When Sage Northcutt made headlines in 2018 for having decided to join Asia-based martial arts organization ONE Championship after his UFC contract had lapsed, all eyes were on the young American to make an immediate impact overseas. Making his promotional debut months later, things didn’t go exactly as planned for the fighting prodigy.
Sage Northcutt ran into a brick wall, knocked out ceremoniously by one Cosmo Alexandre via a single punch. The loss was a painful one for “Super,” physically and otherwise. A major factor Sage Northcutt attributes to the loss was the weight class he competed in.
Northcutt found most of the success in his career at lightweight (155 lbs.) in the United States. When he came over to ONE, he debuted as a welterweight (186 lbs.). Because ONE’s weight management system has its athletes competing at their natural weight, Northcutt had to face bigger guys for the first time in his career. The results were disastrous.
It’s been nearly a year since Sage Northcutt’s ONE debut, and the 24-year-old is itching to get back to competition and prove to the world once again what he’s made of.
“I’m feeling really good. I’ve been able to do my cardio and training with weights, and exercise in a home gym,” said Northcutt.
“I’m absolutely motivated. At ONE Championship, I haven’t had a chance to prove what I can do out there yet.”
When Northcutt makes his highly-anticipated comeback, he’ll compete as a featherweight. ONE’s featherweight limit is 155 lbs., and there’s a host of potential opponents for his inevitable return.
“I feel like ONE has the best fighters on the planet and everybody is a challenge,” said Northcutt.
“I’m excited about competing at featherweight for ONE. There are a lot of great athletes and fighters in that division. I think the ONE featherweights are super-skilled with great cardio. They’re fast. It’s going to be really exciting to be back overseas fighting. I’m really looking forward to it. ONE Championship is a great organization.”
Let’s take a look at a few featherweight contenders who could be welcoming Sage Northcutt back to the ONE Circle soon.
#1 Edward Kelly
The Team Lakay veteran from the Philippines is a good starting point for Northcutt’s new campaign. “The Ferocious” Edward Kelly poses just enough of a challenge for “Super” to be able to test the waters before diving right in.
Kelly has just one win out of his last four outings, but is dangerous enough to pose just the right amount of threat to Sage Northcutt’s rise. Team Lakay athletes have insane cardio and tremendous striking skills. This bout would showcase the contrast between Sage Northcutt’s world-class Karate, and Kelly’s distinct Wushu style.
On paper, it has the makings of an instant classic, with neither of the two particularly wanting to take the action to the ground. It would be a stand-up battle of attrition that fans would surely appreciate.
#2 Emilio Urrutia
You can’t question a guy’s toughness based on his name alone, even if he goes by the moniker, “The Honey Badger.” But American Emilio Urrutia is as good a test for Sage Northcutt as any.
Like Kelly, Urrutia is in a recent slide, having dropped his last three. But that doesn’t make Urrutia any less dangerous. Urrutia hones his skills at the famed Tiger Muay Thai in Thailand, where he spends his time mixing it up with a handful of high-level training partners. He’s been in the Circle with BJJ black belts and knockout artists alike, and would certainly handle anything Northcutt brings to the table.
Urrutia’s recent performances suggest, however, that he’s the perfect opponent for Sage Northcutt to be able to build his confidence before heading off to bigger and better challenges.
#3 Kazuki Tokudome
Taking it up a notch, Japanese veteran Kazuki Tokudome is as tough as they come at featherweight. He’s won his last two bouts, scoring big wins over the rugged and durable Adrian Pang, as well as previously unbeaten American Johnny Nunez.
Tokudome has competed both at featherweight and at lightweight, facing some of the very best in Japan and across Asia. The Pancrase veteran is also well-respected in the region, so a victory for Sage Northcutt would surely carry a lot of weight.
Tokudome’s well-rounded skills would give Sage Northcutt a good workout. As it stands, Tokudome is a great litmus test for the young star. If he can get past the 33-year-old Japanese warrior’s best, then Northcutt could be ready for a step up in competition.
#4 Narantungalag Jadambaa
He’s not only the former ONE Featherweight World Champion, he’s also a true man’s man. Mongolia’s Narantungalag Jadambaa climbs snow-capped mountain peaks with his shirt off, goes horseback riding without a harness, and tells reporters he has “no weaknesses.”
All jokes aside, Jadambaa is one of the toughest competitors in ONE Championship. Despite being 44-years of age, the Mongolian is as strong as he’s ever been, and can strike and grapple with the very best of them.
Sage Northcutt may be catching Jadambaa at the right time though. Jadambaa has not been active late in his career, only competing once in 2019 -- a flying knee knockout loss to reigning titleholder Martin Nguyen. He’s competed only three times over the last four years. Needless to say, he may not be as sharp as he once was.
Sage Northcutt taking out a former ONE World Champion is a great way to kick off his comeback.
#5 Garry Tonon
Last but not least is fellow American Garry “The Lion Killer” Tonon. Just like Sage Northcutt, Tonon is a mixed martial arts prospect on the rise.
Where Sage Northcutt is predominantly a striker, operating behind his award-winning Karate, Tonon is considered one of the most decorated submission grapplers in the world. Needless to say, the two compliment each other quite well.
Tonon has remained unbeaten since transitioning to mixed martial arts in 2018, going 5-0 with all of his wins coming by finish. He’s obviously outclassed anyone he’s gone to the mat with so far, but the most surprising thing about Tonon is that his striking is quickly improving. Once he gets to the point where his striking is, at the very least, good enough to diminish a few stand-up threats, Tonon will be an undeniable force.
If Sage Northcutt takes on Tonon now, he could be catching him at just the right time, with his striking not quite there yet.