Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight newcomers Brad Katona and Jay Cucciniello battled last night (July 6, 2018) at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 27 Finale from inside Pearl Theatre in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Making a name at 145 pounds is immensely difficult. There’s wave upon wave of top-notch talent across the board, all vying for the same position at the top of the division. Generally, it takes some seriously unique skills (see Zabit Magomedsharipov) or a long win streak to break through.
Luckily for both Katona and Cucciniello, they had a chance to partially skip the line by winning TUF and gaining some acclaim that way. Katona fought soundly throughout and showcased strong grappling, whereas Cucciniello proved his heart and grit to rally back on the show in more ways than one.
This one really had all the makings of a brawl, but it didn’t turn out that way. Early on, Katona was the more active man despite Cucciniello’s pressure, working both kicks and takedown attempts. Moving laterally, Katona did well to avoid that forward pressure, landing good counter punches as Cucciniello moved forward.
Cucciniello continued to stuff takedowns, but otherwise wasn’t able to get anything going. Then, Katona connected with a crisp left hook as Cucciniello’s hands were low, dropping him to the mat. The veteran popped back up immediately, only to eat another punch.
It was a very strong opening round for the Canadian.
The left hook continued to be a serious weapon for Katona into the second, briefly dropping him once more and landing just about every time Katona threw it. As Katona picked him apart from the outside, Cucciniello’s only real option was to react with more aggression. Unfortunately for him, that allowed Katona to time a double leg well, finally planting his foe on the mat.
For the rest of the round, little action occurred. Katona worked to pass and land small punches, but Cucciniello generally did a nice job of defending himself. He did not, however, have any answer for his opponent’s top control.
Cucciniello was in a really desperation position in the third, whereas Katona appeared in complete control. Once more, Katona circled and shot, landing a takedown along the fence pretty quickly. For much of the round, it was a repeat of the second, as Cucciniello defended himself but was unable to get back up. In the final minute, he really tried to force the stand up, resulting in Katona advancing into the mount and back mount.
Katona finished the fight dropping bombs and looking for the choke, winning a clean sweep on the cards.
This was nearly a perfect fight from Katona. Cucciniello’s aggression and body shots proved a formidable mixture on the show, but Katona never gave him a target. Over and over, he circled out of range, landing kicks and baiting Cucciniello to come forward. When the Spanish athlete took the bait, he ate left hooks or takedowns for his trouble.
Katona completely shut him down.
It was a really promising performance from the UFC newcomer. Featherweight is a shark tank, but Katona showed a well-rounded skill set and the ability to apply a game plan perfectly. He has the potential to go a long way.
As for Cucciniello, it’s clear now that he needs a specific type of fight to shine. Against an opponent unwilling to bring the fight to him and exchange in the pocket, Cucciniello has a really difficult time landing. This was the furthest thing from a blood-and-guts contest, and Cucciniello suffered a frustrating loss as a result.
Last night, Brad Katona earned a dominant victory to win his weight class on The Ultimate Fighter. How high is Katona’s ceiling?
For complete TUF 27 Finale: “Tavares vs. Adesanya” results and play-by-play, click HERE!