The Weight Cutting Chronicles – UFC Nashville: Anthony Pettis, Luis Pena, and Maycee Barber

Luis Pena, UFC Denver UFC Nashville
Luis Pena Credit: Mike Straus/Cageside Press

UFC Nashville is headlined by a fighter moving up in weight, Anthony Pettis, and a few fighters on the undercard are embracing new divisions.

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, we will 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 match-ups. Basically, every aspect of weight-cutting and how it affects the fight game in the UFC.

Anthony “Showtime” Pettis (21-8 MMA, 8-7 UFC)

Anthony Pettis is a long-time mixed martial arts professional, one of the legends of the sport, and is a former WEC and UFC lightweight champion. Pettis even fought at featherweight. “Showtime” is abandoning his weight cut for the first time in his professional career, and taking his talents up to the equally stacked welterweight division. Anthony Pettis had this to say when asked by Mike Bohn of MMA Junkie what he thought about staying in the welterweight division:

“It’s definitely not a one-off. 170, it’s a natural weight for me. I want to fight more, I don’t want to kill my body. I don’t want to take two months to make weight and then fight. Two months to make weight? Like this is not a one-off, but I am definitely keeping my eye on the 155 division, see what opens up, see what fight makes sense to me. ”

Pettis is 32-years-old but has some fight miles on him. Showtime’s strategy of not cutting weight in order to fight more often seems like a plan that could really pay off especially if he doesn’t take too much damage during his bouts. And waiting in the shadows for an exciting matchup in “Showtime’s” old stomping grounds of lightweight does not seem like too bad of an idea either. In Pettis’ short stint at featherweight, he fought Max Holloway in December of 2016 as lost in the third round. Pettis weighted in at 148-pounds for that fight.

Afterward, “Showtime” moved up to the lightweight division and has faced nothing but top-tier competition. Jim Miller, Dustin Poirier, Michael Chiesa and Tony Ferguson were his last four fights in the lightweight division. Pettis accumulated a record of 2-2 during his most recent stint at 155-pounds. Now in his third weight class in three years, Pettis has to solve the dynamic striking puzzle that is Wonderboy Thompson.

Luis “Violent Bob Ross” Pena (5-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC)

Ladies and gentlemen, American Kickboxing Academy has another hot UFC prospect that cuts a lot of weight to accompany Khabib Nurmagomedov and Daniel Cormier. Luis Pena is 6’3″ tall and possesses a massive 78″ reach. Absolutely huge for the lightweight division. So when Violent Bob Ross announced that he was moving down the 145-pound weight class with all his physical attributes, it caught a lot of fans’ attention. For reference: Max Holloway the UFC featherweight champion is large for the division and he stands at 5’11” and possesses a 69″ reach.

On paper, Luis Pena is a physical mismatch for Holloway and the entirety of the featherweight division. Pena will be the tallest featherweight on the UFC’s roster. But, only time will tell if Pena can cut this weight and keep his energy levels completely unaffected for his fight. Pena burst on to the MMA scene during Season 27 of The Ultimate Fighter. Despite getting injured during the season, he was able to make it to the finale where he lost a very close split decision to Mike Trizano.

Pena has repeatedly stated that he does next to nothing in terms of changing his diet discipline for his cut to 155. So in his mind and in the minds of his coaches, it was a no-brainer to tighten up the diet and actually plan out cutting a significant amount of weight. Even though Pena insists that this is a seemingly normal weight cut it is still his professional debut at featherweight. So there is at least one variable that he has not experienced before. But Pena has also weighed in under the 155-pound limit multiple times and as low as 153.8 pounds. That was while he was in the Ultimate Fighter house. Pena is not necessarily one to watch on the scales for missing weight, but more of a fighter to watch on fight night to see how his performance is affected by those extra shed pounds. 

Maycee “The Future” Barber (6-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC)

Maycee Barber is just 20 years old and already has a stoppage win in the UFC. Barber trains at the same camp of Anthony “Lionheart” Smith who was the focus piece of Weight Cutting Chronicles for UFC 235. Barber and Smith’s coach, Marc Montoya, had expressed how his fighters had been feeling better eliminating their weight cuts, and as a result, had been performing better too.

Maycee was a large 115-pound fighter at 5’5″ and possessing a 65″ reach. Barber had struggled cutting weight outside of the UFC and missed weight in her second professional fight by 7.4 pounds. After an impressive Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series appearance Maycee got the nod. In “The Future’s” one and only fight in the UFC was against fellow newcomer, Hannah Cifers in November of 2018. Barber finished the fight by ground-and-pound in the second round. But in the cage isn’t where Barber seemed to struggle. Maycee again missed weight, weighing in at 116.5 pounds, just a half a pound over the weight limit. This might not seem like a lot, but proportionate to her body weight, half a pound is a much larger percentage of body weight for a strawweight than it is on all the other weight classes in the UFC.

Now that Barber has 10 fewer pounds to cut she can truly use her size advantage with a full tank of gas to power the engine. Maycee and her coaches investing in her health like this, especially so early in her career, could very easily take her game to the next level. This is the path newcomers should follow. 

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