After missing weight for the first time in his decade-long career at lightweight, Michael Chiesa is making the move to the 170-pound weight class. Which UFC opponent makes the most sense for his welterweight debut?
Currently the 12th-ranked 155er, Michael Chiesa made his intentions about fighting at welterweight clear on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show in July. That ranking, despite the follies of the UFC’s system for deciding the “official” rankings, speaks to the resumé Chiesa has built over the years at lightweight. Although he’s coming off of a couple of tough losses, it’s not hard to get excited about the former The Ultimate Fighter 15 winner and his prospects at 170-pounds.
A big reason for that? Chiesa’s size. At six-foot-one, he held a solid size advantage over much of the lightweight division. While that advantage will obviously be tapered at welterweight, Chiesa isn’t worried. He’ll still have some size-advantage over much of the division, and not having to cut an extra 15-pounds won’t hurt his ability to add some muscle to his frame.
A change of divisional scenery might help, too. Chiesa’s had a tough run of late. Anything and everything has gone wrong. In June of 2016 Chiesa was pulled from his bout with Tony Ferguson due to injury. A year later, he was (not) submitted by Kevin Lee in controversial fashion in June of 2017. Then came the McGregor-Dolly Debacle ahead of UFC 223, forcing the cancellation of his matchup with Anthony Pettis in April.
Chiesa wouldn’t catch a break when the bout was moved to UFC 226 in July. Breaking his foot less than two weeks before the fight, Chiesa faced the worst weight cut of his career and was submitted early in round two by the former lightweight champion.
That’s all behind him now. Chiesa’s been competing in the UFC’s 155-pound weight class since 2012. Given the circumstances, now is clearly the time for the move to welterweight. Changing divisions is something fans discuss often, utilizing the oft-maligned “MMA Math“. But it’s not always as simple as it seems. Recently, we’ve seen fighters like Jorge Masvidal, Donald Cerrone, and Rafael dos Anjos make relatively successful jumps from lightweight to welterweight. Chiesa could do the same.
His first bout will be a big one. So, who should Michael Chiesa fight in his welterweight debut?
1. Carlos Condit
Former welterweight interim champion Carlos Condit plans on fighting one more time before 2018 is done. Condit, like Chiesa, hasn’t been on the best run recently. He’s lost his last two bouts, and is 2-7 since November of 2012. In his recent losses, to Neil Magny in December and Alex Oliveira in April, Condit hasn’t looked like the Natural Born Killer we know and love. Chiesa could give Condit similar problems, and in doing so he would prove he can handle himself against legit welterweight competition.
The 34-year-old Condit badly needs a win, and a matchup with a guy like Chiesa sounds like the perfect fit for everyone involved. Both fighters have plenty to gain, and just as much to lose. With a lot on the line, and a couple of relatively high-profile UFC veterans with proven resumés throwing down, it’s easy to see Chiesa-Condit on the main card of a late-2018 pay-per-view. A main event on a smaller card would work too. Either way, this is a fight we want to see.
2. Jorge Masvidal
Jorge Masvidal and Chiesa have a history. Masvidal gave the Northwest-based fighter the first loss of his career in Seattle, submitting Chiesa with one second remaining in the second round in July of 2013. That bout, of course, came at lightweight.
Masvidal returned to welterweight in July of 2015. He’s since gone 4-4, losing his last two bouts after a three-fight winning streak. Masvidal hasn’t fought in 2018, and is currently the ninth-ranked 170-pound fighter in the promotion. He needs a win, and an opponent, and so does Chiesa. With their history, selling this fight atop a non-PPV card wouldn’t be difficult for UFC.
The bulid-up would be a ton of fun. The fight would deliver. It’s a no-brainer. Sign us up for everything involved with Chiesa-Masvidal at welterweight, even if it isn’t Chiesa’s 170-pound debut.
3. Gunnar Nelson
Fan-favorite Gunnar Nelson has been on the shelf for more than a year. The Icelandic submission-artist was pulled from his April bout with Neil Magny in Liverpool due to a knee injury, and is targeting a 2-3 month recovery timetable. Should he be available by the end of the year, an interesting stylistic matchup with Michael Chiesa sounds like fun.
Nelson, the 13th-ranked UFC welterweight, was last in the Octagon in July of 2017, getting knocked-out within 90-seconds at the hands of Santiago Ponzinibbio. He’s 7-3 since joining the UFC in 2012, and a great test for anyone thinking about being a welterweight contender in the UFC. His skill on the ground, and 5’11” frame, would provide Chiesa a great measuring stick for where he stands in the division.
For Nelson, the matchup gives him someone who can challenge him on the ground, and give him one of the highest profile victories of his career. This matchup is an all-around win, and one we’d like to see sooner rather than later.
4. Alex Oliveira
Depending on Chiesa’s timetable for his return from breaking his foot, Alex Oliveira could be an option. The Brazilian “Cowboy” has been putting on highlight-filled performances throughout the last year or so. He could do the same with Chiesa.
Oliveira is 5-1 (1) in his last seven fights, and is slated to fight Neil Magny at UFC Sao Paulo in late-September. He’s 5’11”, and a former lightweight himself (or at least tried to be). Like the guys we’ve already mentioned, Oliveira is a legit contender at welterweight, and is ranked 14th in the weight class. He submitted Condit in April, and has earned a bonus in three straight fights.
The timing might not work out for Chiesa’s debut. But if it does, Oliveira would be a matchup everyone could get behind.
5. Yancy Medeiros
Another former lightweight on our list, Yancy Medeiros, recently made the jump to welterweight. He debuted at 170-pounds at UFC 203 in September of 2016 and has gone 3-1 at welterweight since. Medeiros defeated Alex Oliveira in December of last year in one of the best fights of 2017, but was TKO’d by Donald Cerrone in February of 2018.
Medeiros isn’t currently officially ranked. But he’s proven himself as a welterweight. He was recently pulled from his bout with Mike Perry at UFC 226, thanks to a broken rib. If Medeiros is ready to go by the end of the year, a fight with Chiesa would be a worthwhile way to introduce him to the welterweight division. They’re both tough. They’re both proven. And if Chiesa defeats Medeiros in his 170-pound debut, the rest of the weight class would take notice.
There’s no shortage of fun options for the UFC to pair Michael Chiesa with for his welterweight debut. Whenever it happens. Especially with guys like Carlos Condit and Jorge Masvidal in the mix. Regardless of who he fights, or when it is, we’re ready to see what the former-lightweight can do at 170-pounds. Let us know who you think Michael Chiesa should make his welterweight debut against! Comment below, on Facebook, or reply on Twitter!