I'm not saying this feels like part of a larger trend, as Northcutt certainly isn't the first young fighter to be signed to the UFC before he turned 20, but does feel like there's a sense of change in the air as the UFC. Fighters like Francis Ngannou, Bilyal Makhov, Dan Jolly, Jonathan Wilson, Oluwale Bamgbose, Joe Merritt, Jonavin Webb, and many others are no longer the exception, but a new subset of the rule. The UFC is going after more fighters early in their career. But, even by that standard, Sage Northcutt (who, makes his debut at UFC 192) is something of an exception. Andrew Simon of AXSTV announced Northcutt's signing via Twitter:
@sagenorthcutt signed to @ufc after #Legacy44 victory tonight on @AXSTVFights.10/2 debut. Any other 19 year olds signed to @Ufc recently?— Andrew Simon (@andrewAXSTV) August 29, 2015
Who is Sage Northcutt?
The 19-year old point Karate and kickboxing champion has been something of a child celebrity on the traditional martial arts scene. Training since age 5 and a black belt karateka by age 8, Northcutt and his chiseled physique have graced magazine covers, photo shoots, and even a couple episodes of the Hannah Montana spin-off series Moises Rules! He trains out of Gracie Barra Katy, in his home town of Katy, Texas. It's the former base camp for UFC women's bantamweight Lauren Murphy. Northcutt will be making his way to the UFC with an undefeated 5-0 record having turned pro just back in November of 2014. That's right, less than one year of pro-MMA experience, 5-0, and now in the UFC.
What should you expect:
Maybe not Machida-esque, but Northcutt's base style looks a lot more like Machida than anyone else that gets compared to Machida, and that includes Marcio "Lyoto" Alexandre. He keeps a nice wide base out of an orthodox stance, and tends to favor a kick heavy game from range. Showing his Karate background Northcutt throws a mix of side kicks to the legs and body, flashier spin and head kicks, and the more normal chopping leg kicks. The place where his style really shares something in common with Machida is his blitzing counter game. Northcutt uses his kicks to draw opponents into engaging with him and when they move into the pocket he lands huge counter shots out of and orthodox stance and tries to blitz opponents with a flurry of strikes. He throws nice, crisp straight punches, and while he's not the most advanced boxer I've seen, generally seems to have good technique and a lot of power.
No word yet on just who Northcutt's first opponent will be, but it looks like he's got the makings of a real top fighter somewhere down the line. To get us better acquainted, here's Northcutt's recent bout against Jacob Capelli on Legacy Challengers: