5 Fighters Who Should Change Weight Classes

Dan Hiergesell@DHiergesellFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2013

5 Fighters Who Should Change Weight Classes

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    There has been a new epidemic of sorts in today's mixed martial arts.

    As a means of building speed, packing on muscle or implementing new title plans, fighters are morphing careers by jumping weight classes.

    Some do it to escape a divisional collapse. Others do it to test their skills at an entirely different level. 

    So, on the heels of popular weight class shifts by notable athletes such as Frankie Edgar and Daniel Cormier, here are five other fighters who should seek a change in scenery.

Donald Cerrone

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    With new top contenders like Gilbert Melendez, Josh Thomson and Khabib Nurmagomedov gaining ground by the day, mid-tier lightweights like Donald Cerrone have been pushed aside.

    Sure, Cerrone hasn't been as consistent as you would like a potential title challenger to be, but he's displayed some of the best striking in the division over the past few years.

    Not to mention, "The Cowboy" has logged 11 fights since his debut back in 2011, including five in that same year.

    However, people tend to forget how dangerous he can be because Anthony Pettis practically detached his liver from his body at UFC on Fox 6.

    If Cerrone truly wants to stay afloat as a 30-year-old marksman with one last title run in him, his best chances remain at featherweight.

    The weight cut isn't all too drastic, and his kickboxing pedigree would flourish even more than it is right now with a more sustainable reach advantage. Plus, he'd only have to win two or three fights to reach top contender status. 

Nate Diaz

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    Similar to Donald Cerrone, Nate Diaz doesn't have much to fight for at lightweight.

    Recent losses to Benson Henderson and Josh Thomson ultimately land him last on a long list of lightweights trying to conquer champion Anthony Pettis.

    Diaz does still possess the overall popularity and versatility to contend with the top dogs at 155, but he isn't the type of guy that's going to fight unless a shiny UFC belt is on the line.

    Considering long-time welterweight king Georges St-Pierre just stepped down, Diaz might want to make a move back to the division he called home roughly two years ago.

    Diaz didn't have much success back then, but he's a smarter fighter now—one who knows what he has to do to win key fights and get back into title contention.

    Assuming his recent destruction of Gray Maynard can hold up under the brightest of microscopes, the California native could potentially challenge for the welterweight crown by the end of next year.

    However, he'll have to make a move soon before guys like Rory MacDonald, Jake Ellenberger and Demian Maia regain their footing.

Mauricio "Shogun" Rua

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    Mauricio "Shogun" Rua may have just decapitated James Te Huna at UFC Fight Night 33, but the fact remains that he has posted a pedestrian 3-3 UFC record after losing the light heavyweight championship to Jon Jones back in 2011.

    Granted, the majority of Rua's battles inside the Octagon have produced memorable action (i.e. Dan Henderson and Brandon Vera).

    In any case, as an aging veteran who seems to be overwhelmed by the athletic prowess and physical dimensions of the core group of divisional contenders (Alexander Gustafsson), the Brazilian must make a change now.

    He's still relatively young (32) and always seems to be improving his power. If he can cut weight, gain some speed, utilize a bigger body at middleweight and attack the division's growing title scene, "Shogun" could rejuvenate a stagnant career.

    The fact that he'd be avoiding a rumored light heavyweight showdown with Phil Davis, per Damon Martin of Fox Sports, would be icing on the cake. 

Rashad Evans

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    Currently scheduled to battle divisional newcomer Daniel Cormier at UFC 170, former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans seems to be on the rise again.

    It wasn't until a recent demolition of good friend Chael Sonnen that fans were willing to forget two lackluster performances by "Suga" earlier this year opposite Dan Henderson and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.

    Now back with an impressive first-round finish, it looks like Evans is working his way back to a rematch with Jon Jones. However, with Jones leaning towards a weight class change of his own, Evans may be staying around for nothing.

    For years, people have been shouting for the 34-year-old to drop down to middleweight and challenge the likes of Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort and Michael Bisping.

    Despite his recent success, that still seems to be the right move. The future just isn't that bright at 205 for a guy who has lost two of three title fights.

    So for Evans and the UFC to get the best value from a big pay-per-view draw in the final years of his career, he needs to drop down to 185 following his bout with Cormier, regardless of the outcome. 

Anthony Pettis

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    It seems weird for a newly crowned king to leave his castle, but in some ways it makes perfect sense.

    Anthony Pettis has already been connected with a potential move to featherweight in an effort to capture his second UFC title and kick pound-for-pound great Jose Aldo to the curb.

    On the heels of another crucial knee injury, now may be the best time for Pettis to make that move.

    Not only for the sake of taking all the time he needs to finally get healthy, but to test the level of competition in a completely different way.

    As of right now, besides Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson, there aren't too many big names in the lightweight division that are going to keep "Showtime" busy for the next two or three years.

    At featherweight, which has transformed into one of the deepest divisions in the UFC right before our very own eyes, the opportunities are limitless.

    Guys like Chad Mendes, Cub Swanson, Frankie Edgar, Chan-Sung Jung, Dustin Poirier, Ricardo Lamas and even Conor McGregor offer Pettis more than what he'd find at 155.

    Even if Aldo isn't around to welcome him, it seems as if the recently instated lightweight champ should drop 10 pounds, bring his evolving talents to a more diverse weight class and prove that he is one of the best pound-for-pound threats on the planet.


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