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Secret to success: Inside look at Sage Northcutt's fighting style

Undefeated Sage Northcutt was finally in some danger in his second UFC fight. But the young Texan was able to overcome an early takedown by Cody Pfister before pulling off his seventh-straight professional finish.

Northcutt, who will fight for the third time in the UFC at Fight Night Newark against Bryan Barberena on Jan. 30, has quickly become one of the hottest names in the sport. He combines speed, athleticism and rare technical proficiency for his age like no other prospect in the game with only seven pro fights.

Up next for Super Sage: Bryan Barberena in Newark | Get tickets for the fight

So why is Northcutt so special?

The 19-year-old karate expert has been training to fight since he was 4. His athleticism allows him to pull off attacks from awkward positions in the standup game; specifically his front leg side kick which he uses like a boxer throws a jab.

In terms of technique, his hands may be the least refined part of his game, but his speed makes up for the lack of precision. His kickboxing is scary. Just look up the YouTube highlights of his blazing fast spinning wheel kick that he actually hit against one opponent before signing with the UFC.

UFC commentator Joe Rogan recently praised Northcutt’s all-around ability he’s been showcasing since coming to the UFC.

“What Sage Northcutt has been showing inside the Octagon is spectacular technique and a wide range of skills,” Rogan said. “We’ve seen lightning-fast kicks and punches; we see a killer instinct; we see a ferocious, young, athletic fighter with a wide skill set.”

The scariest part of the Northcutt’s game is his wrestling. He only competed in high school for a few months, because he spent the majority of his time training in jiu-jitsu and kickboxing.

He uses his striking to set up his wrestling game, throwing quick, distracting combos before dropping to a deadly double or single leg takedown. Once on the mat, Northcutt turns up the output, throwing lethal elbows, hammer fists and whatever else he can use to take out his opponent.

Before his last fight against Pfister, Northcutt made his way up to Montreal to train with famed TriStar head coach Firas Zahabi. The man who trains Georges St-Pierre was beyond impressed with Northcutt and his work ethic.
 


“He is amazing in the practice room, he’s amazing outside – he’s super hard-working, he’s friendly. I couldn’t ask for more. The kid is amazing,” Zahabi said on a recent episode of The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. “There’s so many things that impress me. His understanding of when to counter, his timing – his timing is something that only the most experienced guys have. He’s got fantastic timing.”

Northcutt will move up to welterweight to face Barberena, who took the fight in New Jersey on short notice. “Super” Sage will have the biggest test of his career against the California native.

Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC

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