The Weight Cutting Chronicles – UFC Rochester: Tweeners and Women’s Featherweights

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Kevin Lee weighs in, behind a towel, ahead of UFC Atlantic City
Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

There are two fights on UFC Rochester worth looking at from a weight cutting perspective, both the main event, and a rare women’s featherweight bout on the main card.

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.

Kevin “The Motown Phenom” Lee (17-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC)

Kevin Lee was a standout in the UFC’s lightweight division. Cracking the top ten is a huge accomplishment in that shark-infested weight class. But Kevin struggled with the top-tier competition of the 155-pound division. Lee ascended the ranking of lightweight storming towards a title shot in 2017 after his controversial first-round rear-naked choke finish over Michael Chiesa. After this fight, Kevin’s next few fights were to put him in the position for a title fight. First, Lee faced Tony Ferguson and he fought a great fight, dominating much of the first round but was ultimately submitted by Ferguson in the third round. This fight was extremely high stakes, and Lee wore his emotions on his sleeve after the bout. Lee’s next trip to the octagon was a different story as he was able to get the win over Edson Barboza by stoppage due to a cut in a very entertaining fight. This was a very important fight for Lee as he was rocked by one of the Brazilian’s signature kicks but was able to keep his composure and make a full recovery.

For Lee’s most recent fight in December of last year, he faced off in a rematch against the man who handed him his first loss of his professional mixed martial arts career, Al Iaquinta. Unfortunately for Lee, the result would be the same and Iaquinta came away with a lopsided unanimous decision. This is where “The Motown Phenom” and his team decided a change should be made. Making himself miserable and depleted before fighting high-level competition was showing more and more in Lee’s performances, especially when he was trying to make a run at the belt. Lee told reporters during a media scrum on Wednesday:

“I feel like the UFC is slowly taking steps in the right direction on getting rid of this weight cutting. This sport is dangerous enough as it is. It doesn’t make any sense that we’ve got to dehydrate ourselves and put our health at risk and not give the fans and the folks the fight that they should get.”

Kevin now only has to focus on his opponent, Rafael dos Anjos, during fight week and way less on his weight for when he steps on that scale. Lee is one of those fighters that could potentially be in-between 155 and 170 pounds if you’d like to entertain the possibility of the UFC adding a 165-pound weight class. 

Rafael “RDA” Dos Anjos (28-11 MMA, 17-9 UFC)

Rafael dos Anjos has had a very long and successful career in the UFC. The Brazilian was once a champion in the UFC lightweight division. Dos Anjos has huge wins over top UFC fighters such as Donald Cerrone, Nate Diaz, Benson Henderson, and Anthony Pettis. After losing his championship in 2016 to Eddie Alvarez, as well as dropping his next fight to Tony Ferguson, RDA decided it was time for a change. Dos Anjos, even though he only stands at 5’8″ possessing a 70″ reach, decided to move up a weight class to the welterweight division. Dos Anjos obviously felt that the weight cut was taking away from his performance inside of the Octagon, even though he never really had issues with missing weight. And it seems like RDA was correct with his suspicions. After moving up, RDA rattled off three consecutive wins against Tarec Saffiedine, Neil Magny and Robbie Lawler.

After this fight, RDA was in the conversation for a title fight and probably one win away from getting one. But dos Anjos ran into some of the top guys that the UFC’s 170-pound division has to offer and he didn’t fare too well. Last year, RDA faced both Colby Covington and current UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman. Dos Anjos was on the wrong side of a unanimous decision in both of these bouts getting completely outworked. Both Usman and Covington have that grinding wrestling style and were able to effectively keep dos Anjos at bay. It also helped that dos Anjos is a bit undersized even though he is a tank. I think that Dos Anjos would fall into that category of in-between lightweight and welterweight, he would probably excel if the UFC were to add a 165lbs. weight class.

Felicia “Feenom” Spencer (6-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Megan Anderson (8-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC)

This is a huge fight for the incredibly shallow UFC women’s featherweight division. The division does not yet have enough women to fill out a top ten ranking. So if any fighter can string together one or two impressive wins they are instantly looking at challenging for that featherweight strap, currently held by double-champ Amanda Nunes. It is the least populated division out of all of the weight classes due to the lack of competition and how difficult it is to find-highly skilled women mixed martial artists above bantamweight (attracting oversized women for the weight class, like Cyborg, due to the lack of other heavier women’s weight classes). Not to mention that weight-cutting for women is a little more complex than it is for males due to the way the human body differs between the two sexes. And most of the women in the weight class have moved up from the bantamweight division. Well for the bout going down at UFC Rochester, undersized women won’t be a factor as two real featherweights will square up.

Felicia Spencer is a legitimate women’s featherweight fighter that is making her UFC debut against Megan Anderson on Saturday. In Felicia Spencer’s last bout she won the Invicta FC  featherweight championship. Her first professional fight was about four years ago in 2015 and was actually at 155-pounds. Feenom is definitely a legitimate featherweight, even though she only stands at 5’6″ tall.

Megan Anderson is also a very legitimate women’s featherweight fighter. Megan is essentially largest women’s fighter in the UFC standing at 6’0″ tall and possessing a 72″ reach. Anderson is also rumored to start her cut at around 170-pounds. After dropping her UFC debut against Holly Holm, via unanimous decision, Megan came back and quickly dispatched Cat Zigano in the very first round but with a touch of controversy.

In my opinion, both fighters really have something to prove here, that they belong in the UFC, and with an impressive showing from either, they will in all likelihood be looking at a bout with the very scary, very big, Cris Cyborg.

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