The Trend of Switching Divisions

If one were to take a look at the UFC’s current welterweight roster, a noticeable trend is quite visible.  The top 10 in terms of the UFC rankings, is filled with some of the most dangerous and highly skilled combatants and always appears to be changing as the evolution of mixed martial arts continues.  Then there is the fact that three of the top 10 UFC welterweights were previously fighting in the lightweight division.  It’s fair to say those three men have done quite well for themselves.

Jorge Masvidal is coming off a competitive loss against Demian Maia in May, which was an unofficial #1 contender fight for Tyron Woodley’s UFC welterweight title.  Masvidal secured a title shot against then Strikeforce lightweight champion, Gilbert Melendez in late 2011, but came up short despite putting on a very game performance.  Unfortunately, he was unable to put together enough wins to climb up the UFC lightweight rankings to secure a title shot, but it was in 2015 that “Gamebred” decided to return to the welterweight division for the first time since 2010.  The weight cut was beginning to hamper Masvidal’s training and despite the size disadvantage he’s faced against opponents like Lorenz Larkin and Demian Maia, he’s managed to illustrate that his skill level is impressive enough to remain competitive against some of the best the 170 lb division has to offer.  With wins over Donald Cerrone, Jake Ellenberger, and Ross Pearson, Masvidal still finds himself in the title mix despite his loss against Maia.  A potential bout against Stephen Thompson could be on the horizon as well as a potential title shot in the future.

Masvidal’s last victim is fighting this Saturday night against former UFC welterweight champion, Robbie Lawler.  “Cowboy” Cerrone experienced his first loss since bumping up to the welterweight division in 2016 against “Gamebred.”  Cerrone pulled off four consecutive wins against the likes of Patrick Cote, Matt Brown and Rick Story in impressive fashion so the loss didn’t do too much harm to his resume.  Win or lose against Lawler, it’s obvious that the best “Cowboy” is the one who comfortably makes the welterweight limit.  The 170 lb division recently welcomed one of Cerrone’s previous opponents and former UFC lightweight champion who is on the smaller side compared to Masvidal and Cerrone.

Rafael dos Anjos once ruled the lightweight division and while his reign didn’t last as long as he had hoped, it offered him an opportunity to return to the drawing board and assess whether or not he would remain a lightweight competitor.  Fortunately, dos Anjos made the best decision for his health and is now on the brink of breaking into the title picture with a win over Neil Magny in September at UFC 215.

If one were to look at the landscape at lightweight, it’s clear that there are some viable candidates who could find themselves moving up to 170 lbs in the near future and finding similar success.  The first name being Khabib Nurmagomedov who admitted that the weight cutting aspect of MMA is one of the most difficult things he’s had to deal with.  Nurmagomedov has been nearly unstoppable inside of the cage, but the problem is we haven’t seen much action as of late whether due to injuries or the nightmare weight cut that forced him out of UFC 209.  “The Eagle” is in line for an interim UFC lightweight bout against Tony Ferguson sometime in the end of the year, which means we won’t see him making any drastic moves unless he loses or is unable to make the lightweight limit.

Speaking of Tony Ferguson, he has flirted with the idea of moving up a weight class to challenge for another title in the future.  Ferguson has a big frame for lightweight and can certainly make noise in the welterweight division if given the opportunity.  Right now Ferguson has his eyes set on winning gold at 155 lbs followed by a potential unification bout against Conor McGregor, but the option will always be present.  After all, he is 33 years old and generally weight cuts become more difficult with age.

Whether the trend of UFC fighters moving up in weight will continue has yet to be seen.  One positive note is that the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports voted to add the 165 lb, 175 lb, 195 lb, and 225 lb divisions on Wednesday.  The UFC hasn’t exactly been forthcoming to the idea of adding additional weight classes, but never say never.  For now, it’s always nice to endure the breath of fresh air when athletes make the decision to avoid the unpredictability of drastic weight cutting and fight closer to their walk around weight.

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