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.

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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.

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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.

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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!