Jared Cannonier stole Ion Cutelaba’s thunder.
Cannonier -- a +195 underdog, according to BetDSI.com -- took a unanimous decision from the Moldovan prospect in a featured light heavyweight battle at “The Ultimate Fighter 24” Finale on Saturday at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28 for Cannonier, awarding him the second and third rounds.
Cutelaba (-235) started strong and faded late. Not all went according to plan for Cannonier, who absorbed heavy body-head punching combinations from the 22-year-old and conceded two takedowns in the first round.
“The game plan was to not get hit,” he told the media afterward. “I’m not in this game to take shots and then give shots. I’m not with that stand-and-bang crap. The guy just hit me. It happens. You can’t dodge ’em all. I weathered the storm; I took the shots; and I delivered some shots, too. I don’t quit. I don’t back up. I fight back, so that’s what I did.”
Cannonier’s persistence paid, as Cutelaba ran out of steam over the final 10 minutes.
“I wanted to knock him out,” Cannonier said. “He kept backing up, and it’s hard to finish a guy that’s fighting for his life.”
His attempts to lure Cutelaba into a fight-ending ambush failed.
“I pretty much put that Twinkie on a stick and dangled it in front of his face to see if he bit; and he bit a few times,” Cannonier said. “I need to work on being able to capitalize on that more effectively.”
Cannonier was one of two underdogs to spring upsets. Syndicate MMA’s Jamie Moyle (+100) outhustled Kailin Curran to a unanimous decision on the undercard, drawing 30-27 marks across the board in their clash at 115 pounds. “The Ultimate Fighter 23” graduate cut off Curran (-120) with takedowns and exercised her superiority in the clinch. Moyle fought through a nasty cut to her left eyebrow and sealed the Hawaiian’s doom in the closing moments of the third round, where she hit a takedown, applied her ground-and-pound and chewed up valuable time with top control.
“I had a really solid game plan,” Moyle said, “and I had a lot of ... the things I told myself during the camp and my coach told me during the camp, I just had it replaying in my head. I was very clear in the fight, and I was able to hear what I needed to hear in my head throughout the fight.”