Fighters moving weight: The Good and the Bad


Brandon Vera is reportedly moving back to heavyweight to take on Ben Rothwell at UFC 164. I had always thought Vera moving down did him no good, as he wasn’t able to keep on the muscle he carries while cutting weight and the speed advantage he has against the big guys was completely gone at 205. This in my opinion is a great decision by him.

It also got me thinking; how many fighter’s have had success moving weight classes in their careers’? How many have faltered? How many have basically just stayed on the same course they were following before moving on to a new setting?

Below I’m going to list off some successes, some failures, and some instances where guys just basically broke even after moving up or down. Because sometimes, bigger isn’t better. However, sometimes it is.

Randy Couture

Randy moved between the heavyweight and light-heavyweight divisions with a simplicity few can match in his career. He began his career at heavyweight, and quickly captured the UFC title (while also having moderate success in Japan). He then dropped down to thrown a wrench in to the UFC‘s plans at 205 that were to involve Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, and Vitor Belfort.

After losing his last two fights against Chuck, Randy moved up to challenge Tim Sylvia for the heavyweight title (after a brief retirement). Randy turned back the clock that night, and dominated Sylvia over 5 rounds in a fight that captured most mma fans’ imagination. Randy had some moderate success over the last 6 or 7 fights of his career, but will always be remember (along with BJ Penn) as a fighter who captured a UFC title in multiple weight classes.

Brandon Vera

Vera bursted on the scene with knockouts of UFC heavyweights Fabiano Scherner and Justin Eilers (RIP). He then went on to submit the bjj blackbelt Assuerio Silva, and put away Frank Mir with punches in just his 8th fight. His fight with Tim Sylvia (to decide the next hw contender) was close, but an early injury in the bout let Timmy take control late. His next fight was a bit of a premature stoppage against World champion grappler Fabricio Werdum, so his stock wasn’t exactly sunk at heavyweight.

He decided to ply his craft at 205 afterwards though, and the experiment never really went well. He had some good showings against Randy and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, but that killer who had lethal speed and power never really showed up again. If Brandon regains that fire at heavyweight, then the five year drop to 205 might be the worst weight change in mma’s history.

Michael Bisping

At first you would think, “sure, Bisping’s drop must have done wonders for his career”. However, if you really take everything into account he hasn’t done much better at middleweight. His lone loss in the light-heavyweight division was to future champion Rashad Evans, and in that case it was by the slimmest of margins.

He’s had more losses in the middleweight division, but his competition there was much better (and he’s been seen as a title contender now for a few years). The weight change is still a wash until Bisping can get over that proverbial hump into a title fight, though.

Tyson Griffin

At 5’6, and that’s probably being generous, Griffin always seemed a bit short for the lightweight division. Sure, he was bulky and could hold his own with most in the wrestling aspect, but it always was a question of “could he dominate with his strength at 145”? Well, that answer was a resounding “no”.

Griffin tested the waters at featherweight in 2011, and never looked good. After a close fight with Manny Gamburyan, which he took a majority decision in, he was knocked out by Bart Palaszewski after failing to make weight at UFC 137. He is now with the WSOF, and back at 155lbs.

Tim Boetsch

“The Barbarian” was a lower level gatekeeper type light-heavyweight in his career. He has some good performances, like when he threw David Heath on his head like a sack of potatoes, but he also had some bad ones against the likes of Phil Davis and Matt Hamill. He was a limited, yet exciting fighter that seemed destined to bounce between the UFC and lower level regional promotions.

When he dropped weight to fight Kendall Grove in 2011 things changed. He’s gone 4-1 with wins over Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard, and his only loss coming to the highly touted Constantinos Philippou. It has been a welcomed turn around for a guy who was never thought of as small for 205lbs by an stretch of the imagination.

Anderson Silva

The greatest competitor to come in mixed martial arts so far is another example of a fighter who has bounced around weight classes. He’s famous for knocking out a list of future hall-of-famers in the UFC at 185lbs and above. What many don’t realize is he was once a highly respected welterweight.

After Matt Hughes took the 170lb strap off of Carlos Newton in 2001 most challengers were thought to be in Japan. Names like Hayato “Mach” Sakurai were thrown around, along with Frank Trigg and Matt’s nemesis Dennis Hallman. However, another many thought would be interesting at the time was Sakurai’s conqueror, Anderson Silva. Silva was never able to agree to terms with the UFC, and eventually filled out to become a living weapon at middleweight. The jump has, no doubt, been for the better.


