Freelance: 6 UFC Fighters That Should Switch Weight Classes
Every fighter in the UFC wants to be as big as possible against the competitors in their division to dominate them and eventually work their way up to a world championship. However, for some, the move down is just too tough. Some need to go up a weight class for greater challenges. For the names on this list, changing things up on the scale could do them all some good.
6. Kelvin Gastelum
It might seem odd to see Kelvin Gastelum’s name on this list given that after several failed attempts to make welterweight (170 pounds,) he moved to middleweight (185 pounds) after working with famed nutritionist, George Lockhart.
The reason Gastelum is on this list is because that, for some reason, he still feels that welterweight is the division that’s right for him—even after having won at middleweight previously before returning there and getting two consecutive TKO wins. With Gastelum still mentally fluctuating, for him to truly have switched weight classes, he needs to be committed to where he is at 185 pounds.
5. Charles “Do Bronx” Olivera
Olivera did as this article was going to suggest and returned to lightweight (155 pounds) at UFC 210, submitting “Ill Will” Brooks by rear-naked choke. Although he made weight, got the job done, and earned a Performance of the Night bonus, he’s missed weight at featherweight (145 pounds four times! John Lineker has the current record for failures, see further on down this list.
The finisher may be too small for welterweight, but it’s only a matter of time until he misses weight at 155. Someone call Lockhart!
4. Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov
A move up from lightweight to welterweight or above may seem unlikely given that the undefeated (now 24-0) Russian-born phenom is so close to a shot at the championship at 155 and Nurmagomedov has only missed weight twice while a part of the UFC. However, Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson is the man that is keeping him from the belt and that fight has failed to happen three times—most recently back in March when Nurmagomedov last missed weight.
Nurmagomedov them made this comment on MMAFighting.com’s The MMA Hour after he withdrew from competing at UFC 209:
“The doctor say, ‘you cannot fight. You almost die. How you fight? How you can fight if you almost die? ... No way. We say no fight, 100 percent. No make weight. No fight. No nothing. You need to stay in the hospital for seven hours, we have to make sure your body is good.’ But I feel I almost died,” Nurmagomedov said.
He then went on to mention multiple recent deaths due to weight-cutting in the same interview. Nurmagomedov is low on this list because he is still within reach of gold, but no championship should ever be valued over a life.
3. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
The “Gator” of the UFC was on the cusp of a middleweight title shot ahead of UFC on Fox 24 (he even signed an eight-fight contract extention with the world leader in MMA just ahead of the event.) Then Austrailia’s Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker shocked the world and finished the Brazilian with strikes. Now a middleweight title shot seems somewhat unjustified.
The welterweight division on the other hand is a different story. Souza doesn’t need to move down because of weight-cutting issues, but rather because he still wants a belt, has a sizable fanbase behind him, and the Tyron Woodley-led division is lacking contenders at the moment.
Woodley has already gone the distance with Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson twice and the #2 ranked former champion “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler is set to fight at UFC 214 on July in the UFC’s home of Las Vegas against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
Carlos Condit is questioning if he still has what it takes to compete at the UFC level and #5 ranked Jorge “Gamebread” Masvidal still feels a little far away from gold. The only real option (#4 ranked Demian Maia will face Masvidal at UFC 211 in Dallas on May 13.) If the winner doesn’t get considered as a challenger, the division will need a popular name.
At 24-5 (1 No Contest) with 20 wins by stoppage, Jacare is that name!
2. John “Hands of Stone” Lineker
Simply put, this Brazilian 26-year-old flyweight has a respectable 29-8 overall record. He also set the record for the most times a fighter’s missed weight with five last September. His failures span both the flyweight and bantamweight divisions. Featherweight or above has to be his only route to stay in the UFC.
The organization may not have ever realized a fighter for repeat failures (in MMA culture, missing weight, especially in the UFC, is considered greatly unprofessional and disrespectful to your opponent that did make weight. Unless you agree to a catchweight bout, you then don’t make money) but there is always a first time for everything.
1. Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson
This recommendation is made out of positive reasoning: at the UFC’s recent event in Kansas City, Missouri, DJ made history by tying the overall UFC championship-defense record set by Anderson “The Spider” Silva at ten defenses. He’s been chasing that record for quite some time and with one more bout, could set a new record.
The flyweight (125-pound) champion has also been in the center of “greatest of all time” conversations for awhile, with UFC President Dana White putting him on that list at the UFC on Fox 24. Now, Johnson is hearing that he should shatter the record with as many title defenses as possible. The problem is though that he’s essentially “lapped” his division by taking out every viable contender.
Johnson’s last win against Wilson Reis was another great display that, surprisingly, ended thanks to a “Mighty Mouse” armbar against a skilled jiu-jitsu fighter and it still did low ratings. At first, this was due to a combination of fans not appreciating his methodical tactics (in a similar fashion to Georges “Rush” St-Pierre, Johnson often gets discounted as a point-based fighter.) The other part was due to a lackluster level of promotion before the fight. No one casual fans had a clue who Wilson Reis was and Johnson didn’t see any advertising of his bout until a couple of days beforehand.
Johnson was decent at bantamweight (135 pounds) and it feels like he has unfinished business with Dominick “The Dominator” Cruz. A rare champion vs. champion clash between “Mighty Mouse” and bantamweight champion Cody “No Love” Garbrandt is a pay-per-view worthy contest that may finally get Johnson the seven-figure payday he’s been looking for.
Garbrandt feels that Johnson should have to earn his 135 shot and aside from that, Johnson may be looking to retire at 125. He said after his last victory:
“People say I need to go up and do this, do that,” Johnson said. “Why not be the greatest ever? UFC went out and signed a whole bunch of great new flyweight talent and I would not mind putting my name against their’s and giving them a loss.”
Johnson is open to Garbrandt coming down in weight to his division though. He expects to make his 11th title defense at some point next fall.