Why Sage Northcutt can come back stronger from tough ONE debut

Cosmo Alexandre, Sage Northcutt, Joe Rogan, Dana White
Image: ONE Championship

At ONE: Enter the Dragon in Singapore last May 17, Sage Northcutt’s ONE Championship debut didn’t last very long.

Unfortunately for Northcutt, he was on the losing end of a destructive finish. As tough of an evening as it was for Northcutt, there is still room for recovery and improvement. There are a lot of things in his favor, but let’s first break down how it all happened.

What Happened?

Cosmo Alexandre is a skilled and experienced striker. He has competed as a professional kickboxer, and boxer in addition to a mixed martial artist. Alexandre showed off those tools, and the result was a 29-second KO victory over Northcutt. There isn’t much to break down when you’re talking about a match that lasted less than 30 seconds, but two significant flaws stuck out as Northcutt’s area of opportunity.

What Went Wrong?

Alexandre caught Northcutt with an overhand right on the side of the head. Alexandre quickly found a home for the punch because Northcutt was carrying his left hand way too low to be in striking distance with his opponent. Northcutt has to get more accustomed to protecting himself with his lead hand in striking situations. There was another major issue with Northcutt’s striking defense.

The head movement was missing from the defensive arsenal. He kept his head on a center line for the entire bout, and this has been an issue throughout his career. Alexandre might be the most formidable striker Northcutt has faced, thus, he was able to take more advantage of the American’s weakness. Northcutt’s best attribute is his athletic stand-up game. Unfortunately, he can get overly enamored with his offense, and it causes him to neglect defensive strategies. He’s particularly stiff, and that shows up in defense. His defensive reflexes are a bit too slow to have poor head movement and to keep his hands low.

Cosmo Alexandre, Sage Northcutt
Image: ONE Championship

Adjusting to the Size

The other thing we’ve learned from this result, as well as the ones we saw from the Eddie Alvarez vs. Timofey Nastyuhkin match from ONE: A NEW ERA, is that ONE’s healthier hydration rules matter. Martial artists aren’t allowed to compete or weigh in at dehydrated levels. Because of that, the weight classes work a little differently than they do in other organizations. Alvarez and Northcutt both seemed a bit shocked by the size and power of their opponents. Surely, Northcutt saw what happened in Alvarez’s surprise loss to Nastyuhkin, but you don’t know how you’ll react until you’re in the cage with an athlete who feels bigger and stronger. There will have to be an adjustment on Northcutt’s side if he is to have the desired level of success. He has the frame to carry 185 pounds effectively; it may take him a few outings before he can find his sweet spot.

Sage Northcutt
Image: ONE Championship

Sage Northcutt Has Been Here Before, Sort Of

Northcutt has proven to be a resilient athlete in his career. He has lost three times as a professional mixed martial artist. Wins followed the previous two losses. After he fell to Bryan Barbarena in January 2016, Northcutt scored a bounce-back victory just six months later. He’d lose via submission to Mickey Gall later that year in December 2016, but Northcutt responded to that setback too.

He ran off three straight wins which led him to ONE Championship. While this is just another stumbling block, it is a little different because Northcutt was knocked unconscious against Alexandre. There can be some psychological damage when an athlete loses in that manner.

He’s Still Moldable

One massive thing in Northcutt’s favor is his youth. The Katy, Texas native is just 23 years old. Barring something out of the ordinary, he could compete on an elite level for the next 10-12 years. He’s also still learning. It’s much easier to absorb significant losses earlier in a career.

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 6/19/2019.