The Film Room: Ion Cutelaba

By Kevin Wilson Apr 26, 2019
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Moldovan prospect Ion Cutelaba will face perhaps the most difficult test of his career when he takes on Glover Teixeira in a light heavyweight showcase at UFC Fight Night 150 on Saturday at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida. Some fans may not know much about “The Hulk,” but at just 25 years of age, he has a real shot at becoming a contender inside what is arguably the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s weakest division.

Cutelaba steps into the spotlight in this installment of The Film Room.

Cutelaba is not going to wow us with anything we have not seen before. He has the athleticism and understanding of the basics of striking to dominate opponents at close range and in the clinch. Most of his striking is done with his opponent’s back to the cage, where he can unload combos to the head and body. He also likes to switch between trading in the pocket against the cage and clinching with opponents and striking from there, which makes his aggression more unpredictable. The only concern with his cage striking is how he often gets overzealous and swings wildly, allowing the opponent to circle off the cage. If he can learn to be patient in these moments of madness, he will have much more success keeping opponents on the cage.

Cutelaba likes to mix in his exchanges against the cage with some clinch work. Notice how he will throw a wild overhand and place it behind the head to grab the clinch. If the punch lands clean, it is a bonus, but he is really just throwing the overhand to initiate the clinch. This is a tactic upon which Daniel Cormier has built his career, and Cutelaba is slowly learning little tricks like this to achieve the double- or single-collar tie. Once in the clinch, Cutelaba likes his elbows and knees to the body, but he will also throw uppercuts with a single-collar tie, again reminiscent of Cormier.

Although most of his striking is done up close, Cutelaba has become adept enough at striking at a distance to cause problems for most of his opponents. His leading attacks from range are used to back the opponent to the cage, but he has shown he can win fights with exchanges in the center of the Octagon, too. It would be nice to see him rely a little less on his clinch and cage work and develop his outside striking more. Perhaps those improvements will come with time.

Cutelaba started off as a wrestler with a sambo background, but we have not seen much of his grappling in the UFC. He has proven to have decent transitional grappling and the ability to reverse opponents’ takedowns to achieve top position, but a grappling-based fighter like Teixeira or Cormier could end up being his kryptonite. Honestly, it would be better for Cutelaba’s career if his fight with Teixeira hits the ground, so he can show he is not just a one-dimensional striker. However, it seems doubtful he will take any chances with the Brazilian, as he probably avoids grappling exchanges at all times. Advertisement


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