By Josh Hutchinson
Whether it’s Jon Jones wanting to move up to heavyweight, or everyone wanting Frankie Edgar to cut to 145, weight-class-shifting is a hot topic for MMA fans and pundits alike. And while we’ve recently covered the perils and benefits of dropping to a lower weight class, the same can be said for moving up in weight. After jumping to heavier divisions, some fighters’ proverbial stars have shined brighter, some have dimmed, and some have gone God-damn-supernova — and it’s never easy to predict who will have success. Check out some notable examples below, and tell us which other fighters you think would do well with some extra meat on their bones.
(Same guy as above, same backdrop, and yet something is different…)
All insinuations aside, Overeem is a prime example of success at moving up a weight class. As I previously mentioned, Overeem has gone 12-1-1 since making a full commitment to heavyweight, and while the quality of opponents he faced was often questionable, that is still a hell of a good run. If you take a look back at his time at light-heavyweight, the stats are not nearly as impressive. Overeem’s losses usually came at the hands of the light-heavyweight division’s top guys, like Chuck Liddell, Antônio Rogério Nogueira, and Ricardo Arona. His run at light-heavyweight showed that he couldn’t hang with the elites of the respective weight class, and was vulnerable to being manhandled by stronger opponents.
After doing whatever it is he did to bulk up, he turned his fortunes around and achieved the greatest stardom of his career, becoming the poster child for successful jumps up the weight-class ladder. If it wasn’t for some bad decision-making, he would be fighting for the sport’s highest prize this weekend. Here’s to hoping he gets his shit together soon.
What can be said that already hasn’t been about Captain America? (Sorry Stann, but there’s only room for one in my heart.) A man probably best known for his trilogy at light-heavyweight with Chuck Liddell — oh, and also for being a former interim light-heavyweight champ, and two-time unified light-heavyweight champ — Randy Couture also racked up accolades in the heavyweight division. Kicking off his MMA career by winning the UFC 13 heavyweight tournament in 1997, Randy went on to win the UFC’s heavyweight title three times.
Ten years later, after seven consecutive fights at light-heavyweight and a short lived “retirement,” the 43-year-old legend returned to take on then-heavyweight champ Tim Sylvia. (Note: a little piece of me dies every time I’m forced to mention “Tim Sylvia” and “champion” in the same sentence.) Couture’s dominant win over Sylvia and subsequent title defense against Gabriel Gonzaga were nothing short of inspiring. Randy managed to do what every man who’s experienced a mid-life crisis has only dreamed about. Besides, he also honorably represented the sport of MMA by making James Toney look as foolish as possible at UFC 118. For that alone, he gets a much deserved nod on our list.
Say what you will about Jake’s fighting style (boring as fuck, for the most part), but his move up to middleweight during his run in Strikeforce produced the best possible results. With wins over Robbie Lawler, Mayhem Miller, and Dan Henderson (!), Jake beat every top middleweight Strikeforce could throw at him. Since jumping to the UFC, Shields has dropped back down to 170, and hasn’t fared nearly as well, going 2-2, including a verrrrry questionable win over Martin Kampmann. Damn Jake, maybe you should think about moving back up in weight. Now that we’ve talked about that, can we all agree to never speak of Hendo vs. Shields again?
BJ Penn (2004)
Motivated, unmotivated, whatever you want to call it, BJ’s career has seen its share of peaks and valleys. But the fact still remains that when the UFC decided to temporarily scrap its 155-pound division in 2003, the Prodigy jumped up to welterweight, and managed to beat five-time defending welterweight champion Matt Hughes in his welterweight debut at UFC 46. Penn then decided to leave the promotion, making short work of Duane Ludwig at K-1 Romanex four months later. This was, of course, before he decided to fight anyone regardless of weight. Hang on, we’ll get to that…
Continue to the next page for the *not* so good.