Where Do They Belong? Weighing in on Weight Classes Post-UFC 181

sergio-pettisFighters often compete out of their natural fighting weight class, but sooner or later, they are forced to make the move. Giving up a size and strength advantage could be the difference-maker in a fight, especially amongst the elite of the sport who compete for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Newly-crowned UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler is the perfect example. After starting his career off at welterweight and going on an 8-2 run, including 4-2 in the UFC, “Ruthless” decided to make the move up to middleweight, where he went on to spend a decent chunk of his career. After facing Evan Tanner in his first 185 pound bout and losing via first round triangle choke submission, Lawler was released from the UFC and went on to post a 11-7-1 NC record, including going 3-5 under the Strikeforce banner. He dropped back down to his natural weight class of 170 pounds for his return to the UFC, where he has posted a 6-1 record, with the lone loss coming to the man he just defeated to claim the gold. Some fighters realize they need to make the move while they still have time to capitalize on their careers, which is what Lawler did. Another fighter on the UFC 181 fight card who needs to do that, in my opinion, is “Big Brown” Brendan Schaub. Despite being at a height and reach disadvantage against his opponent Travis Browne, Schaub weighed in a couple of pounds more than the Hawaiian. However, when they stand next to each other, it is clear that Browne is the much bigger fighter. In their main card bout for Saturday night’s UFC 181, “Big Brown” looked like a light heavyweight fighting a heavyweight. This brings me to my point: “Big Brown” needs to make the move down to 205 pounds. I believe he can successfully diet down to a ‘walking around weight’ of 225 pounds, and from there, make an easy cut down to 205. There is no doubt that he keeps improving from fight to fight; the main thing he has going against him is the size and strength advantage he is giving up to his opponents. I think he will have a brighter future competing in the UFC’s light heavyweight division, and hope that we see him there for his next outing. Granted, Travis Browne is one of the taller heavyweights on the roster, but I still think the move would be beneficial for Schaub. Another fighter competing out of his natural weight class at UFC 181 was Justin Jones, who actually stepped up from middleweight to light heavyweight to take on TUF 19 winner Corey Anderson on short notice. There’s no doubt Jones will be returning to 185 pounds for his next Octagon appearance, and there has been word that he may even be able to make 170 pounds. Whether welterweight is a realistic cut for him or not, I think Jones will be able to find success in the UFC’s middleweight division, considering he packs enough power to put even a heavyweights lights out. Currently finding success fighting out of their natural weight classes are the Pettis brothers, Anthony and Sergio. UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis defended his title for the first time in the co-main event of last night’s UFC 181, where he defeated former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez via second round guillotine choke submission. Without ever needing to cut much weight to make 155 pounds, “Showtime” has racked up an 18-2 record competing in the division, including 5-0 in the UFC with four finishes. Before capturing the UFC’s 155 pound title, he planned a move down to 145 pounds, where he was scheduled to challenge UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo for his belt. An injury forced him out of that bout, but he was doing better a few weeks later when then-UFC lightweight title challenger TJ Grant was forced out of his title fight with Benson Henderson due to an injury of his own. Pettis stepped in for the injured Grant and took on Henderson in a rematch, defeating him via armbar submission in the first round of action; and all of it in front of his hometown crowd in Milwaukee. Sergio Pettis has been successfully following in his older brother’s footsteps. After fighting at bantamweight only twice and being at flyweight for most of his professional mixed martial arts career, “The Phenom” made his UFC debut in the bantamweight division, and has decided to call it his home. Now 3-1 in the UFC’s 135 pound division with the lone loss being a third round rear naked choke submission to Alex “Bruce Leeroy” Caceres, there is no doubt that Sergio is solid at bantamweight. Coming off a unanimous decision victory over former Legacy FC bantamweight champion Matt “The Crowbar” Hobar in a ‘Fight of the Night’ award-winning scrap, the 21-year old proved he belongs. While I think he will continue to find success at 135 pounds simply based on his great skills and speed, I think he would be better off in the flyweight division, which is in more dire need of talent. His road to a title shot at 125 pounds would certainly be a lot easier than it currently is at bantamweight. Also, I think he will produce much better fights fighting the best at 125 pounds, and have a fair chance at winning, whereas I think the best fighters at 135 pounds will be too much for him. “The Phenom” has said in post-fight interviews that he plans to make the move back. I think it is best that he is opting to do it now on a high note after a couple of wins, rather than later on after another loss. I think the Duke Roufus product is going to be making waves in the UFC’s flyweight division and look forward to his next Octagon outing.

Written by Gabe Killian

Leave a Reply

MMA Odds and Ends for Monday: TUF 20 Finale Sneak Peek

The Five Count: Top Storylines from UFC 181 Fallout