Anderson Silva, Forrest Griffin and the UFC's Biggest Weight Cutters
Today's MMA fighters are better than they've ever been, which means competitors are continually looking to gain an edge over their opponents. For many, that edge is gained during the weight cut.
The idea behind cutting weight is simple: A fighter loses anywhere from five to 30 pounds (mostly water weight) leading up to a fight in order to compete in a lower weight class. Once the fighter weighs-in for an event, he re-hydrates and gains back most, if not all, of the weight he has lost, thus gaining a size advantage during the fight.
As you would suspect, there are risks to this practice. Besides taking an incredible toll on an one's body, studies have shown that weight cuts can effect a fighter's mental state as well.
In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, it was found that athletes who lost more than four percent of their body mass before a match showed "significantly higher levels of confusion on the day of the competition."
There's also the risk of "gassing" during the fight after a significantly tough weight cut. How many times have we seen a fighter enter the cage with a huge size advantage, only to be noticeably fatigued by the third round?
Still, despite these risks, some fighters continue to take on enormous weight cuts in order to gain a slight edge in their fights.
Here are six of the UFC's biggest weight cutters.
Sean Sherk regularly cuts at least 20 lbs to make the lightweight limit of 155 lbs. That may not be as much as some of the fighters on the list, but given his smaller size, it equates to 12.9 percent of his body mass.
Sherk previously fought at welterweight before deciding to drop down to lightweight to gain an advantage against smaller opponents. The strategy worked originally, as he won the lightweight championship in his first fight in the division.
However, since then he's been defeated by smaller fighters BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar, proving that his weight cut may not be as big of an advantage as originally thought.
Anderson Silva has stated that between fights he can weigh as much as 220 lbs. That's pretty amazing, considering the middleweight champion regularly competes at 185 lbs.
Whether the massive weight cut is an advantage for Silva is debatable, as he doesn't exactly out-muscle is opponents. However, it certainly hasn't hurt him as Silva is undefeated in the UFC and currently riding a 15-fight winning streak.
One area where his larger size may help Silva is in the clinch, where he's been known to cause some serious damage.
After fighting Silva for the first time, Rich Franklin remarked on how strong the Brazilian was once he secured the Thai Clinch, which could be attributed to the fact that he is one of the larger fighters in the division.
One of biggest fighters in the light heavyweight division, Forrest Griffin's weight has been said to reach as high as 240 lbs, which is 35 lbs heavier than 205 lbs limit he regularly cuts to.
Weighing more than some heavyweight fighters, Griffin is an imposing figure inside the cage, and surprisingly, his cardio hasn't seemed to be affected by the weight cut.
His size advantage was on full display in his fight against Rich Franklin earlier this year. The former middleweight champion was controlled for the majority of the fight and just could not overcome Griffin's strength in the clinch, and on the ground.
Easily the biggest lightweight in the UFC, Gleison Tibau has been known to cut from as high as 183 lbs to make the 155-pound lightweight limit. That means he cuts an incredible 18.5 percent of his total body mass.
The massive weight cut has seemed to be an advantage for Tibau, who manhandled Josh Neer at UFC 104 for three rounds to take a unanimous decision.
It was a similar story against Caol Uno, who seemed simply overwhelmed by Tibau's size, strength and power before being finished by strikes in the first round.
Although Tibau hasn't exactly faced any negative consequences as a result of this practice so far, one has to wonder how long his body can handle such a massive weight cut.
A welterweight fighter known to be over 200 lbs between fights, Thiago Alves makes one of the biggest cuts in the UFC. Although it surely helps him at times, it's also been a hindrance for him during his career.
Alves has missed weight twice, once against Matt Hughes and then again in his rematch against Jon Fitch.
Observers really noticed the effects of the massive weight cut during his second fight with Fitch where the Brazilian appeared to be completely drained of energy and would go on to lose a unanimous decision.
Dana White has stated before that he believes Alves would be better off at middleweight, but the fighter continues to make the cut despite the obvious consequences.
Although Anthony Johnson weighed-in on Friday at 171 lbs for his bout at UFC on Versus 6, it's likely he was well over 200 lbs just a few months ago.
It was reported that before Anthony Johnson started training for his UFC 104 fight with Yoshiyuki Yoshida he weighed 220 lbs, a whopping 50 lbs heavier than the welterweight limit he competes at (Johnson would go on to miss weight by five pounds for that fight).
Granted, some of that was fat which was surely lost during his training camp, but that's still a big difference to overcome before weigh-ins.
Johnson has missed weight twice in his career, one of which was a loss to Rich Clementi that was a lackluster performance where he showed clear signs of early fatigue and dehydration. One has to think a move to middleweight would be much healthier for the man known as "Rumble."