Opinion: Weight Cutting Matters

By David Bixenspan May 11, 2017

Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sherdog.com, its affiliates and sponsors or its parent company, Evolve Media.

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As is becoming increasingly common, a high profile fight fell through the week of an Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view card. In this case, UFC 211 lost out on a bout between flyweight contenders Henry Cejudo and Sergio Pettis. On a loaded card where the matchup had received limited hype, it’s not too badly missed, but it did bring up something else.

When you heard that fight was off, what did you think was the reason why? At least for me, even before there were whispers of Cejudo looking rough at a media day this week (much less the hand injury that was later cited as the catalyst for him pulling out), my mind went to a very specific place: The weight cut.

Ever since the UFC instituted the newer “early weigh-in” procedures a year ago, fighters have missed weight and pulled out of fights a few days out at a higher rate than before. It turns out that the earlier weigh-in (late morning the day before instead of late afternoon to early evening), while designed to allow fighters more time to rehydrate, at least in theory, didn’t work in practice. There are two key reasons for this:

1. Some fighters decided to put on more muscle/cut more weight with the extra time to hydrate.
2. Morning weigh-ins don’t necessarily fit in with how fighters actually cut weight.

The former, while misguided, is fairly self-explanatory: There are fighters who just did not see this scenario the right way, and tried to use the early weigh in to get a size advantage ... while still having less time to cut weight. You can see how that could end badly. The other reason requires a little more explanation.

Fighters are, generally speaking, not cutting weight overnight. The wacky dehydration scenarios used to make weight require enough active participation that sweating off the pounds in your sleep is just not an option. This means that you only have a few hours to cut weight on the day of the weigh-in. These problems are noticeably more pronounced in the lightest weight classes, where the fighters tend to cut a higher percentage of their body weight.

Which brings us back to flyweight.

Yeah, Cejudo-Pettis is ostensibly not off for weight cut-related reasons. But there’s a very good reason to have thought it was. Flyweight fights are dropping like, well, flies, at least comparatively speaking. Not every cancelled fight is reported as being due to a failed weight cut, but flyweight has had plenty of fights cancelled as a result of unnamed mystery illnesses, as well.

The flyweight champion, Demetrious Johnson, has a relatively (I must stress, relatively) modest weight cut, as he’s generally 12 pounds over 125 in shape (maybe less in camp), having to cut, at most, 8.2 percent of his body weight. On the other side of the spectrum, John Dodson has spoken of walking around at about 160 pounds and has entered the cage for flyweight fights at about 150 pounds. Percentage wise and poundage wise, that’s about double the water weight cut of “Mighty Mouse.” That’s ridiculous. In terms of weight, Dodson is more Frankie Edgar than he is Demetrious Johnson.

What’s the solution with flyweight, setting aside all of the usual weight cut debates? One that will never happen (and, to be honest, maybe even shouldn’t) is to somehow start creating some kind of “height classes” in MMA. Way too many of the flyweights in the UFC are just short bantamweights. Every weight class has its own average height and reach range, but the discrepancies get more pronounced at the extreme ends of the continuum. Most of the UFC flyweights are guys who needed to move down due to height and reach deficits, with a small handful of skinny guys like Louis Smolka and Tim Elliot (who recently considered moving up) as the outliers.

If the UFC were to find a way to stop everyone from starvation and dehydration-based weight cutting anytime soon, then flyweight would be the biggest casualty. It’s possibly the only weight class in the UFC where there are no fighters with negligible or nonexistent weight cuts. No male UFC fighter actually weighs 125 pounds. Maybe someone like Jarred Brooks, who has actually made 115 pounds outside the UFC, has a shot at being closer than Mighty Mouse, but that’s about it.

This isn’t women’s flyweight, which is going to be a division populated by fighters who had been cutting too much weight or weren’t cutting any at all. This is the one weight class where, if you had to pick which division an eventual first UFC weight cutting death would happen in, you would pick it. Maybe, just maybe, it shouldn’t exist anymore, if it ever should have in the first place.

But at least give Mighty Mouse the opportunity to break Anderson Silva’s record before doing anything drastic ...


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