Absolute powerhouses collide when Ryan “Superman” Spann meets Ion “The Hulk” Cutelaba at Fight Night 209. As their superhero-esk names would imply, both men have immense power in their hands, and bring the action and intent to finish the fight to every card they compete on. Spann, a Tennessee native, broke into the MMA scene in 2013, and later into the UFC in 2018, sporting a 14-5 record finishing all but one of his wins. Since entering the top tier promotion, Spann has gone 5-2, beating the likes of Antonio Nogueira, Sam Alvey and Misha Cirkunov amongst others, and only falling to Anthony Smith and Johnny Walker. While all of these names are prestigious victories in the sport, Ion Cutelaba once again represents the highest echelon of competition.
Ion Cutelaria of Moldova boasts a background in Sambo, Judo, kickboxing and Greco-Roman Wrestling. With as solid a base as anyone, Cutelaba has successfully translated his skills towards mixed martial arts over the past 10 years under the tutelage of the MMA Factory in Paris. Since entering the UFC in 2016, Cutelaba has seen mixed results, being given elite talent off the bat, he has picked up losses to Jared Cannonier and Glover Texeira who stand tall amongst the top of their respective divisions. However, wins over Khalil Rountree Jr., and Devin Clark demonstrates just how dangerous and skillful Cutelaba can be.
Ryan Spann’s the betting underdog against Ion Cutelaba before this weekend’s bout at UFC on
- Spann: +165
- Cutelaba: -210
Both men pose a threat wherever the fight goes but it can be said that Ion Cutelaba is the more well-rounded of the two. Typically Ryan Spann understands that he has good technical and especially powerful striking and he exchanges confidence that if he lands the fight could quickly be over. However, the ultimate goal is more than often to end up on top working towards a submission, and his expert wrestling, size and power makes him a very difficult problem to solve. On top, although not a black belt in jiu jitsu, submissions have been Spann’s best friend. His wrestling game is built on extremely solid position and maintenance, and there is almost never a time where his balance is shifted enough to risk being swept, even if that means taking the long route to the neck or limb.
Standing, Spann’s however is evident as much in his lead jab as his power shots. Everything he throws has something dangerous behind it, and he throws it as such, however, because of this we do often see his punches limited to just one or two punches at a time, and when he gets caught it’s also often on the end of exchanges when his opponent extends their combination past him. He also believes his opponent can overextend on his strikes looking for the big haymaker, this in conjunction with his tendency to draw combinations short, creates an opening for Cutelaba.
Cutelaba historically comes out fast, dominates in round one but fades mid-fight if he cannot get the finish. This happens almost all the time, but in his most recent outing, the adjustments to slow down the pace and be more methodical about his opportunities were clear. It’s hard to bank on the fact that he has been able to change his style going forward in one performance but if this is consistent now, this bodes very well for him. Cutelaba worked a bit more on the outside and looked to circle his opponent into his power. The double jab to right straight or overhand was his key to victory as when he gets his opponent to circle into his right the jab gets them to overcommit to the side where he lands. Once his opponent is hurt we get the classic swarm of Cutelba, and as unpredictable as he is, this can both come in the form of strikes and a mauling takedown game designed to end in ground and pound.
Cutelaba, compared to Stann, engages in his grappling from the clinch almost exclusively. His background in Judo, Sambo, and Greco-Roman wrestling, lends itself to his extremely heavy base and hips and his tight body lock which is key to his throws and trips, and more than often he just ends up dragging his opponent down, or to their knees via mat return. Out in the open, where Spann is more likely to shoot, don’t expect Cutelaba to do the same, but if Spann is caught on the fence that is when Cutelaba will look to take him down.
The big variable is with Spann’s size and strength, should we see very damaging shots land or Cutelaba having to carry his weight, how will Cutalaba’s gas tank hold up? Having gone two back to back camps preparing for a wrestler is good for Cutelaba but preparing for Spann’s mass and physical presence in the cage is different than what he last faced, however in general I can see Cutebala winning early, fading but maintaining enough composure to ultimately win even on the scorecards.
Prediction: Ion Cutelaba to win
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.