Jumping weight classes is trending

November, 29, 2012
11/29/12
5:49
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Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
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AldoEd Mulholland for ESPN.comJose Aldo is just the latest fighter considering a move to another weight class.

Now that Frankie Edgar has finally been persuaded to fight in the UFC’s featherweight division, we can get on with other fresher transplantations.

Next up: Jose Aldo, to lightweight.

Go figure. Edgar goes down to fight for Aldo’s belt; Aldo goes up, so long as he defends that belt in a satisfactory manner against Edgar on Feb. 2. They’re gauging things whichever way you look at it -- just two ships passing in the night.

(Or, you know, two high-powered motorboats).

And if Aldo defends that belt, expect Edgar to return to 155 pounds, too. He’s really just dipping his toe in the water. And if Aldo loses at lightweight, he’ll whittle his form back down to 145 pounds. And even if he wins at lightweight, he may get greedy and become an exotic collector of belts.

Greatness is not above hoarding.

Why all the division jumping? Because, for one thing, disappearing from a familiar weight class and appearing in a foreign one means reinvention. It means fresh challenges for fighters, and intriguing, previously only imagined match-ups for fight fans. It’s rethinking divisional rankings and visible abs. Most of all, it means something new, and in the fight game new is always appreciated.

Everybody likes to have a reset button, and these days more and more fighters are using it. Why not? It’s usually a smart play, especially as the UFC grows along with our fascination in matchmaking. Some careers need kick-starts, and others just need a little spice.

Others being Anderson Silva, who does it because, so far as most of us can tell, he’s bored. Now he’s talking about cutting down to something in the range of 178 pounds for a catchweight fight with Georges St-Pierre (a fighter whose hands go clammy when he contemplates playing fast and loose with weight fluctuations). For Nik Lentz, it’s to make a name he couldn’t make at lightweight. For Demetrious Johnson, it’s because he was tired of fighting 135-pound monsters. Ditto Chris Cariaso.

It goes on.

Former middleweight Demian Maia went from one of the slickest practitioners of human origami ever to enter the Octagon (circa 2007-09) before turning into a nondescript kickboxer who lost a lot. What did he do? He began by dropping down to 170 pounds, and in the process he remembered the jiu-jitsu that Fabio Gurgel spent all that time teaching him. Reinvention? More like repentance. He’s remembering his roots while on a diet of apples and tuna.

[+] EnlargeGeorge St. Pierre
AP Photo/Eric JamisonThese days, welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre's reluctance to move up or down in weight is an exception to the rule.
Tim Boetsch went from the first-ever victim of a Phil Davis “Philmura” to a middleweight contender. He has rattled off four wins in a row at 185 pounds. Nate Diaz has similarly re-reinvented himself by going back down to lightweight, and is now fighting for the 155-pound title against Benson Henderson on Dec. 8. B.J. Penn and Dan Henderson will appear in whatever weight class they need to, no questions asked. Kenny Florian tried four weight classes, and came up a bridesmaid in most. Chael Sonnen? He falls forward into title shots when he goes to light heavyweight. Same can’t be said for Rich Franklin.

Clay Guida goes down. Jon Jones, one day soon, will go up. We love the idea of that.

And Anthony Johnson? He has yet to find the weight class that can contain him. Maybe 205 pounds is right where he needs to be -- but if you’ve seen him walking around the Blackzilians gym in Delmar Beach, Fla., hulking like a linebacker and dwarfing guys such as Rashad Evans, you wouldn’t be so sure.

So what does it all mean? That Mike Dolce is in business, and that Georges St-Pierre is the new minority. He is at least a little reluctant to fight Anderson Silva because he’s (A) not desperate, (B) not bored or (C) not entirely masochistic. He is just dominant. At 170 pounds. Right where he knows he’s greatest.

If he declines to fight Anderson Silva at anything other than 170 pounds, he’ll not only be blameless in the ordeal, he’ll stand as a kind of traditionalist. He won’t just be defending his belt as a stubborn champion, he’ll become the defender of the weight classes.

And with so much movement between divisions, right now that in itself might feel like something new.

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