After initially clashing back in February where Ankalaev earned a first-round finish following a poor stoppage by the referee, the Dagestani prospect was determined to put an exclamation point on the rivalry with Cutelaba when they finally met again on Saturday at UFC 254.
Following a few fiery exchanges, Ankalaev put Cutelaba down with a vicious counter left hand and then unleashed a vicious series of punches on the ground. When the final shots landed, Cutelaba went limp and the referee finally stepped into stop the contest at 4:19 into the opening round.
“I wanted to make a statement for a long time. I finally did it,” Ankalaev said after notching his fifth straight win overall. “I knew that he was slower than me so I just waited for my moment and caught him.”
Unlike their first fight, Ankalaev and Cutelaba were much more measured this time around as both light heavyweights were showing patience before unleashing strikes. While Cutelaba was constantly pressing forward, Ankalaev did a good job avoiding much damage while throwing heavy leather and tagging his opponent with solid kicks as well.
The real different was Ankalaev’s ability to counter anything and everything that was being thrown at him, which ultimately spelled Cutelaba’s doom.
As he continued to come after the Russian, Cutelaba found himself eating the left hand that put him on the canvas with Ankalaev then putting him to sleep with a few more shots landed.
With a new champion in Jan Blachowicz at light heavyweight, Ankalaev seems like a fighter who could be knocking on the door of title contention sooner rather than later if he continues putting on performances like these.