Cutelaba’s Fight Night bout off due to COVID-19

MMA

A UFC prospect has tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time this month, pulling him out of a bout.

Ion Cutelaba received the positive test result on Saturday, his manager, Thiago Okamura, told ESPN. Cutelaba’s bout against Magomed Ankalaev, scheduled for Saturday night at UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Rakic in Las Vegas, is now off.

Cutelaba and Ankalaev, two of the top up-and-coming light heavyweights on the roster, were originally supposed to fight at UFC 252 on Aug. 15, but Cutelaba tested positive for COVID-19 prior to that fight week and the fight was rebooked. Okamura said Cutelaba tested negative for coronavirus twice in between the two positive tests, including a negative test earlier this week.

Cutelaba vs. Ankalaev is a rematch of a controversial Feb. 29 bout. Ankalaev was awarded a TKO victory, though Cutelaba was never dropped. Cutelaba argued that he was just playing possum — and not rocked — in an effort to get Ankalaev to further commit, so he could land counter shots. Cutelaba’s team appealed with the Virginia Boxing and Wrestling regulatory body, but was denied. Due to the dispute, UFC president Dana White said he would book a rematch.

Okamura said the hope is the bout can still be rebooked on an upcoming card in Abu Dhabi.

Cutelaba (15-5, 1 NC) won three of four prior to the Ankalaev loss. The 26-year-old Moldovan’s lone loss during that stretch came against top light heavyweight Glover Teixeira. Ankalaev (14-1) has won four straight, including three via finish. The 28-year-old Dagestan native’s only career loss came in the final second of the bout, a submission defeat to Paul Craig in Ankalaev’s UFC debut in 2018.

UFC Fight Night on Saturday from the UFC Apex is headlined by a light heavyweight contender bout between Anthony Smith and Aleksandar Rakic.

There have been other issues with COVID-19 on this card, as well. Alex Caceres is fighting late replacement Austin Springer, who was just officially signed by the UFC on Wednesday. Giga Chikadze, Caceres’ original opponent, tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week, per the UFC. Chikadze was replaced by new signee Kevin Croom, who then also tested positive for COVID-19, according to Croom’s manager Jason House.

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