Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight scrappers Ion Cutelaba and Devin Clark will collide this weekend (Sat., Sept. 18, 2021) at UFC Vegas 37 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Here’s a strange match up of men who — despite some genuine talent and athletic gifts — have struggled mightily for very different reasons. On one hand, there’s Cutelaba, the man who paints himself green at weigh-ins, aggressively confronts all his opponents, and was “knocked out” while playing possum. Clark is on the complete opposite side of the fighting spectrum, an incredible athlete with real power who very clearly hates getting punched in the face.
If either fighter were to fix his flaws, he’d likely be a real player at 205 pounds. Until then, let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 15-6-1 (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 254, 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 is an undeniably fun fighter. He’ll definitely make use of his Combat Sambo and Greco-Roman wrestling background, but he uses those takedowns to beat the crap out of his opponents. If that fails, expect Cutelaba to swing big until his foe falls or his gas tank fails.
The latter is the biggest cause of his struggles.
I’ll be honest: this fight reads to me like a recipe for a quick Cutelaba stoppage. “The Hulk” has real power in his hands, and he tends to hurt all of his opponents at least once. Given his own wrestling skill, he should be able to deny Clark’s early shots and then land something painful. Typically, Clark does not respond all that well to such adversity.
That said, Cutelaba’s inconsistency is based around his desire to chase that first-round finish, and there have been moments (like the Alonzo Menifield fight) where Clark showed some grit to overcome adversity and grind out a win. If Cutelaba throws all caution to the wind and tries to score an immediate finish, it may come back to bite him.
Tempered with just a bit caution, the knockout should arrive without the risk of a rally.
Key Wins: Alonzo Menifield (UFC 250), Mike Rodriguez (UFC 223), Jake Collier (UFC on FOX 24), Darko Stosic (UFC Fight Night 153)
Key Losses: Jan Blachowicz (UFC Fight Night 118), Anthony Smith (UFC Vegas 15), Aleksandar Rakic (UFC 231), Ryan Spann (UFC Fight Night 161)
Keys to Victory: Clark has some solid credentials as an amateur high school and junior college wrestler. Inside the cage, Clark mostly circles around, waiting for a chance to hide a double leg shot behind a powerful hook or overhand.
Clark’s path to victory is largely outlined above. Namely, it involves avoid the early power punches of his opponent and then making use of his wrestling skill in the second half of the fight.
The first half is the tricky bit. If Clark places himself on the fence like usual, Cutelaba is likely to bull rush him, and there’s a significant chance Clark does not survive such exchanges. Instead, I’d like to see Clark immediately back “The Hulk” up with a big swing and look to drive him into the fence.
Sure, the takedown may not immediately land. All the same, each minute spent jockeying for position in the clinch is one that extends the fight and taxes Cutelaba’s conditioning. “Brown Bear” may not be a cardio wizard himself, but he is certainly more proven in winning wrestling-based grind matches.
Score one takedown and everything changes.
There is still some hope for these two would-be prospects.
Cutelaba could be really good! He puts together combinations well, kicks hard, can wrestle and deliver brutal ground strikes. If he were able to manage his energy and aggression a bit more effectively, he could easily have a place inside the Top 15. If not, Cutelaba is looking at his fourth fight in a row without victory, which could see him released.
The situation is not quite as dire for Clark, who has won two of his last three. At the same time, “Brown Bear” has yet to win more than two fights in a row inside the Octagon. If he’s unable to string together wins, he’s not going to climb much further up the divisional ladder. Like Cutelaba, Clark has the skill and athleticism to achieve more than his current position, and perhaps that can start in this bout.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 37 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.
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At UFC Vegas 37, Ion Cutelaba and Devin Clark will go to war in the co-main event. Which athlete will earn the victory?