Kevin Lee and Darren Till were among the fighters to keep an eye on at Friday’s UFC 244 weigh-in.
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.
Nate Diaz ( 20-11 MMA, 14-9 UFC)
Lightweight (155lbs.): 10-6(UFC) The Ultimate Fighter Season 5 Winner, UFC Lightweight Title Challenger, Missed weight one time
Welterweight (170lbs.): 4-3 (UFC)
Over the past couple of years Nate Diaz has taken the UFC by storm and gained an insane amount of notoriety through his two fights with Conor McGregor, as well as his fan-favorite, “never back down” attitude. Nate took the Conor fight on less than 2 weeks’ notice and was able to pull off the improbable upset, thanks to Diaz’s discipline and commitment to training, and staying in shape year-round. The majority of Diaz’s MMA career has been at 155lbs, and it has always been a difficult weight cut for him to accomplish. Diaz has been in the fight game for a long time and is now 34 years old. The weight doesn’t come off as it used to when Diaz first started his career regardless of how disciplined he is staying (i.e, in triathlon -condition essentially year-round).
Despite the argument of the “journeyman’s’ record”, no one can deny the durability of Nate Diaz and the fact that he does things the old fashioned way, with good nutrition, good training, and hard work. The output of punches that Diaz can throw onto his opponent over the course of the fight is astounding. And he hasn’t slowed down one bit.
Kelvin Gastelum (16-4,1 NC MMA, 10-4,1 NC UFC)
Welterweight (170lbs.): 7-2 (UFC) Missed weight 3 times
Middleweight (185lbs.): 3-2, 1 NC (UFC), The Ultimate Fighter Season 17 Winner, Challenged for the UFC Middleweight Title
Kelvin Gastelum had one of the ugliest ongoing battles with weight cutting in recent memory. That even though he started off in the UFC undefeated and winning The Ultimate Fighter Season 17 all while in the middleweight division. Kelvin even missed weight for his fight against Tyron Woodley in 2015 by almost 10lbs, and as a result was immediately ordered to abandon welterweight and move up to middleweight by UFC President, Dana White. Kelvin stands at just 5’9″ but has a very thick build and has admitted that he loves to eat. Kelvin has quick feet and good boxing and has surprised and overwhelmed many of the fans and maybe even some fighters who may have forgotten how good he is. Kelvin is just 28 years old and who knows what is in store for him, maybe there is even a 205lb fight in his future.
Darren “The Gorilla” Till (17-2-1 MMA, 5-2-1 UFC)
Welterweight (170lbs.): 5-2-1 (UFC), Challenged for the UFC Welterweight Title
Middleweight (185lbs.): 0-0 (UFC)
Darren Till is making his much-anticipated debut in the UFC’s middleweight division at UFC 244 against none other than fellow UFC welterweight cast off, Kelvin Gastelum. But that is about where the similarities stop, as Darren is an absolute gorilla and stands at 6 feet tall with a 74 and a half-inch reach. Since bursting onto the scene with his signature win against Cowboy Cerrone back in late 2017 Darren Till has been on everyone’s radar as one of the best up-and-coming strikers in the UFC. Till grew up with a very intimate relationship with Muay Thai and it shows in his highly technical fighting style.
After a razor-close split decision win against the much smaller ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, Till was immensely thrust even more into the spotlight and given a title shot against Tyron Woodley. The step up in the competition would prove to be too much too soon for the young contender, now 26, and Till would fall by second-round D’arce choke. This was the first loss of Darren Till’s pro-MMA career. And his second would follow just 6 months later as Jorge Masvidal flatlined Till in front of his home crowd in absolutely devastating fashion. That loss to Jorge was actually in March of this year and now in a new weight class Till faces a path to the title that is a little less stacked (in the top 10 roster) but not by all that much anymore.
A couple of weeks ahead of Till’s fight at UFC 244 he sat down and gave some insight into his training and focus now that weight was not the main focus:
“I just got to the point where I was- I felt like I was too big and I was really putting myself under strain, and it wasn’t healthy for me, you know? Two weeks out now from the fight and I’m not even thinking about the fight or cutting weight I’m just thinking about training and I love it.
This excerpt really sums up Till well. A young guy that’s hungry to prove himself on the big stage after what happened earlier this year. Although he’s heavier a healthy Till might be even quicker than a dehydrated one. However, coming into the fight a little too bulked up like Luke Rockhold’s 205lb debut could have a severe negative effect on Till’s movement.
Kevin “The Motown Phenom” Lee (17-5 MMA, 10-5 UFC)
Lightweight (155lbs.): 10-4 (UFC) Challenged for the UFC Interim Lightweight Championship, Missed weight one time
Welterweight (170lbs.): 0-1 (UFC)
Kevin Lee is a young, talented, 27-year-old looking to not only make a bigger name for himself but to have UFC gold wrapped around his waist. Kevin had seemingly made a home in the UFC’s lightweight division and was able to accumulate solid wins until fighting fighters inside the top 10. This is where his struggles began. Fighters like Al Iaquinta and Tony Ferguson not only found a way to win against Lee but did so in what you can characterize as dominant fashion. Even Lee’s late-round stoppage victory over Edson Barboza has an asterisk next to it considering he missed weight for that fight.
However, with that being said, we’re not criticizing Mr. Lee, rather he just has an incredibly high ceiling. The loss to Rafael Dos Anjos in his first welterweight fight was understandable considering RDA is a savage, but Kevin is facing another animal in the wrestling of Gregor Gilespie back at lightweight. But Kevin has never strayed away from a challenge and is better every time he steps into the octagon, not to mention when he is actually healthy.