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Dropping a Weight Class to Save Your Career: The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly

(Phil Davis: The UFC’s leading producer of new middleweights.)

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…

The Good

Dominick Cruz

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.

Tim Boetsch

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.

Jacob Volkmann

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

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…

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Cagepotato Comments

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linzhanaj- March 27, 2012 at 7:40 pm
Roy Nelson by Flying Armbar- March 26, 2012 at 11:05 pm
Honorable mention to Marcus Davis man he was in bad shape
GistoftheFist- March 26, 2012 at 7:58 pm
I wish I could go UP in weight. My cursed aquarius frame is so scrawny. I weigh less now than I did in high school. :(
RSparrow- March 26, 2012 at 10:10 pm
Awwww tell us more!
RaginAsian- March 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm
Nick Diaz at 155 springs to mind. Mike Swick didn't seem to do his career any favors by dropping to 170 either.
Tursmo- March 26, 2012 at 1:47 pm
Oh man, at first I thought Jardine was hitting himself. It took me a while to realize the other glove was red.
HandsofGold- March 26, 2012 at 1:08 pm
Jardine looks all kinds of fucked up!
MediocreThreat- March 26, 2012 at 1:08 pm
I think Kenny Florian should drop down to fly weight and challenge for the unclaimed belt.
BryanF- March 26, 2012 at 3:55 pm
I'd like to see Florian drop to Flyweight, go back up to welterweight, middleweight, and then lightheavyweight and heavyweight. And then finally drop back down to the newly created straw-weight. I want to see KenFlo lose a title shot in every division possible. Not because I hate him, but because if anyone can do it, it's KenFlo.
The12ozCurls- March 26, 2012 at 1:01 pm
Holy Shit! I always forget how horrific James Irvin looked at that weigh in. Dude looked like Kate Moss and Christian Bale from "The Machinist" had a kid that was stricken with HIV. Not a good look and even worse in-ring performance. I remember Joe Rogan saying that he looked like an alien. LOL.
KeithHackneyWindmillPalmStrike- March 26, 2012 at 1:00 pm
I didn't know James Irvin survived the learn something new every day
The_Dead_Cow- March 26, 2012 at 12:51 pm
Nate Diaz at 170 wasn't very good also.
KarmaAteMyCat- March 26, 2012 at 8:44 pm
Durp Durp
bgoldstein- March 26, 2012 at 12:57 pm
I should do a separate list for guys who went up in weight.
The Good: Overeem, Jake Shields
The Bad: Nate Diaz
The Ugly: Anthony Johnson, and that middleweight who tried to box Kimbo on Saturday.
anderson wanderlei paulo thiago alves silva- March 26, 2012 at 1:53 pm
and whoever is currently on the roster, "roy nelson"
anderson wanderlei paulo thiago alves silva- March 26, 2012 at 1:54 pm
that needs to move up or down