Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight sluggers Ion Cutelaba and Ryan Spann will go to war this weekend (Sat., May 14, 2022) at UFC Vegas 54 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
At 28 years of age, Cutelaba is about to make his 12th walk to the Octagon. He hasn’t won every fight, but he’s acquired a good bit of experience against top-tier opposition, and “The Hulk” seems to be figuring out that he cannot sprint to the finish in every fight. His last performance was sign that Cutelaba may have turned a corner to becoming a bit more methodical. After a quick undefeated (4-0) start to his UFC career, Spann has run into a bit of a wall, losing two of three. Hope is not lost for “Superman,” who remains one of the division’s better recent acquisitions at just 30 years old.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 16-6-1 (1)
Key Wins: Khalil Rountree Jr (UFC Fight Night 160), Devin Clark (UFC Vegas 37), Henrique da Silva (UFC Fight Night 110), Gadzhimurad Antigulov (UFC 217)
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 a lot of fun. Despite his background in Greco-Roman wrestling and Combat Sambo, he’s highly willing to dive into the chaos and trade bombs. That occasionally backfires, however, as Cutelaba has definitely walked into huge counters and gassed out chasing the knockout.
I’m willing to believe that Cutelaba is on the right track. His last performance might be his best, as Cutelaba soundly outplayed Devin Clark at his own game, wrestling “Brown Bear” and really beating him up without gassing out in the process.
Spann is a dangerous puncher and reasonably solid wrestler, but based on Cutelaba’s recent focus, the takedown is there if he wants it. As such, his primary key to victory is to manage his gas tank while wrestling. He’s been doing nice work of hanging on and punishing opponents as they work back up, a low-energy way to win fights if the bottom man just won’t stay put.
Aside from wrestling efficiently, Cutelaba has to be smart on the feet. He can definitely compete with Spann standing, but he’s likely to get hurt if he tries to brawl vs. the rangier puncher.
Key Wins: Misha Cirkunov (UFC Vegas 21), Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (UFC 237), Devin Clark (UFC Fight Night 161), Luis Henrique (UFC Fight Night 137), Sam Alvey (UFC 249)
Key Losses: Anthony Smith (UFC Vegas 37), Johnny Walker (UFC Fight Night 178), Karl Roberson (DWTNCS 2017)
Keys To Victory: Spann is known in the UFC as a knockout artist, but that’s actually a recent development. Much of his career saw Spann clinching up, wrestling, and then strangling his opponents from top position.
In this match up, Spann wants to keep his distance as much as possible. Whether he’s wrestling or throwing big shots, Cutelaba tends to advance forward quickly on a straight line. Spann has shown a knack for timing opponents coming in, and those two habits could collide (literally) to produce a spectacular knockout.
The more elusive Spann remains, the more likely such a connection happens.
Otherwise, I’d really like to see Spann punish the body. Cutelaba has a long established history of gassing out and falling apart in fairly spectacular fashion. Spann can encourage this previous flaw out of Cutelaba is he’s continually making him work in any wrestling exchanges and touching up the torso, as a grueling war of attrition could also produce a huge connection.
A Top 15 ranking is on the line.
Despite being on the roster for far longer, Cutelaba has yet to climb to the heights Spann has reached. That’s direct evidence of the growing pains he’s experienced having joined the roster at a young age, but Cutelaba should be moving into his prime now. If “The Hulk” is to become a factor at 205 lbs., breaking into the rankings by taking out Spann would be a solid start.
On the flip side, Spann is defending his position at No. 13. Defeat likely boots him from the rankings entirely, so there’s certainly a lot on the line here. At 30 years of age and 26 fights into his pro career, now really isn’t the time for Spann to be losing ground. Similar to Cutelaba, Spann’s best opportunity to make waves is likely now, and that requires a rebound this weekend.
At UFC Vegas 54, Ion Cutelaba and Ryan Spann will square off in the co-main event. Which athlete will earn the victory?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 54 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN2/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (on ESPN2/ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET.
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