The Weight Cutting Chronicles: UFC 294 — Kamaru Usman

Kamaru Usman, UFC 278
Kamaru Usman, UFC 278 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Eddie Law/Cageside Press

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 select 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.

Kamaru “Nigerian Nightmare” Usman (20-3 MMA, 15-2 UFC)

Welterweight (170lbs.): 15-2 (UFC), Former UFC Welterweight Champion, 2-0 (TUF), The Ultimate Fighter Season 21 Winner

Catchweight (180lbs.): 1-0 (MMA)

Middleweight (185lbs.): 0-0 (MMA), Making Pro MMA and UFC debut.

Kamaru Usman has graced the top of one of the UFC’s premier divisions for the last five years. Usman stands at 6’0″ tall, is equipped with a 76″ reach and an extremely muscular build especially in his upper body and core.

Usman has never fought at 185lbs in his professional MMA career.

Kamaru competed at the Division-II level in collegiate wrestling competing at 174lbs from 2008 to 2010.

Usman would compete at 185lbs in an attempt to make the 2012 Olympic team, and despite making the U.S. world team in 2010, was ultimately bogged down by injuries and forced to retire from the sport. 

After beginning his pro MMA career, Usman would compete in a catchweight bout at 180lbs in December of 2013, under the Victory Fighting Championship banner. Usman would weigh in at a pro MMA career high of 177lbs. for the bout. And Kamaru would go on to finish his then 3-6 opponent in the first round. 

Kamaru was on the 21st season of The Ultimate Fighter in 2015, where he competed at 170lbs. Usman went 3-0 on the show, successfully staying on weight for a sustained period of time under high stress and winning the finale in order to earn a contract with the UFC. 

Although Kamaru has been a champion for the latter half of his UFC career and therefore had to make championship weight, Usman has only used the allotted grace pound just one time in his career with the promotion. 

Kamaru boasts a 2017 win over the current UFC middleweight champion and WCC alum, Sean Strickland

Though Usman seemingly has not struggled with the weight cut in the past, at 36 years old he can definitely fill out the extra 15lbs to middleweight, no issue. 

To welcome Usman to the middleweight division, will be the task of a young, 29-year-old, 6’2″, former welterweight (and WCC alum) in Khamzat Chimaev

Chimaev also moved up from welterweight albeit under more pressed circumstances. (Missing weight and switching around UFC 279 last second) As a result, Khamzat is at middleweight for the foreseeable future where he is at a much more natural weight.  And when compared to career welterweight in a fighter like Usman, Khamzat definitely has some size on the former UFC champion. 

And thanks to having been a champion for so long, Usman has not been in a short notice bout, especially of this magnitude in a while. This should be a very interesting fight taking into account where each fighter is at currently in their career, the size/weight differences as well as it being such a short notice bout.