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The Case for Cruiserweight

BrockUFC 91. Randy Couture vs. Brock Lesnar for the prestigious UFC heavyweight championship. “The Natural” has overcome many obstacles in his heralded UFC career including being the “old-man,” but there was just no way he could overcome the sheer size and strength difference.

At weigh-in time, Couture weighed 220, just 14 lbs. over the lower limit for the weight class. Brock Lesnar weighed in at the heavyweight weight limit of a massive 265 lbs. By the time the fight rolled around Couture probably didn’t weigh much more than his trim 220 lbs., but Lesnar was rumored to be coming in around 280. A 60 lbs. weight difference!

Sure, Royce Gracie overcame greater size differences, but the sport is different now. When Gracie ruled the Octagon, guys had no idea what this skinny Brazilian was doing. What is this Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

The beginning days of our sport was style vs. style. What we see now is that styles make matches and size does matter. Everyone trains in all styles, hence the name Mixed Martial Arts.

Lesnar was able to muscle his way out of Couture’s clinches and takedowns and his immense size allowed him to throw a punch with enormous power behind it to finish The Natural and become the UFC heavyweight champion.

In his latest fight at UFC 100, Lesnar used his stature to control the 245 pound Frank Mir’s hips, in what many thought was a game of lay-n-pray, rendering his BJJ useless.

What can be done for fighters that just aren’t big enough to handle Lesnar’s size but are too big to get to the 205 lbs. limit of light heavyweight? Are they stuck in a position knowing that they can never be the champion in either weight class?

At UFC 99, Rich Franklin met Wanderlei Silva at a catch weight of 195 lbs. Speculation and hope grew around the MMA community that this was the start of a new weight class, one to split the 20 pound difference between middleweight and light heavyweight. Fortunately, in this writer’s opinion, it turns out that this weight was a one time agreed upon weight because Franklin wanted to stay at light heavyweight and Silva was on his way down to make a splash in the middleweight division.

In the past I have been resistant to new weight classes. I saw no reason to split the competition in the existing weight classes. 15 pounds exist between lightweight and welterweight, and the same weight repeats between welterweight and middleweight. Between middleweight and light heavyweight only 20 lbs. exist. We don’t need to water the sport down with an abundance of weight classes.

The heavyweight division has a range of 59 pounds, which in the past has not had much of an impact. Now, with the massive Lesnar dropping bombs on the division, I think it may be time to introduce a new division.

In the British Navy, the second heaviest ship is referred to as the cruiser, thus giving us the name for just such a division. Cruiserweight. A division that would close the gap between light heavyweight and heavyweight. A 206-240 lbs. cruiserweight class and a 241-265 lbs. heavyweight class.

With heavyweights such as Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin actually cutting weight to make the heavyweight cusp, this would give the smaller contenders a home where they would not have to either put a ton of muscle on their body or shorten their careers by continually drastically cutting weight.

TUF 10 is bringing in a slew of new heavyweights that could provide competition and fill up a heavyweight weight class of 240 -265 lbs. Cruiserweight would be an instant favorite with the likes of Couture, Nogueira, Mir, among others including some transplants from light heavyweight such as Forrest Griffin who is rumored to walk around at 240 pounds.

Another benefit to a cruiserweight division is another title meaning additional possible main events. UFC 103 is headlined by a rematch of a debatable split decision between Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson which will prove to be a good fight for fans. But should this be headlining a major UFC event? This fight doesn’t do much to further either fighter’s career.

In 2008, there were a total of 13 named UFC events. With every title being fought for twice, there was 10 title fights. With the addition of the interim heavyweight title between Mir and Nogueira the total was brought to 11. Adding a cruiserweight division and crowning a champion may just round us out with a title defense at every UFC.

Now is the time for a new division. Not at the lower weight classes. They don’t need to be split. Give the cruiserweights a chance to stand out and shine not be pummeled under Lesnar’s mass.