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MMA Barometer: Shopping Weight Classes

Evan Dahl

Evan Dahl is a law student who has been a die-hard MMA fan for over a decade. Outside of MMA, he roots for the Broncos, Brewers and Bucks.

A recent trend in the UFC has been fighters disregarding weight classes. It all seemed to start with Conor McGregor jumping from featherweight to welterweight to challenge Nate Diaz. McGregor was initially finished in the second round by Diaz, and then won a razor-thin split decision in the rematch. This gave many fighters confidence that if McGregor could compete after jumping two weight classes, they could certainly do the same by moving only one weight class. However, what many of the fighters have not taken into account is McGregor is a natural 155 pound fighter, and he is arguably the most talented fighter in the world with power that can translate to any weight class, featherweight to welterweight. Many other fighters do not enjoy the same power and striking prowess that McGregor has.

This has moved into many weight divisions. The most noteworthy fighter jumping weight classes is Georges St. Pierre moving to middleweight to challenge for Michael Bisping’s title. This is not as much of a stretch of some of the other fighters wanting to jump weight classes -- St. Pierre is one of the best to ever step in the Octagon -- but the majority of fighters have no business suggesting they jump weight classes, up or down.

Recently, middleweight contender Luke Rockhold has claimed he will fight Fabricio Werdum at heavyweight. Rockhold has competed at light heavyweight (205 pounds), but facing a 230-pound Werdum would not be a good idea for Rockhold. If the fight went to the mat, he would have to deal with arguably the most talented Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner in the sport, and he would be at a size disadvantage. Another example is Tyron Woodley suggesting he could move up to challenge Bisping. Woodley barely defeated Stephen Thompson, and is not so out-of-this world talented that he could dominate at middleweight just like he does at welterweight. On the end of the spectrum, bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt claims that he could go down to flyweight to challenge Demetrious Johnson. Even though the weight might be feasible to get down to, Garbrandt is a thick human being and it would be likely he would reach a point of diminishing returns and have a hard time possessing the stamina to hang with Johnson for five rounds. Much like Woodley, Garbrandt has not proven himself dominant at bantamweight as he has not even defended the belt. Prior to that he was the No.8-ranked UFC bantamweight, and has not proven he is a dominant champion with the skills to jump to foreign weight classes to compete with the very best in the sport.

Hopefully the UFC does not make a habit of matching up fighters in new weight classes with top tier opponents in the new weight class, because those fights will be very unpredictable and could also result in the fighters changing weight classes to take a lot of damage, shortening their careers.

As always, below is your MMA barometer with rising, falling, and check status fighters.

Rising



Glover Teixeira (UFC - Light Heavyweight)

Even though he just got back on the winning track, Glover has won four out of his last five contests. His lone loss was a first round knockout to Anthony Johnson. Even though it was a brutal knockout, the loss shed very little light on Glover’s overall skills. He is one of the most dangerous fighters in the division standing, but it is Glover’s total body of work that put him at the top of the light heavyweight division. Teixeira can mix great knockout powers with above-average takedowns to keep his opponent guessing. He showcased this against Jared Cannonier in a fight where he took down Cannonier and showed a good top game in controlling Cannonier throughout the fight.

In his next fight, Glover faces a still test in former titleholder Alexander Gustafsson. Gustafsson took Jon Jones to the brink of defeat, and is highly skilled in all areas of mixed martial arts. Teixeira can put anybody out with his striking, and is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blackbelt. He can beat anybody in the division, and his only three losses in the UFC have come to Jon Jones, No. 1-ranked UFC light heavyweight Anthony Johnson, and now-Bellator champion Phil Davis. Ten of Glover’s twelve wins have been finishes, and although Gustafsson has shown toughness in the past, “The Mauler” is unsure of his future in the sport and is ripe for a statement victory from Teixeira.

Next Fight: Alexander Gustafsson, UFC Fight Night: Gustafsson vs. Teixeira (May 28, 2017)

Edson Barboza (UFC - Lightweight)

Ever since a second round submission loss to now-No.2-ranked UFC lightweight Tony Ferguson, Barboza has looked rejuvenated, and in the best form of his career. In his last fight against Beneil Dariush, Barboza did an excellent job of defending takedowns before, as is always possible with Barboza, landing a highlight reel knee out of nowhere. This has been Barboza’s calling card throughout his career, and he is one of the most explosive strikers in the sport. His most devastating strikes are, without a doubt, his kicks. It is rumored Barboza sometimes struggles to find training partners because his kicks are so powerful, and his leg kicks, in particular, are spectacularly quick and devastating.