Now Lowkickers, it’s your turn. Tell me who you think has brought prosperity to their career, or wrecked their future by moving weight classes. Discuss!


  • @Evan ….Frankie edgar is an interesting guy to mention…I don't know what you call his situation….he was criticised for being in a weight class too high, yet came so close losing out a decision.

    • I think I'd call his dropping a failure. Not because he lost to Aldo (although it plays a part), but because it was the wrong decision. His success comes from his speed at LW, and his ability to outwrestle bigger guys. He lost a terrible decision to Ben in the second fight, and really should still be the title holder (not considering what would have happened against GIl).

      At FW, his speed is just a bit above average. I don't see him ever beating Aldo, and I don't see him beating Mendes either.

      • There are so many guys out there right now flirting with division changes….Cormier, Lombard, nate Diaz, Pettis, even mousasi considering going to middleweight. Maia is definetly having success at welterweight.

  • How was BJ Penn left out? He's fought in nearly every weight class in existence while he was active? He even fought Machida at HW.

    • He was mentioned with Randy as the only two weight class belt holder in the UFC.

      Other than that I wanted to bring a broad spectrum of fighters that had success, failures, and just stayed even. BJ had success moving, but Anderson and Randy had more.

      However, if you wanted to mention him you're more than welcome. That's what the end of the article was speaking on.

      • BJ Penn alswo was two weight class belt holder in ufc…

      • No body did more in the P4P debates then BJ Penn. He even left the UFC so he could fight better fighters in Japan. Regardless of weight class.

        He left UFC to fight the gracies in Japan at MW. Other then Sakuraba. He was one of the few who helped end the Gracies untouchable dynasty. He then fought Machida who came in at 220 lbs which was his 2nd lose.

        He beat Matt Hughes in his prime!

        Randy did well, but nothing compared to BJ Penn. If Penn played it safe and stayed at LW his record would look like what new MMA fans would want to see. You also need to meet BJ in person. Watching him on TV is one thing. The moment you start meeting fighters, you're blown away by the size difference of some of these guys. Meet Machida and BJ Penn in RL. You'll be blown away they actually fought. The RL size difference between the two is INSANE. BJ looks maybe 160 lbs soaking wet in RL.

        Lets not forget Sakuraba who fought a weight class too night his whole career.

        • -Nobody doing more in the PFP debate is more than arguable. WHen he left the UFC he didn't fight a single top 10 opponent above 170 lbs, and his fight with Machida was Lyoto's sixth match in MMA (back when everybody called him "Ryoto").

          -Yes, he beat Matt Hughes in his prime. He also lost to Jens Pulver in his prime, and is currently 4-6-1 in fights above the 160lb mark.

          -He didn't do anything to kill the Gracie era/myth. It had long been destroyed by guys like Sakuraba and Kiyoshi Tamura.

          -I've met BJ Penn. Spent the day at his gym in Hilo. Have been a fan of his since 2003. I've also met Machida around UFC 94. Penn is a natural 155lber. Machida is natural 185lber. Machida is definitely bigger, and nobody is disputing that.

          -Sakuraba only had success in one weight class though. His lone foray into HW was a mixed bag as he "beat" Mezger (which was a robbery), beat Royce in an iconic matchup, then was destroyed by Igor. At MW, he never won any titles.

          I'm not trying to say BJ Penn is horrible here either. But pretending that what he did in his career was so much better that Couture is naive at best.

  • This topic is stupid, weight situation is perfect.
    By the way guys Sakuraba

  • Vera is going to get killed at heavyweight, even Shogun was too strong for him

    • He's not cutting weight for this fight.

    • Besides, we can make a little bet on how he'll do against Rothwell if you like.

      • Haha sly Evan sly, trying to get one past me by hoping I overrated Rothwell.

        He used to be pretty decent but his last few of performances, even with the improved physique, have been abysmal… even if I don't believe Vera will do worse at heavyweight I will never back Big Ben Rothwell

        • Ah, Keith. You're growing up nicely.

          • HW is a much easier class than LHW. Vera might kill at that wt.

  • Brandon Vera…….LOL.

  • Vera may be better at heavyweight, i dunno, but either way I think it was Jones that crashed his career