-year-old athlete. Given his natural growth over the last couple years, Northcutt now looks to make a permanent move to 170 pounds, a division where he’s admittedly winless so far. Meanwhile, Ottow mostly battled to close decisions in his first few UFC fights, but he was finally able to secure a much needed stoppage win over the retiring Mike Pyle last time out. Ottow is currently an ideal middle-of-the-road fighter for Northcutt’s return to Welterweight, but a second high-profile victory could break him from that position.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Thibault Gouti (UFC Fight Night 126), Cody Pfister (UFC Fight Night 80), Enrique Marin (UFC 200)
Key Losses: Mickey Gall (UFC on FOX 22), Bryan Barberena (UFC on FOX 18)
Keys to Victory: Northcutt is a very decorated Karate black belt with some serious athleticism behind his motions. He’s still figuring out his overall mixed martial arts (MMA) game, but in the cage Northcutt is a tricky mix of long kicks, counter punches, and blasting double legs.
It’s likely that Ottow will give Northcutt exactly the type of range kickboxing battle he wants. Despite his “Barbarian” moniker, Ottow’s bouts tend to be fairly low output striking matches.
That favors the rangy Karate fighter.
To encourage that type of fight, I’d like to see Northcutt jam any of Ottow’s attempts to close range with his side kick. Depending on how Ottow advances, a reactive takedown could work as well. Either way, once Ottow is a bit more hesitant to rush forward, Northcutt should get the kickboxing battle he desires.
Key Wins: Mike Pyle (UFC 222), Josh Burkman (UFC Fight Night 96), Kiichi Kunimoto (UFC Fight Night 110)
Key Losses: Li Jingliang (UFC Fight Night 122), Sergio Moraes (UFC Fight Night 100)
Keys to Victory: A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Ottow submitted 10 of his opponents en route to his Octagon debut. He hasn’t landed enough takedowns inside the Octagon to make his grappling match much just yet, but Ottow’s kickboxing has been sharp enough to still pick up a few wins.
Against Mike Pyle, Ottow was aware he was dealing with a more fragile man and adjusted appropriately. He threw caution to the wind, attacking the veteran immediately and securing an early knockout win as a result.
Should he be quite that aggressive opposite Northcutt? Probably not, but an offensive gameplan is needed. Given distance and time, Northcutt gets comfortable and is quite dangerous, but he’s historically more vulnerable when pushed to his back foot.
Ottow’s attack should be a mix of looping punches — Northcutt can sometimes stand too tall in the pocket — and takedown attempts. If he finds consistent success in either avenue, Ottow has a strong chance to build from there and take the fight. However, he cannot let his foot off the gas like Thibault Gouti did, as Northcutt definitely has the conditioning to fight his way back.
Bottom Line: It should be an entertaining match that has important consequences for each man.
Northcutt is an established name inside the Octagon and generally puts on fun fights. At the moment, though, he’s definitely more in the territory of prospect than contender. That’s perfectly fine given his age and experience — not everyone is Jon Jones — but he still wants to make forward progress towards that goal. Back at Welterweight for the first time in 18 months, this is something of a fresh start for Northcutt.
A win definitely helps make the transition to 170 pounds smoother, whereas a loss may see Northcutt reconsider.
As for Ottow, most of his performances have been fairly pedestrian. Hopefully, his last fight was not a one-off occasion, and Ottow will continue to bring that level of aggression into fights. At 31 years of age, Ottow pretty much has to win big and build a streak now, as his chances only decrease the older he gets. Plus, losing to younger fighters always hurts momentum in a big way.
This is Ottow’s moment to pull away from the middle or remain firmly entrenched there.
At UFC Fight Night 133, Sage Northcutt and Zak Ottow will face off in the co-main event. Which man will have his hand raised?