In his next fight, Barboza will get another crack at a top-tier lightweight. With the success he is enjoying, it is hard to see anybody defeating Barboza , save a dominant wrestler. This is unfortunate because the top of the heap at lightweight consists of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, both strong grapplers and with Ferguson already holding a submission victory over Barboza. However, Barboza has showed improved takedown defense, with a career average of 87 percent, and his leg kicks could slow down the pressure of both grapplers. The elephant in the room, of course, is Conor McGregor. Barboza’s forte is his striking, but, to this point, nobody at featherweight or lightweight has been able to stand with McGregor. A better matchup for Barboza, with McGregor tied to an epic showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Ferguson and Nurmagomedov looking to finally square off, would be Dustin Poirier. Poirier may be currently scheduled to face Eddie Alvarez at UFC 211 in May, but is a striker and would be an exciting matchup for Barboza. It would be a fight Barboza would be favored in, and he could certainly be next in line for a title shot after the winner of Ferguson and Nurmagomedov.

Next Fight: TBA

Check Status



Will Brooks (UFC - Lightweight)

After a stellar career in Bellator where Will Brooks captured the Bellator lightweight strap and defeated one of the best 155 lbs. fighters in the world (Michael Chandler) twice, Brooks finally made the transition to the UFC. He started out with a unanimous decision victory over tough veteran Ross Pearson, but then faced a setback in his second fight against Alex Oliveira. Normally, this would not warrant Brooks being in “Check Status,” but there were extenuating circumstances surrounding the fight. Oliveira missed weight by a significant 5.5 pounds. During the fight, Oliveira fought with a strategy that was helped by his extra weight, and clinched with Brooks for much of the fight. Oliveira seemed to be the stronger man and used knees in the clinch to damage Brooks’ ribs, ultimately stopping him in the third round. Even though he lost the fight, Brooks was at a disadvantage from the opening bell.

In his fight this Saturday against Charles Oliveira, Brooks will look to get back on the winning track. His well-roundedness will be important as Oliveira is a talented submission artist. It may be best for Brooks to stay on the feet and use footwork and movement to defeat Oliveira, but do not be surprised if he takes Oliveira down. Brooks has good top pressure and a lot of experience which will make it difficult for Oliveira to submit Brooks if Brooks is on top. If Brooks can avoid sweeps, he should be in good position. There is little chance Oliveira takes Brooks down as Brooks has 86 percent takedown defense in the UFC, and Oliveira has only been successful on 38 percent of his takedowns in his UFC career. Brooks has a good chance to get a win and get back in the hunt for title contention in the UFC lightweight division.

Next Fight: Charles Oliveira, UFC 210: Cormier vs. Johnson 2 (April 8, 2017)

Falling



Patrick Cummins (UFC - Light Heavyweight)

After losing three of his last four fights since 2015, Cummins is in need of a win. His first two losses were against strong competition in Ovince St. Preux and Glover Teixeira, but his last loss, in May 2016, came against an over-the-hill Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. On top of that, it was a first round knockout, and his other two losses were via knockout as well. Even though Teixeira and St. Preux have above-average power, Nogueira is not known as a knockout artist, especially at this age. It seems as if Cummins has a susceptible chin, but that might not be the worst trait to have in his next fight.

On Saturday, Cummins fights Jan Blachowicz. Blachowicz has six first-round finishes in a 25 fight career, but he has gone to a decision in four of his first five UFC fights. This is good news for Cummins because if he doesn’t have to worry about Blachowicz’s power, he has a great chance to win. Blachowicz has only 33 percent takedown defense through his UFC career, per UFC.com, and Cummins is a standout wrestler from Penn State. Furthermore, Cummins has achieved at least three takedowns in every UFC fight he has competed in, save his two first round knockout losses. Cummins should be able to take Blachowicz down at will and get a decision victory if he can’t pound Blachowicz out on the ground. Cummins should start to turn around his cold streak this Saturday.

Next Fight: Jan Blachowicz, UFC 210: Cormier vs. Johnson 2 (April 8th, 2017)

Thiago Alves (UFC - Welterweight)

Ever since the new USADA testing policy was adopted, Thiago Alves has not been the same fighter. His body doesn’t look the same, and his performance has suffered. After getting manhandled by Carlos Condit, Alves attempted to move to lightweight to rejuvenate his career. He began his switch in weight class by missing weight by a whopping 6.6 pounds, and then went on to lose to the smaller Jim Miller. Jim Miller is always a tough customer, but Alves was outclassed and it was not the ideal way to begin a run at lightweight. In his fight this Saturday, Alves will return to welterweight after commenting the weight cut was too much.

This Saturday, Alves does not get an easy fight in his return to 170 lbs. He fights Patrick Cote, a fighter who was on a great run until he was derailed by Donald Cerrone after a three-fight winning streak which included two knockouts. Cote has competed in as high of a weight class as light heavyweight, and he certainly has some of the most dangerous power in the UFC welterweight division. This could spell trouble for Alves because he likes to engage in firefights, and Cote is a tough customer when it comes to a stand and trade brawl. If Alves chooses to fight Cote recklessly, he could be in for a short night because of the bigger man’s power.

Next Fight: Patrick Cote, UFC 210: Cormier vs. Johnson 2 (April 8, 2017)