By Ben Goldstein
“When in doubt, drop a weight class” — that’s been the mantra for many MMA fighters who have hit rough patches in their careers. Of course, shaving 10-20 pounds off your body is no guarantee of future success, and it occasionally leaves fighters worse off than when they started. Following a week that saw Demian Maia, Dan Miller, and Nik Lentz all decide to seek their fortunes against smaller opponents, we decided to round up a few notable fighters who revitalized themselves at a lighter weight, and a few that became cautionary tales for weight-dropping. Read on, and let us know which UFC fighters should consider taking the weight-class plunge…
After racking up a 9-0 record — not to mention belts at lightweight and featherweight for the Total Combat promotion — Dominick Cruz challenged Urijah Faber for the WEC featherweight title in March 2007. Unfortunately, Cruz fell into a guillotine choke and tapped at the 1:38 mark of round 1. Cruz addressed the setback by dropping to bantamweight the following year, and has since gone on another 9-0 run at 135, collected the WEC and UFC bantamweight belts, and exacted revenge against his arch-nemesis, the California Kid. We’ll see if he can make it two in a row against Faber in June, but for now, it seems that dropping to bantamweight was the best move of Dominick’s career.
As physically imposing as Tim Boetsch looked at light-heavyweight, the powerful wrestlers at the top of the division (see: Matt Hamill, Jason Brilz, Phil Davis) always foiled his momentum up the UFC ranks. Last year, the Barbarian made the decision to drop to 185, and hasn’t sacrificed an ounce of his power in the process. Decision wins over Kendall Grove and Nick Ring proved that he belonged in the middleweight mix, and his extraordinary comeback win over Yushin Okami at UFC 144 earned him a high-profile match against Michael Bisping — another fighter who found greater success dropping from light-heavyweight to middleweight.
You don’t have to agree with his politics or sense of humor, but you can’t argue with success. Volkmann was thrown into the deep end when he arrived to the UFC as a welterweight, suffering defeats against Paulo Thiago and Martin Kampmann. Tired of being manhandled by larger men, Volkmann dropped to 155 and has since gone on a 5-0 run, with wins over Efrain Escudero, Danny Castillo, and Antonio McKee.
Mark Munoz’s head-kick loss to Matt Hamill was the first defeat of his career, but like Dominick Cruz, Munoz took it as an immediate sign to test the waters further down the scale. As a middleweight, he has compiled an impressive 7-1 record, most recently stopping Chris Leben in the main event of UFC 138. Though an injury pulled Munoz from a fight against Chael Sonnen at UFC on FOX 2, his next fight could have him knocking on the door of a title shot.
Continue to the next page for the *not* so good…