The Weight Cutting Chronicles: UFC Norfolk

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

Two UFC newcomers are breaking the trend of moving down a weight class when they get the call from the famed promotion. Will it pay off at UFC Norfolk?

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.

Steve “Mean Machine” Garcia Jr. (11-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC)

Steve Garcia Jr. is a 6’0″ tall, 27-year-old fighter, with a 73″ reach, that fought at 135lbs just two fights ago. This Bellator veteran has fought the majority of his fights at bantamweight, as crazy as that is. Garcia has also had fights at a catchweight of 140lbs and a few fights at 145lbs.

Garcia missed weight in his last two fights, his most recent one being in the featherweight weight class and the one before that in bantamweight. In August of 2019, Steve was on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series but actually failed to make weight by 3.5lbs, and essentially spoiled his spectacular first-round finish of Desmond Torres. After being passed over by the UFC, Steve moved up to 145lbs to take on Jose Mariscal under the LFA promotional banner in January of 2020. But again, Garcia missed weight even after moving up but, again, he performed well and put on an amazing fight with an impressive finish. Now Garcia is moving up again to the 155lbs weight class for his UFC debut in hopes of focusing less on the weight cut and more on the fight.

Luis “Violent Bob Ross” Pena (7-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC)

Featherweight (145lbs): 1-0 (UFC), Missed weight 1 time

Lightweight (155lbs):  2-2 (UFC)

Luis Pena is one of the tallest and longest 155lb fighters in the UFC right now. The Ultimate Fighter Season 27 product has a very complete martial arts game, and coming out of the famed America Kickboxing Academy (and more recently ATT), his grappling game especially shines. Following his split decision loss to Ultimate Fighter Season 27 winner Mike Trizano in November of 2018, Pena announced that he could go down in weight to 145lbs as his cut to 155lbs was “pretty easy.” Unfortunately, Pena would miss weight for his first and only featherweight bout in March of 2019, and looked especially malnourished and unhealthy while doing so. Ultimately however he was able to capture the win the next night in spite of it all.

At 26 years old ‘Violent Bob Ross’ should be able to make weight at 155lbs for the time being and look okay doing so. But do not be surprised if we look up in a few years and Luis looks like he is practically on death’s door weighing in, or he announces a move up to welterweight. Realistically Luis just has too big of a frame to be able to stay in the weight class long term and perform at an optimal level.

Spike “The Alpha Ginger” Carlyle (8-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC)

Spike Carlyle is making his UFC debut on a little over 3 weeks’ notice after Steven Peterson fell out of his bout against Aalon Cruz at UFC Norfolk. Spike is just 26 years old, and at 5’7″ tall with a 71″ reach, he could very well make 145lbs and has. But the million-dollar question is can he do it and continue to compete on the highest level of the sport against some of the best fighters in the world. Spike’s last two fights outside of the UFC were at lightweight and before that, he had a catchweight bout at 150lbs. Carlyle has had a couple of fights at 145lbs with his only professional loss coming at that weight class. ‘The Alpha Ginger’ will definitely be a fighter to watch on the scales and in the octagon when it comes time for his UFC debut.