Sage Northcutt made his triumphant return to mixed martial arts at ONE Fight Night 10 this past weekend. After four years away from ONE Championship action due to injuries and illness, few knew what to expect from the American star. But that didn’t stop him from shocking the world.
After eating a jab from opponent Ahmed Mujtaba in the opening seconds of the lightweight battle, “Super” Sage hit the canvas. As Mujtaba followed him down, Northcutt attacked with a heel hook during the scramble, which drew a tap from the Pakastani star soon after.
The match, available for free replay on Prime Video, lasted all of 39 seconds, and the returning star was delighted with the outcome.
“[The fight] was definitely pretty fast. I’ve been working on my grappling a lot. The last few years, I’ve been really honing on it and working on it a ton. I’m really excited that I got to win by submission and I got to show some of that grappling,” Northcutt said at the post-event press conference.
Most expected the multiple-time karate world champion to utilize his striking, as that is what he was known for. But, with four years to improve, it seems Northcutt focused his time on becoming a more complete martial artist.
He had alluded to his training regimen at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, in the run up to his comeback at ONE’s debut show on U.S. soil, and the results spoke for themselves on the night.
“I think one of the big things was the mindset. Of course, I’ve been training to stay sharp but when I go out there, I’m looking for a finish. I’ve just been training with a great team, great coaches. We’ve been working all around to be very well-rounded and fix the holes in my game. Just been really staying in the gym, staying sharp,” Northcutt said.
“I’ve been working on grappling a little bit but being offensive too. I figured, I want to be a complete athlete out there and not just one aspect of the sport. So down there, I was really looking for a finish. That was the kind of mindset going in was I want to finish my opponent and do it any way possible. I saw an opening when he stood up, so I just took it.”
Following his quick finish, the door to the lightweight division now lay wide open for the Katy, Texas native.
It would be natural for him to be looking toward the top of the mountain in the stacked divison, but before he does that, Northcutt believes he has some unfinished business with a legend of the sport.
“I did have a fight set up with Shinya Aoki. I think that will be a super exciting one. Looking at my finish now, I think my grappling has improved a lot. I got to show some grappling. He’s a great grappler, I think that would be a real exciting match,” he said.