Anthony “Rumble” Johnson used to be the world’s biggest welterweight MMA fighter. He went into fights with an enormous size advantage, often bludgeoning opponents with strikes or overwhelming them with takedowns. But with the size advantage came a massive weight cut. Eventually, it caught up to Johnson. After struggling to make the 170 pound weight limit, Johnson decided to move up to middleweight to fight Vitor Belfort. But then, disaster struck, as the former 170 pound fighter could only manage to cut down to 197 pounds. Johnson lost in the first round and was cut from the UFC.
After that, Johnson was left with no choice but to fight at light-heavyweight, a full two weight classes and 35 pounds higher than welterweight, where Johnson fought in the UFC. Disaster waiting to happen? Hardly. Johnson has won all four of his fights since being cut by the UFC, three by stoppage. Granted, Johnson hasn’t been taking on guys like Vitor Belfort, but so far, his move to 205 has yielded nothing but success. Now, per Mike Whitman of Sherdog, Johnson considers the move to 205 the best he’s ever made.
Weight and size are badly overrated factors in mixed martial arts. While some are clamoring for the UFC to add a 230 pound division or a 195 pound division, fighters like Johnson are showing that it’s not size that matters, it’s skill.
Take, for example, the list of fighters who moved down from lightweight to featherweight in the UFC recently. Tyson Griffin was knocked out by Bart Palaszewski and got cut. Joe Stevenson lost to Javier Vazquez and got cut. Cole Miller lost to Steven Siler and Nam Phan. Ross Pearson got knocked out by Cub Swanson. Charles Oliveira also got knocked out by Cub Swanson. I can go on.
Meanwhile, some were suckered in to thinking Forrest Griffin would beat Anderson Silva because he was bigger. Anderson Silva embarrassing Forrest Griffin (and later Stephan Bonnar) is the perfect example of skill trumping size.
My advice to MMA fighters is this: if moving down a weight class gives you a career opportunity, as is the case with Frankie Edgar right now, AND the weight cut is reasonable, then go for it. Otherwise, don’t expect dropping a weight class to be your salvation. Learn the lesson taught by Anthony Johnson.