Sage Northcutt’s sophomore UFC outing revealed that while the perpetually upbeat lightweight has plenty of potential, he is still very much a work-in-progress.
Northcutt submitted Cody Pfister with a guillotine choke 41 seconds into the second round of their featured clash at UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas on Thursday night to improve to 7-0 in his young professional tenure. That finish did not come without a brief period of adversity in the opening stanza, however.
Pfister began the first round by quickly closing the distance and getting his opponent to the canvas in the opening seconds. From there, the heavy underdog went to work, staying busy with persistent -- but not especially damaging -- offense from within Northcutt’s guard. That work apparently wasn’t enough for referee Mark Smith, who eventually ordered a questionable standup within the final two minutes of the round.
Northcutt didn’t have any problems with Smith’s ruling. “I think the referee is very smart. All the referees know what they’re doing,” Northcutt said. “It wasn’t my call, so the referee made the decision. It worked out great. I took my opponent down right after that and went to the second round and I finished him.”
Not surprisingly, UFC President Dana White was a little more outspoken on the situation.
“Did you think [Northcutt] was gonna say something negative?” White asked. “That standup was ridiculous. He shouldn’t have stood him up there. It wasn’t that Pfister was doing a lot of damage, but he was working from the top. It shouldn’t have been stood up.”
It’s hard to say how much different the fight would have been had Pfister been allowed to maintain top position. The standup was all the opening Northcutt needed, as the Katy, Texas, native finished the first frame with a flourish and carried his momentum over into round two. When Pfister attempted to drive forward for a takedown early in the period, Northcutt capitalized for the fight-ending choke. Even with the time spent on his back, the 19-year-old was clearly the superior athlete in the Octagon. Overall, Northcutt was happy with his performance, although he did require a brief adjustment period.
“The Octagon was smaller than I expected, so it took some time for me to get used to it and find my spacing,” Northcutt said. “I tried to be patient and wait for the submission to come to me. I never really have a game plan other than to finish my opponent as quickly as possible. Tonight it came in the second round and I’m very happy to come out on top.”
While Northcutt’s training camp is based in his home state, he made a brief visit to Tristar Gym in preparation for facing Pfister. It appears that his relationship with Firas Zahabis’ team is only beginning.
“Training at Tri-Star was great. I will definitely go up there again,” he said. “I’m looking forward to my next fight. I hope it comes in the next couple of months.”