A mature athlete and person understands and is realistic about their limitations. They also know that there are multiple definitions of greatness. Sage Northcutt is displaying such maturity and spirit of conscientiousness in his recent career decision.
“I’m going to go back down to 155 pounds, where I was 5-0 in the UFC and undefeated,” Northcutt told the South China Morning Post recently.
“I went up to 185 pounds for that weight class [against Alexandre]. I don’t even weigh 185 pounds, I weigh about 180. Really for my body frame, my size, my age, that weight class is too big for me.”
Alexandre’s size and power proved to be too much for Sage Northcutt, and it’s understandable he’d look to return to the division where he has had the most success.
“That was probably the toughest thing I’ve been through in my entire life. Coming through adversity like that, having to stay strong, it makes you a stronger person,” he said.
“A lot of people are saying I’m going to be gun shy and not be able to take a punch. But I took a shot so hard it was able to break the parts of my face that broke, and I still wasn’t knocked unconscious. When I come back I’m gonna be stronger, more skilled, and smarter than ever.”
In light of Northcutt’s decision and reinvigorated nature, here are five potential opponents for his return to the bright lights of ONE Championship.
Sage Northcutt isn’t the only ONE Championship star making the decision to move down in weight. The former ONE Lightweight World Champion moved down to featherweight in May 2015. Since making the move, Kotetsu Boku is 5-4, but he’s lost three in a row.
“No Face” Boku is a veteran with a massive amount of martial arts experience. Northcutt would likely be the favorite, but this is still an interesting matchup.
If Northcutt can defeat Boku, he will have added a significant name to his resume and regained some of the confidence he may have lost with his humbling defeat to Alexandre. A win would give Northcutt a victory over a former ONE champion, and that’s always a noteworthy accomplishment.
Thanh Le is easily one of the most exciting relative newcomers to ONE Championship’s roster. The Vietnamese-American striker is scheduled to compete on 10 January at ONE: A New Tomorrow, but if Northcutt doesn’t return until the spring or summer, there is a chance Le could still welcome Northcutt back to the cage.
Le and Northcutt both have excellent striking skills, and it could be an exciting matchup that could end quickly. Le has to be close to a title shot, and a matchup against Northcutt might be seen as a lateral move. However, it’s a high-profile match that would seemingly ensure Le of a shot at Martin Nguyen, or against whoever is the champion.
The 25-year-old Malaysian has had an up-and-down career. He’s currently 7-4 as a professional with most of his experience taking place with ONE Championship. Keanu Subba is an all-action competitor who frequently gets a result in the very first round of his bouts. In fact, six of the nine bouts he’s had with ONE have ended in the first round.
Subba lost his last match to Ryogo Takahashi via first-round TKO at ONE: For Honor in May. That’s close to the last time Sage Northcutt last competed, so the two athlete’s timelines are aligned. A Northcutt-Subba bout isn’t a main-event level feature, but it’s a strong addition to any main card scheduled for a future event. Perhaps we could see this come to fruition in the first or second quarter of 2020.
Another talented striker who competes in Northcutt’s new division is Anthony Engelen. The 34-year-old from the Netherlands has seen his professional record dip to 8-7. Engelen has lost three consecutive matches with two of the defeats coming by stoppage. He could use a victory in a major way, and a win over Northcutt would absolutely reignite his career.
On the other hand, Engelen would be an excellent skin for Northcutt to claim, especially with a loss as the only result on his ONE Championship resume.
Out of all the guys on the list, however, Team Lakay’s Edward Kelly offers the most for Northcutt.
Kelly is on a recent two-bout skid, but he’s a grizzled and experienced veteran who should pose a significant test for Northcutt at this stage in his career. Kelly doesn’t have that one-punch knockout power to make Northcutt too cautious, which should bring out the American’s flashy striking skills.
“The Ferocious” surely never backs down from any challenge and would be willing to face Northcutt if called upon. He said so himself when we talked to him in Manila.
Who do you want to see Sag Northcutt battle when he’s ready to return to action?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 12/24/2019.