Time for MMA to expand the heavyweight division?

The recent domination of Fedor Emelianenko by Antonio Silva on the opening night of the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix event reopened conversations on whether the sport of MMA needs an additional weight class, between the light-heavyweight and heavyweight division.

Currently, the heavyweight division in professional MMA goes from 205-265 pounds. