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Virginia regulators deny Ion Cutelaba’s appeal for UFC Norfolk, TKO loss stands

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Ion Cutelaba’s appeal to reverse his TKO loss to Magomed Ankalaev at UFC Norfolk was denied by the state of Virginia.

UFC Fight Night: Cutelaba v Ankalaev Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Ion Cutelaba’s 2020 didn’t get off to a good start. In February, the 26-year-old light heavyweight picked up a controversial first-round TKO loss to Magomed Ankalaev at UFC Norfolk.

The two men were exchanging blows during their main card fight when Cutelaba seemed wobbled by one of Ankalaev’s punches. Seeing the Moldovan fighter seemingly hurt significantly, referee Kevin MacDonald intervened to put a halt to the fight.

Much to his dismay, Cutelaba protested the call and later claimed he was merely playing possum at the time. “The Hulk” and his team went on to appeal the decision, and on Monday, they got their unfavorable answer from spokesperson Mary Broz-Vaughan of Virginia’s Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (via MMA Fighting).

In response to your request for review, Regulation 18 VAC 120-40-411.14 states, in relevant part:

C. The department shall not change a decision rendered at the end of any contest unless:

3. The department determines through investigation there was a violation of this chapter that adversely impacted on the fairness of the contest or decision.

Therefore, absent evidence of a regulatory violation, the technical knockout (TKO) decision resulting from referee Kevin MacDonald’s stoppage of the February 29, 2020, bout between Ion Cutelaba and Magomed Ankalaev must stand.

I have reviewed the materials in this matter and the regulation applicable to your request. Section 18 VAC 120-40-190 enumerates the duties each assigned referee must perform, including the obligation to:

4. Immediately stop any contest when, in his judgment, one of the boxers or martial artists is outclassed by the other, injured, or otherwise unable to safely continue to participate in the contest;

10. Assure the health and well-being of the boxers and martial artists to the greatest extent possible.

There is no evidence to substantiate a claim that Referee MacDonald made his in-the-moment decisions based on any factor other than his best judgment to avoid injury to the participants. I find the account given by the referee, who has the authority and responsibility to stop a contest when he believes a participant is injured, to be credible. Whether video replay or popular opinion or hindsight makes one second guess a decision later is not at issue.

I do not find evidence of any regulatory violation. Accordingly, the TKO decision remains.

Cutelaba and Ankalaev were booked for a rematch for UFC 249, but the matchup ended up falling through after the latter was barred from leaving his home country of Russia due to the COVID-19 lockdowns. Cutelaba was then slated to fight Ovince Saint Preux at the UFC’s planned April 25th card in Lincoln, Nebraska. On Monday, however, the company decided to scrap the entire card, along with the May 2nd event in Oklahoma City.