Every year a few fighters feel the itch. Whether it's due to a perceived lack of competition, a need for career rejuvenation, or the potential for a career defining fight, a few fighters inevitably look to a new weight class as the next stage of their career. Recently there has been a rash of announced moves; here's a quick rundown of which fighters are looking to change.
Papy Abedi has announced, through MMANytt, that he will be moving to middleweight following a largely unsuccessful stint in the UFC's welterweight division. In 2011 Abedi was Bloody Elbow's no. 1 middleweight prospect, in the World MMA Scouting Report. But as so many fighters making their octagon debut decide, he dropped a weight class to compete at the highest level. Now, following a 1-2 stretch, including a less than impressive split decision victory over Besam Yousef at UFC on Fuel TV 9, he's decided to go back to his original weight. Hopefully he finds some of the early success that saw him valued so highly.
Kelvin Gastelum also made news recently, not only by winning the TUF 17 tournament in a massive upset over hyper-prospect Uriah Hall, but by immediately announcing his drop to the welterweight division. He has never competed in MMA at welterweight and has a very stocky frame, but at only 5'9" it feels like the best home for his long term career. As a comparison Abedi, who's moving in the other direction, is 5'11".
Mousasi actually fought for much of his early career at middleweight, defeating Hector Lombard as part of the Pride 2006 Welterweight Grand Prix (Pride Welterweight = 183 lbs). He had an incredibly successful middleweight run with victories over Dennis Kang, Melvin Manhoef, and Ronaldo Souza, before eventually moving up to light heavyweight for the Dream Super Hulk Open Weight Grand Prix. He's been quite successful since then with his only loss coming in a misfit matchup against Mo Lawal, where he was deducted a point for an illegal upkick.
Nate Diaz has brought up the idea of a weight change as well, as part of his run up to Saturday's bout with Josh Thomson. Citing a lack of motivation and career direction along with the belief that training partner Gilbert Melendez would soon be sitting atop the division, he's making it known that this was his last fight in the lightweight division for some time.
"I'm not huntin' (the title) right now, honestly. My boy is about to put it down and hold the belt for the next ... I don't even know how long. I'm probably gonna bail up outta this weight division as soon as this fight is done. I fought everybody at lightweight already." (transcription via MMAMania)
I personally don't put a lot of weight behind career announcements pre-fight, so I'd wait and see if he says it again now that the fight is over, before assuming he's really gone from the lightweight scene. That said, he sounds serious, and he went 2-2 in the division before dropping back down for his title run, so there's a history there.
Hector Lombard threw the idea of a drop to 170 out on twitter with his announcement that he'll be working with Mike Dolce to develop a new nutrition regime. Dolce is the unofficial weight cut guru of the UFC, so it's not a big leap to think he'll be moving down before long. How well it goes for him remains to be seen. He's fought at welterweight before, but it's been a long time, and he's getting to the age where making the cut gets harder and harder.
Rousimar Palhares announced, via Portal do Vale Tudo, that he would be attempting a practice cut to the welterweight division. Things have been pretty rough for "Toquinho" lately as he's currently suspended, rehabbing a broken foot, and changing camps. He's landed with Team Nogueira, so I think the camp change is a good thing, but he's never fought at welterweight before. With strength such an integral part of his game, he may find himself too depleted at 170lbs to make the most of his skills.
In an interview I'll be running later this week, Chris Clements has announced that he'll be working towards a drop to the lightweight division. He most recently fought and took a no-contest to Matt Riddle, after Riddle failed a post fight drug test. He's always looked a little inflated as a welterweight so I think a move down is the best idea. It sounds like he wants to take one more fight at welterweight before making the drop, so we'll see if his plans hold true, or are predicated on his in-the-ring performance.
Jose Aldo has long talked of moving up to 155. Not only has a potential shot at the lightweight title been teased (pending the outcome of his fight against Anthony Pettis in August), but Benson Henderson recently went on record, to say that he'd like to fight Aldo in Brazil. Given that there isn't a clear no.1 contender in the lightweight division (post Gil Melendez) and that Aldo and Henderson both want the fight, it's not totally unreasonable to think we might see this sometime late this year or early next.
The Anderson Silva Triangle is officially still in the air. This is, of course, referring to the potential series of "super fights" that the UFC has been teasing for the past several years, involving Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, and Georges St. Pierre. Only this week Dana White brought them back to our attention, stating his desire to see Anderson vs. Jon Jones at Madison Square Garden for the UFC 20th Anniversary event in November.
However, in nearly the same breath he's reignited talk of Anderson Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre, stating:
If Georges wants to fight Anderson Silva, we're not going to tell him `No, you have to fight Johny Hendricks.'
While the ideas of catchweight bouts have been posited for either fight, realistically they'd both probably mean meeting the larger fighter at their own weight. Rumors have been swirling, that GSP has a "master plan," the end goal of which is a middleweight fight against Anderson Silva, followed by retirement. And given Anderson's history of moving up to light heavyweight for showcase fights, it's hard to imagine that Jon Jones would end up dropping any weight to fight him.
That's everything that's in the air for now, at least concerning weight classes. We'll be sure to keep you posted if and when any new announcements arise.
(Thanks to VenusBlue for reminding me that Pride welterweight was everyone else's middleweight)