Light heavyweight’s most understated prospect, Ion Cutelaba, returned from suspension to batter Gadzhimurad Antigulov at UFC on FOX 30; in the first ESPN event, Cutelaba looks to cross into the elite by defeating one of the division’s former top contenders, who has been in with the best of the best.
The 39-year-old Glover Teixeira has alternated wins and losses since 2016, but is a formidable test for a prospect; with fights against top light heavyweights such as Anthony Johnson, Alexander Gustafsson, Jon Jones, and Bellator champion Ryan Bader, Teixeira is still absurdly powerful and a menace on the ground. He looks to avert a slide by holding off a frightening prospect.
Teixeira has always had a fairly simple game; what one might call the old righty-lefty, in that order, over and over, every time his opponent tries to punch. Power is definitely a part of that equation; Teixeira was able to knock Ryan Bader out with his signature combination despite his stance being totally squared against the fence (a usually suboptimal position for power hitting).
Teixeira is also very durable and can walk forward in the face of serious punishment, which is how he was able to force Gustafsson to break stance and run multiple times. What age has compromised in Teixeira’s game is his mobility; lately, Teixeira seems nearly unable to move his head at all, not to evade strikes nor to find his signature counters, and so his one-note attack seems more and more one-note as time goes on. What has saved him from a skid is a fearsome ground game, as Teixeira is crushing from on top as an adept guard passer and a good topside striker.
Glover may need all of his tools to handle Cutelaba, who has gotten two brutal first-round knockouts in a row. Cutelaba seems most notable for monstrous power, in the middleweight-plus tradition; his 22-second finish of Henrique da Silva came about through an early knockdown and vicious ground and pound. However, Cutelaba’s last fight against Antigulov was a bit concerning in looking at his chances against Teixeira; Antigulov got him down within twenty seconds, and Glover is a more aggressive guard passer and submission hunter than Antigulov. What Cutelaba did well in that fight was sneaking clinch strikes in the midst of Antigulov trying to smother him, landing short and powerful knees and elbows that snowballed into an absolute lamping as Antigulov slowed.
It’s rare to find such an offensively potent infighter at light heavyweight, and that should help if Teixeira tries to take him down out of the clinch (which was how Teixeira took down Cirkunov, out of the body lock). While Antigulov is far from Jon Jones in his clinch acumen, Teixeira showed in his fight against Jones that he doesn’t have many actionable striking tools during the infight.
The biggest question of this fight may be whether Teixeira can find the explosiveness to shoot successfully, and as early as Antigulov did. Without that, it’s hard to trust him in close quarters against a man who can match him in power but is more diverse and throws more volume. If Glover gets him down, there’s a good chance the fight is over; Cutelaba isn’t a particularly good defensive grappler.
However, Teixeira doesn’t shoot well enough to favor the chances of him getting Cutelaba down before getting worn down with big strikes. Teixeira is durable, but Cutelaba can keep hitting an opponent that shows any sign of weakness, and that doesn’t favor the slower, more predictable, and aging Teixeira.
This is likely a brutal announcement to the rest of the division that the Moldovan is here to stay.
Prediction: Cutelaba via first-round knockout. This writer caps Cutelaba at -200.
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