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Can Sage Northcutt Still Cut It?

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Former UFC heartthrob Sage Northcutt announced his return to MMA. He will reappear on May 5th as part of ONE Championship’s U.S debut at “ONE on Prime Video 10”, headlined by the rubber match between Demetrious Johnson and Adriano Moraes

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Northcutt made his name in MMA at just eighteen years old when he appeared on the debut episode of “Dana White‘s Looking For A Fight”, and was signed to the UFC when he won by submission in the second round. He went on to amass a 6-2 record in just three years with the promotion but left in 2018 when his contract was not renewed. Upon his release, UFC president Dana White stated he believed Northcutt was too young and required more experience in “some other organization”. 

Northcutt signed for ONE Championship a few days later. He was booked to debut against accomplished kickboxer Cosmo Alexandre at ONE’s “Enter The Dragon” in May 2019. The bout lasted just 29 seconds. Alexandre, the far larger man, brutally flatlined Northcutt with a single punch—fracturing his face in eight places. The injury required immediate surgical repair, and kept him out of competition for years following.

Soon after, Northcutt announced he would be dropping two weight classes to compete at featherweight (which is 155 pounds in ONE), saying fighting heavier opponents was a contributing factor in his defeat to Alexandre and he’d learned his lesson about doing it again. Northcutt has only fought at that weight once in his career—a 2015 finish over Cody Pfister in the UFC. His return to the ring, and to 155 pounds, was announced for April 2021 against Shinya Aoki, but was cancelled due to lingering COVID-19 symptoms on Northcutt’s part. 

Now with ONE Championship looking to push into the American market, Sage Northcutt will end his four-year hiatus against Ahmed Mujtaba this May when the promotion holds their first event in the U.S. Mujtaba, Northcutt’s opponent, has gone undefeated for five years, and is 4-2 since joining ONE in 2016. He also has a win under the WSOF banner, now known as the PFL. Mujtaba trains out of the American Kickboxing Academy alongside such athletes as Daniel Cormier and Khabib Nurmagomedov—he is certainly a stiff test for someone coming back from a lengthy absence.

Northcutt may have racked up a decent record in his early days, but it could be said he lost whenever he took a step up in competition. The two most recognizable names he fought in the UFC—Bryan Barbarena and Mickey Gall—both submitted him in the second round. Barberena was Northcutt’s third UFC bout in under four months and was a last-minute replacement to boot. The finishing sequence was initiated when Northcutt made a poor attempt at a “rolling thunder” head kick—a green move to say the least. However, his defeat to Mickey Gall was less fluky as Gall knocked him down in both rounds and exposed Northcutt’s skill level on the ground. 

Despite such a long time away from the sport, Sage Northcutt is still only 26-years-old. He has a wealth of experience—both in major MMA promotions with his 11-3 record, and in other combat disciplines with undefeated records in kickboxing and karate. Northcutt has dealt with an incredible amount of both publicity and adversity at a young age—one stemming from his out-of-place appearance and huge promotional backing, the other on the long road to recovery. Although callow, he showed genuine, natural talent in the UFC before he was old enough to drink—and a more mature, honed version of Northcutt could certainly make another run at the upper echelons of MMA. 

Also, he’s married to one of the Powerpuff Girls, which is pretty cool.

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