Top 5 UFC Fighters Who Should Change Divisions Today
Changing weight classes has become a mainstay in today's MMA culture. Much like the Hollywood reboot, changing divisions remains one of the most valuable cards any fighter holds in his or her back pocket when things get rough.
Far too often are fighters plagued by simple things beyond their control.
Frankie Edgar saw that he no longer had a place amongst the UFC's elite lightweights after dropping two-straight losses to former lightweight champion Benson Henderson. A change in division afforded him an immediate title shot, and a sea of fighters who would no longer dwarf him inside the cage.
Even fighters who've had sustained success in their natural weight classes have their own personal reasons to drop down. Take Daniel Cormier, for example, who dropped 30 pounds to challenge for the light heavyweight crown while his training partner Cain Velasquez holds onto his heavyweight crown.
Whether it's because of competitive reasons or friendships, some fighters just need to create some ripples. Read on to see the top five fighters who should change divisions today.
5. Mauricio Rua
Professional Record: 22-9 (6-7 UFC)
Last Fight: Knockout loss to Dan Henderson at UFC Fight Night 38
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua is reaching a crossroads in his career that few other men ever do at 32. Having lost four times in his last six outings, it's obvious he's in trouble.
Maybe he just doesn't have the same motivation he once did after 12 years of fighting. Maybe, despite still being ranked amongst the UFC's top 10 light heavyweights, he no longer has what it takes to compete with those ranked above him.
Either way, something needs to change before we see Shogun succeed with any sort of consistency again. A drop to middleweight might just do the trick for the former light heavyweight king.
At just over six feet tall with a physique that could use some toning, Shogun could very well make the drop to 185 and compete with smaller fighters.
4. Dan Henderson
Professional Record: 30-12 (5-6 UFC)
Last Fight: Submission loss to Daniel Cormier at UFC 173
After Dan Henderson's last outing against Daniel Cormier, most of us were hoping we'd hear Hendo give a solid post-fight retirement speech and be on his merry way.
That didn't happen—he still thinks he has something to offer fans as a light heavyweight in the UFC.
But after getting rag-dolled by Cormier for three rounds, almost getting knocked out by Shogun, getting knocked out by Vitor Belfort and losing decisive split-decisions to Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida, it's obvious that Henderson has all but emptied his gas tank.
He's too small for the bigger light heavyweights and too slow for the smaller ones, a drop to middleweight could be what Hendo needs to get in better shape and finally give fans a competitive outing.
3. Rashad Evans
Professional Record: 19-3 (14-3 UFC)
Last Fight: TKO victory against Chael Sonnen at UFC 167
Here's where this list starts to get a little more complicated and a lot more controversial.
Rashad Evans isn't necessarily in need of a change in scenery because he can no longer compete with top-level competition in his native division. He needs to drop to middleweight because the longer he remains a top contender, the further he walks into a world of controversy.
He once tarnished a friendship with former training partner and current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones after the two men agreed to never fight each other. Things got a little rocky for the Greg Jackson-trained fighters once Jones won the title and Evans was the odd man out.
Now, Evans is on the verge of seeing a similar story play out—this time with surging light heavyweight contender Anthony Johnson and, to an extent, title contender Daniel Cormier.
He's already confirmed that he has no interest in fighting Johnson. Considering both of these men will likely remain atop the division for the foreseeable future, they're bound to clash at some point. Unless Evans leaves, that is.
2. Demetrious Johnson
Professional Record: 20-2-1 (8-1-1 UFC)
Last Fight: Unanimous decision victory against Ali Bagautinov at UFC 174
Okay, here's where things start to get crazier.
Demetrious Johnson is coming off of yet another dominant performance against a flyweight who had no business being in the Octagon with him. With the exception of John Dodson, Johnson holds a remarkable speed advantage over every single flyweight that the UFC has to offer.
But even a fighter as fast as Dodson couldn't keep up with Mighty Mouse's pace and technical abilities inside the cage—Johnson is, without a doubt, the best fighter at 125 pounds.
Really, the next best guy isn't even close.
A move up to his former bantamweight division would help Johnson create a better name for himself. Fights against Urijah Faber, Renan Barao, T.J. Dillashaw and Dominick Cruz would do so much more to further Mighty Mouse's career than the flyweight title ever could.
Your work is done here, Mighty Mouse. It's time to prove your dominance in deeper waters.
1. Anderson Silva
Professional Record: 33-6 (17-2 UFC)
Last Fight: TKO loss to Chris Weidman at UFC 168
After a gruesome broken leg in his last fight against Chris Weidman, many initially wondered if The Spider would ever make his way back into the Octagon. We had our answer in the following months. After about eight months, we have our date.
Anderson Silva is scheduled to square off against Nick Diaz in January.
Fantastic. What about Silva's career after Diaz, though?
He's already made it pretty clear that he wants nothing to do with Weidman, not for a third time. Considering he's still ranked as the No. 1 fighter in the UFC's middleweight division, it's unlikely that he'll be able to avoid a title shot for too long if he has any sort of sustained success upon his return. The UFC will push him to fight Weidman again.
Even if he does manage to avoid the champion, Silva will likely be swimming in similar waters with former training partner Lyoto Machida. It's almost certain that those two men will not want to fight each other as long as their bout lacks any sort of title implications.
Moving up in weight only makes sense for Silva. At 39 years old, the drop to 185 will become inevitably harder as the days go by.
Kristian Ibarra is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. He also serves as the sports editor at San Diego State University's student-run newspaper, The Daily Aztec. Follow him on Twitter at @Kristian_Ibarra for all things MMA.
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