Top 10 Fighters Who Could Drop A Weight Class (And How They'd Fare)

Darren WongSenior Analyst IApril 15, 2010

Sometimes, fighters end up dropping weight classes for promotional reasons rather than competitive ones.

When Randy Couture dropped down from heavyweight to light heavyweight last year, he went from being a top 10 heavyweight to a questionable top 15 light heavyweight.

Moving from one weight class to another often allows a fighter to re-imagine himself in the minds of the public in order to become more marketable. This is the bad kind of weight-class movement.

The good kind of weight class jump occurs when the weight class change allows a fighter to become more successful inside the cage or ring.

Here's a list of elite fighters who could probably make a successful drop in weight class, with a breakdown of what would happen if they did.

The interesting part about this list is that most of these fighters clearly don't need to drop the weight.

10. Gegard Mousasi

The majority of Mousasi's career has been fought at middleweight, and he did very well there.

The rationale as to why he's so low on this list is because he switched to light-heavyweight because he it was getting difficult to make the 185-pound limit.

If he could still make it there, he'd do well.

Projection: He could be a possible champion in Strikeforce and a likely title contender at middleweight in the UFC. He could benefit because there really aren't as many power-punching wrestlers in the middleweight division.

9. Demian Maia

At six feet tall, Demian Maia isn't exactly a short fighter for middleweight, but he was dwarfed by Anderson Silva and Nate Marquardt.

At welterweight, there aren't as many strikers who could mess him up from long range, and there isn't another grappler like him in the UFC welterweight division, at least not until Andre Galvao signs on the dotted line.

He'd have trouble against guys like Josh Koscheck, Georges St. Pierre, and Thiago Alves, guys who could use good takedown defense to keep the fight standing, but aside from them, the rest of the division could be easy pickings on the ground, and he'd be able to get the fight there most of the time.

Projection: He's a top five UFC welterweight.

8. Yoshihiro Akiyama

Akiyama is a world-class Judoka, but a lot of that weight manipulation is wasted because he's fighting against giants at middleweight.

Alan Belcher looked a full weight class larger than him. Akiyama differs from Maia in that he's a competent striker, but he's going to be outgunned by some of the rangier middleweights.

At welterweight, Akiyama could cause problems for almost anyone in the division.

He's got powerful striking, good wrestling, and an elite ground game.  A very well-rounded fighter.

He might have problems with some of the elite welterweights, but I like his chances better than Maia's, because he doesn't have the same gaping holes in his arsenal.

Projection: He's a top five UFC welterweight and a possible title contender if given the right matchups. This is time-dependent because at age 34, there isn't much time left at the elite level.

7. Jake Shields

Before Shields became the Strikeforce champ at middleweight, he was a consensus top six welterweight in the world rankings, or higher, depending on who you talk to.

Shields is a very small middleweight and the only reason he left is because there weren't as many marketable fights at 170-pounds outside of the UFC.

In Strikeforce, there's no reason to believe that he couldn't be the champion. He's not going to fight his training partner Nick Diaz, but if he did, he could win with superior wrestling and top position jiu jitsu.

In the UFC, Shields would struggle against the same kind of fighters Maia would struggle with, and he relies upon his top position control, so he'd be more threatened than Maia if he were put on his back by a wrestler with submission defense.

Projection: He could win the Strikeforce welterweight Championship. He'd be a potential top 5 welterweight in the UFC as long as nobody else on this list drops down to welterweight as well.

6. Muhammed Lawal

A self-described "moneyweight" fighter, Lawal has fought his professional career at heavyweight and light heavyweight.

However, Lawal was a very successful international wrestler at 84 kg.

There are few elite wrestlers in the middleweight division, and that list is about to get smaller whenever Dan Henderson and Matt Lindland decide to hang up the gloves.

Projection: He's a potential Strikeforce middleweight Champion and a potential title contender or champion in the UFC middleweight division.

5. Rashad Evans

Evans is really quite short for the light heavyweight division, but since it's the UFC's glamour division, it makes sense for him to stay there due to the bigger paychecks. And of course, he's already been a champion there.

Still, he'd be a much bigger fish in the middleweight division.  Evans wrestled at 165 lbs in junior college and at 174 lbs at Michigan State.

At middleweight, he'd be a nearly instant title contender due to his current reputation.

Projection: He'd be an instant middleweight title contender in the UFC.

4. Frank Edgar

Edgar doesn't even really need to cut weight to make the lightweight limit. He fights at lightweight because he can, and because the paychecks are better in the UFC than they are in the WEC's featherweight division.

Still, guys like Matt Veach and Gray Maynard were able to toss him around largely due to size issues, and he wouldn't have that problem at featherweight.

I'd favor him at featherweight over any WEC fighter other than Jose Aldo, and that could be a close fight. Hopefully, the featherweight division eventually makes its way to the UFC.

Projection: He'd be an instant featherweight title contender in the WEC, and he might just win a second world title.

3. Lyoto Machida

UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida has fought at heavyweight before, but when he did it, he was a really chubby 225 pounds.

Machida has weighed as low as 199 pounds for his light heavyweight fights, which is not much lower than what large middleweights weigh when they walk into the Octagon.

Machida is a bad stylistic matchup for most light-heavyweights, and it gets even easier for him at middleweight, which lacks power-punching elite wrestlers.

Anderson Silva is a problem, and because he's Machida's friend, Machida has little incentive to move down in weight even if he loses the light heavyweight belt.

Projection: He'd be a potential UFC middleweight Champion, especially if he doesn't need to fight his friend, Anderson Silva.

2.Fedor Emelianenko

Fedor is fat at 230 pounds.

He could easily make light heavyweight if he cared to, and possibly even middleweight.  The issue would be how well his body would hold up with such drastic changes.

Projection: He's an instant title contender at light heavyweight, and a possible champion wherever he goes.

1. Anderson Silva

Silva hasn't fought at 170 pounds in a long time, but he was a pretty darn good fighter while he was there.

Still, I think he's a better middleweight than he is a welterweight, because he's more powerful at middleweight.

Projection: He'd have a 50/50 chance of beating Georges St. Pierre at welterweight, cementing his status as the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

Other fighters who could drop drop a weight class with interesting results:

Mirko Filipovic, Patrick Cote, Jason Miller, Brandon Vera (again), Chris Leben, Dan Miller, Mike Pierce, Johny Hendricks, Caol Uno, Joseph Benavidez, Gleison Tibau (just to see if he can do it)

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