By: Jesse Donathan
A predator versus prey scenario unfolded before our very eyes at “ONE Championship 96: Enter the Dragon” last Friday, May 17th, 2019. Former UFC Fighter Sage Northcutt had no chance as he was violently knocked out by the veteran Muay Thai kickboxing master Cosmo Alexandre in under a minute. In a May 20, 2019 MMAFighting.com article titled, “Urijah Faber: Sage Northcutt’s cheek was ‘splintered’ into 30 pieces’ in ONE debut,” author Alexander K. Lee writes that Northcutt’s coach, Urijah Faber, described Sage’s opponent, Cosmo Alexandre, as manhunting Northcutt in the ring. Speaking to “The MMA Hour” host Luke Thomas, Faber went on to describe exactly how Northcutt was walked down by the crafty veteran Muay Thai kickboxer.
“Right off the bat, (Cosmo) did like a couple stutter steps, switch-step fakes to kind of corral Sage in. Sage went one way and then the other way, first time in a ring, and literally gets manhunted with the nastiest punch and crushes his whole face.”
“Cosmo who’s an amazing kickboxer and a big, strong guy, came out and pressed the action right off the bat,” said Faber.
While hindsight is 20/20, and there will always be those claiming Urijah is crying over spilt milk there is a candidness and honesty to Faber’s reflection of went wrong for Sage Northcutt that leads one to believe there may be more to what he is saying than just highlighting his favorite passages out of the big book of excuses.
“In regards to any potential issues with weight, Faber mentioned that it’s possible Northcutt (who competed at lightweight and welterweight in the UFC before meeting Alexandre at 185 pounds) was giving up some size despite ONE’s strict weight-cutting policies,” writes Lee.
According to MMAFighting.com, Northcutt’s coach told “The MMA Hour” that he, “talked to multiple guys there that were cutting weight and it is what it is.”
“ONE Championship’s weight classes are unlike any other martial arts organization in the world,” declares ONE Championships website onefc.com. The promotions website goes on to state that, “ONE leads the global martial arts industry by banning weight-cutting by dehydration, choosing instead to implement a revolutionary system that ensures athletes are fully hydrated, fit, and healthy ahead of their bouts.”
If Urijah Faber is correct, it sounds like he believes some shenanigans were amidst. As BoxingInsider.com previously reported, it was a questionable decision to have Northcutt fighting at 185-pounds to begin with given his previous performances at 170-pounds. According to MMAFighting.com, in retrospect coach Urijah Faber, “wondered if his team should have counseled him to hold off on making his ONE debut until the circumstances were more favorable.”
MMAfighting.com’s Alexander K. Lee would go on to write that coach Faber told “The MMA Hour” host Luke Thomas that, “… against some advice, the fight was taken, not that we don’t believe in Sage absolutely, in the future I’d like to see him at 170 pounds and I’d like to see him at least be able to follow through with an entire camp or at least more than he was able to.”
As defined on ONE Championship’s website, their welterweight division is contested at 77.2 kilograms-83.9 kilograms. (Or approximately 170.2 pounds to 184.95 pounds). Making it a completely redefined welterweight model from that of the conventional 170-pound welterweight system most fans are accustomed too.
If coach Faber is correct, and fighters are still cutting weight despite ONE Championship’s claim’s, ONE’s newly redefined welterweight division spanning nearly 15-pounds could potentially see fighters weighing much more than 185-pounds once the referee gives his final instructions.
The headlines across the online world read, “Former UFC fighters are being beat up in ONE Championship.” With Northcutt and other UFC star’s turbulent debuts in ONE Championship, the Singapore based promotion is enjoying a surge in popularity and reputation as being a tough organization to compete and succeed in. The organization has been heralded for introducing a new system designed to address the problem of weight cutting and dehydration of athletes in combat sports.
Under the umbrella of safety, the organization has led the way for change, but according to MMAFighting.com there is a curious lack of transparency within ONE Championships weigh-in model.
According to author Alexander K. Lee, “ONE does not make their weigh-in results public and the lack of transparency raised the question of whether or not Alexandre had an advantage in Faber’s eyes.”
With ONE justifying their new weight class model under the guise of safety, yet maintaining a lack of transparency in their weigh-in results; there is room for scrutiny here and it seems like bad form to say the very least. And with claims not only are fighters still cutting weight, but that larger, experienced fighters are being pitted against smaller, less experienced former UFC star’s ONE Championship is going to have to iron out some of the wrinkles still lingering in its curtains.
Let’s not beat around the bush here, Sage Northcutt was sacrificed at the alter of the “Just Bleed God.” A fighter who enjoyed success in the UFC’s 155-pound lightweight division, but who had his struggles in the UFC’s 170-pound welterweight division competed, at apparently against the advice of others according to his coach, at 185-pounds in ONE Championship against by all reports a larger, more experienced kickboxer in Cosmo Alexandre who shattered Northcutt’s face into 30-pieces with just one punch. Reportedly requiring a nine-hour surgery to repair the fighters broken orbital bone and who will no doubt be out of commission for some time to come as the recovery process takes its course.
MMAFighting.com would go on to report on coach Faber’s interview with Luke Thomas, that according to Faber, “In retrospect, there were some warning signs maybe not to take this fight and like you said, it’s not like you go into a fight thinking you’re gonna get your face smashed.”
Though according to a March 16, 2019 MMAfighting.com article titled, “Molly McCann to undergo surgery for broken orbital after UFC London win over Priscila Cachoeira,” author Shaun Al-Shatti writes, “McCann (8-2) is scheduled to undergo surgery Sunday morning for the grisly broken orbital bone she suffered midway through her bout against Priscila Cachoeira on Saturday night.”
And more recently, according to a May 12, 2019 Washington Post article titled, “After scary KO, a former UFC champion hints she might be ready to walk away,” author Des Bieler writes that former UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas was lucky to escape her fight against Jessica Andrade without serious injury. According to Bieler, “Namajunas’s awkward landing had some observers — including other MMA fighters — concerned that she might have broken her neck.”
Highlighting the fact fighters should be prepared for just about anything when they step into the ring or cage, including death or serious injury. The possibilities of which can be greatly amplified by convenient, selective matchmaking, poor guidance or an unwillingness of fighters to listen to their team or coach. There is a trail of broken faces and shattered dreams in the world of combat sports that stretches back for generation’s and it doesn’t look like the machine is in danger of slowing down anytime soon either.