With one of the big stories of UFC Brooklyn being TJ Dillashaw dropping to flyweight for the first time in his career, we look at the event from a weight-cutting perspective.
Like it or not, weight-cutting is deeply rooted in mixed martial arts. MMA adopted its weight-cutting from the sport of wrestling, where it is presumed to be very advantageous to be the biggest and strongest in your weight class. Known as the ‘fight before the fight,‘ most UFC fighters cut anywhere from 5-25 pounds, with some fighters even in excess of 30 pounds.
Weight-cutting is the ultimate test of discipline and willpower. Many fighters in the sport consider it very unprofessional to miss weight. In this series, I am going to shine a light on fighters who cut a massive amount of weight, who have missed weight multiple times in the past, who have made weight-class changes, along with how the weight-cut and weigh-in could affect possible upcoming matchups. Basically, every aspect of weight-cutting and how it affects the fight game in the UFC.
#UFCBrooklyn@TJDillashaw says he woke up today weighing 135lbs and he's come into fight week ahead of where he's usually at when cutting to bantamweight. He looked fantastic during the open workout. Tons of energy and in phenomenal condition.
Full scrum:https://t.co/jZgOew3yUz pic.twitter.com/Q4RSXptLeS
— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) January 17, 2019
For the inaugural event on ESPN+, UFC Brooklyn, fan-favorite Donald Cerrone is returning to the lightweight division against a rising contender. Yancy Medeiros is also dropping back down to 155 pounds to face an unbeaten beast. For the main event, for the first time, a UFC champ, bantamweight TJ Dillashaw, is dropping down a weight class in order to challenge the flyweight champion, Henry Cejudo, who has had weight cutting struggles of his own in the past.
1Donald Cerrone (34-11 MMA, 21-8 UFC) vs. Alexander Hernandez (MMA 10-1, UFC 2-0)
The UFC’s all-time leader in wins and finishes is abandoning his natural weight class of welterweight in favor of a return to lightweight. Cowboy has previously stated that he walks around at about 174 pounds during camp.
In late 2015, Donald Cerrone challenged for the UFC lightweight title and he was TKO’d in the first round by Rafael Dos Anjos. After this devastating loss, Cowboy concluded that he needed to stop cutting weight in order to perform better. Cerrone has gone 6-4 in the welterweight division since moving up to his natural weight class.
Cerrone’s most recent win was a double record-breaking first-round armbar submission against welterweight stand out, Mike Perry in November. Cowboy loves to stay active so he immediately jumped into this fight barely two months later. Cowboy would have returned to lightweight sooner but apparently, the UFC just kept the fights coming at 170 pounds, so he couldn’t refuse.
This is a dangerous fight for Cowboy as he welcomes an excellent ultra-confident prospect in Hernadez, who is itching to seize the opportunity. This is Alexander’s first real test in the UFC and it is beginning the new UFC era. At lightweight in the UFC, Cowboy holds an exceptional record of 14-4, only losing to competition like Anthony Pettis, Nick Diaz and Rafael Dos Anjos.
2Yancy Medeiros (15-5 (1 NC) MMA, 6-5 (1 NC) UFC) vs. Gregor Gillespie (12-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC)
Yancy Medeiros was on a three-fight win streak before being stopped by Donald Cerrone last February. Since then, Medeiros has expressed interest in cutting down to the lightweight division. Yancy will be greeted by the very best prospect that the lightweight division has to offer, Gregor Gillespie. Yancy has a good-sized frame at 5’10” and posses a 75.5″ reach, a whole 4.5-inch advantage on his opponent. During his short four-fight stint at welterweight, he went 3-1.
Yancy’s last run at lightweight ended back in 2016. While in the UFC, Yancy earned a record of 3-3 with one no contest. Medeiros also missed weight once at lightweight, weighing in at 159.5 pounds for his fight against Dustin Poirier in 2015.
3TJ Dillashaw (16-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC) vs. Henry Cejudo (13-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC)
The UFC’s Bantamweight Champion, TJ Dillashaw, is making history by moving down to challenge Henry Cejudo for his flyweight title. This is the first time a champion in the UFC is coming down in weight in order to challenge for another title. Dillashaw’s physique has changed drastically in the weeks leading up to fight week.
TJ Dillashaw has not cut to 125 pounds since he was in high school. Obviously, the bantamweight champion elected to start dieting down many weeks out from his fight. The decision ended up paying off, since UFC Brooklyn ended up being moved up a week. TJ is coming into this fight with a complete 11-week training camp under his championship belt. During TJ’s media lunch four days out from the fight, he stated:
“(Cejudo’s) missed weight. He’s had trouble making weight. He’s had trouble making 125 pounds. I bet I make weight easier than he does. But it’s because of how professional I am and the way I’ve taken it.”
The entire training camp, Dillashaw has slowly whittled down under the watchful eye of Sam Calavitta. Dillashaw has a very advanced and dedicated team around him calculating everything that he should do to successfully cut the weight and stay safe while doing it. TJ’s extremely competitive nature and discipline has allowed him to drop weight off his frame seemingly without issue. During TJ’s media lunch he was asked about how Calavitta has impacted his weight cut:
“I’ve been listening to him all camp. Everything from supplementation, to my calorie intake, to the type of foods, when I’m eating them. Intermittent fasting on certain days, or not days…. I’ve learned a lot, obviously as you can tell with me talking about it. But I kind of leave that all up to Sam. He’s the one that’s the mad scientist. I trust him, so I follow him”
— Mike Bohn (@MikeBohnMMA) January 16, 2019
Sam certainly is on to something special with his program, he uses scientific methods with great success as is evident with TJ Dillashaw and this data that he released:
Just to give you an idea of the mathematical approach to TJ Dillashaw’s weight cut, here is the algorithm his coach Sam Calavitta used to get him there. I won’t pretend to know what it means, but Sam told me there’s a chance TJ could go to bed the night before weigh-in on weight. pic.twitter.com/rE2ZjyaPiQ
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) January 14, 2019
Henry Cejudo is coming off of the biggest win of his career beating one of the best fighters of all time, Demetrious Johnson, and snapping his historic title defense streak. Cejudo has had his struggles with making 125 pounds in the past. It got so bad at one point, the UFC forced him to move up to bantamweight. This is by no means an easy weight cut for Cejudo and he is just as likely, if not more so, as Dillashaw to have trouble making weight.
Cejudo’s last time having weight cutting issues was at the end of 2014 and they were severe. Cejudo had to withdraw from a fight because of medical issues related from the weight cut and was forced to move to bantamweight. Even though this was pushing five years ago, it is important to know that many things get easier with time, but weight cutting is not one of those. The older you get, the harder it is to lose weight and for such a small framed man, Cejudo is cutting a much larger percentage of his total weight than other fighters at heavier weights.
Walking into the cage for his rematch title shot against Mighty Mouse, Cejudo weighed 141 pounds, a whole 16 pounds more than when he stepped on the scale at a championship weight of 125 pounds the day before. Cejudo has quite the physique for this fight, and really looks strong and like he has added on muscle to his frame. On The MMA Hour with Luke Thomas a few days out from the fight Cejudo said:
“I thought he’d have a little more bulk to him but he’s not looking too well. He looks like he needs a cup of water… He looks like a cross-country runner… Any true flyweight knows exactly what it feels like to cut an extra ten pounds. He’s going to feel it Saturday night, and I’m looking to expose him.”
I think at this point, everyone knows that TJ is going to make weight. But the million dollar question is will he be at full strength? Or will he be too diminished to solve the problem that is Henry Cejudo?
Preparing to defend gold for the first time.
— UFC (@ufc) January 16, 2019