Saturday’s Ion Cutelaba-Magomed Antalaev light-heavyweight bout at UFC 252 has been canceled after Cutelaba tested positive for COVID-19.
On the eve of the Saturday’s UFC 252 card, one of the most intriguing contests planned for the undercard of the Stipe Miocic-Daniel Cormier UFC world heavyweight title bout main event is no more.
Ion Cutelaba has been forced to pull out of his light heavyweight matchup with Magomed Antalaev after Cutelaba tested positive for COVID-19. Cutelaba has entered quarantine since encountering his positive test on Sunday.
Russian news outlet Tass was the first to report the news, which has since been confirmed by several other next outlets.
“Just got to make sure he doesn’t get sick these next few days,” Tiago Okamura, Cutelaba’s manager wrote to MMAFighting.com in a text message.
The plan, according to Okamura, is that if Cutelaba is cleared in time, the fight will be rebooked for a planned Aug. 29 UFC fight card.
Cutelaba and Ankalaev were included as part of the main event card. At this late stage, it’s uncertain whether one of the preliminary-card matchups will be slotted into the main card of Saturday’s pay-per-view event from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas.
Battling The Odds
Ankalaev, from Russia, was the -285 betting favorite in the UFC 252 odds at online sports betting sites heading into Saturday’s fight card. Cutelaba was the +225 underdog.
Moldovan Cutelaba is 4-4 since he joined UFC. Overall, he is 15-5 with one no contest as a professional MMA fighter. Ankalaev has won 14 of his 15 professional appearances and is riding a four-bout winning streak. He’s 4-1 since joining UFC.
The pair of light-heavyweights first fought at UFC on ESPN+ 27 on February 29th at Chartway Arena in Norfolk, Va., in what was Ankalaev’s North American debut. All of his previous bouts took place in Eastern Europe.
With the fight barely underway, Ankalaev unleashed a series of punishing kicks and punches, sending Cutelaba reeling. Referee Kevin MacDonald stepped in and stopped the fight, awarding Ankalaev a TKO at the 38-second mark of the first round.
Cutelaba was still on his feet at the time and was attempting to respond. He insisted that he was merely playing possum to get Ankalaev to let down his guard and open himself up for a counter attack.
He Doth Protest
At the time, Cutelaba immediately protested the stoppage. As well, several observers at ringside also were of the opinion that the official overreacted and that Cutelaba was given a raw deal.
”When it’s two fighters on this level and they came here to fight and show the world a good fight, it doesn’t matter, one round, three rounds, 40 seconds – let them fight,” Cutelaba told ESPN after the early stoppage.
Cutelaba appealed the decision but Virginia’s Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation rejected his protest and upheld the referee’s ruling on fight night. DPOR spokesperson Mary Broz-Vaughan wrote in a prepared statement that the commission found “no evidence to substantiate a claim that Referee MacDonald made his in-the-moment decisions based on any factor other than his best judgment to avoid injury to the participants.
“I find the account given by the referee, who has the authority and responsibility to stop a contest when he believes a participant is injured, to be credible. Whether video replay or popular opinion or hindsight makes one second guess a decision later is not at issue.”
However, both fighter’s camps were of the opinion that the outcome left a bad taste. They’ve been seeking to schedule a rematch ever since but luck has not been on their side in that quest.
The tale of the tape shows Ion Cutelaba and Magomed Ankalaev to be very evenly-matched fighters. Photo by: YouTube.com screenshot.
This is the second time that the COVID-19 pandemic has scuttled an attempt to stage Ankalaev-Cutelaba II. Originally slated for UFC 249 on April 18th in Brooklyn, the rematch was called off when Ankalaev was unable to get to the USA due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Eventually, the entire fight card was called off due to the pandemic
Cutelaba was then carded to face Ovince Saint Preux on April 25 but that fight was scratched when the entire card was scrubbed by the novel coronavirus outbreak.