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UFC 254 card: Magomed Ankalaev vs Ion Cutelaba 2 full fight preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight prospects Magomed Ankalaev and Ion Cutelaba will rematch this weekend (Sat., Oct. 24, 2020) at UFC 254 inside Flash Forum on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Does it even count as deja vu if the feeling is experienced every couple weeks for three straight months? Despite the “2” in the title, this match up has been mishandled, delayed or COVID’d four times previously. The first match — which ended too early when Cutelaba tried to play possum — took place all the way back in February, and UFC has been trying to re-book it ever since. Regardless of all the strange circumstances and bad blood, this is a great fight between two promising 205-pounders.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

Magomed Ankalaev

Record: 14-1
Key Wins: Ion Cutelaba (UFC Fight Night 169), Klidson Abreu (UFC Fight Night 145), Dalcha Lungiambula (UFC Fight Night 163)
Key Losses: Paul Craig (UFC Fight Night 127)
Keys to Victory: Ankalaev is expected to do big things for a reason. The Dagestani is a Master of Sport in Combat Sambo, which has translated to excellent wrestling inside the Octagon. In addition, Ankalaev has a penchant for kicking opponents in the face, which is a definite plus.

In the brief moments we saw Ankalaev and Cutelaba exchange in the first fight, it was pretty clear that Ankalaev was the sharper striker at range. Cutelaba had to resort to acting hurt, because he really needed Ankalaev to step into the pocket if he was going to land something major in return.

As such, I’d like to see Ankalaev work from the outside, firing his kicks and working that check hook when Cutelaba goes on the offensive. If he can frustrate Cutelaba — which should not be difficult given Cutelaba’s generally angry nature — it’s much more likely that “Hulk” will over-swing and waste energy.

That’s also a recipe for an easier takedown.

Ion Cutelaba

Record: 15-5 (1)
Key Wins: Khalil Rountree Jr (UFC Fight Night 160), Henrique da Silva (UFC Fight Night 110), Gadzhimurad Antigulov (UFC 217), Jonathon Wilson (UFC Fight Night 96)
Key Losses: Magomed Ankalaev (UFC Fight Night 169), Glover Teixeira (UFC Fight Night 150), Misha Cirkunov (UFC Fight Night 89), Jared Cannonier (TUF 24 Finale)
Keys to Victory: Cutelaba does not appear to be a mixed martial artist because he loves competition or cares about the sanctity of martial arts. Rather, Cutelaba likes fighting and hurting people, so this gig is simply a natural fit for “Hulk.”

The Greco-Roman wrestler has finished 12 of his victories via knockout.

Cutelaba is pretty good everywhere. He can wrestle rather well, and his power punches tend to land with good consistency. Historically, problems arise with his reckless aggression, which can either exhaust Cutelaba or leave him vulnerable to takedowns — both of which would be bad news opposite Ankalaev.

Pressure will be important for Cutelaba, who has to track Ankalaev down and work past the kicking range. However, it cannot be sloppy. He has to cut off the cage and move forward without lunging or leaving his legs behind.

If Cutelaba can consistently close distance, he seems like the more trustworthy man in a brawl. Cutelaba has been in wars of attrition before, fights where he was forced to dig deep and trade strikes in the pocket and clinch. Ankalaev largely has not, so that’s the type of battle Cutelaba should be trying to force.

Bottom Line

This should be a lot of fun!

Ankalaev is pretty steadily climbing the ranks, sitting at No. 14 just five fights into his UFC career. However, it has to be admitted that none of his wins are particularly impressive names. A clean, non-controversial victory over Cutelaba would be the biggest of his career, and it definitely sets him up for a Top 10 showdown next.

As for Cutelaba, though he’s been fighting a tough level of competition for a while now, he’s currently unranked. That seems a bit out of touch with reality to me personally, but it’s a problem Cutelaba can remedy with a victory. At 26 years of age, Cutelaba can still grow into a real contender, but for that to happen, he has to start winning consistently.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 254 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN 2/ESPN+ at 12 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 254: “Khabib vs. Gaethje” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

At UFC 254, Magomed Ankalaev and Ion Cutelaba will finally fight. Which man will earn the victory?

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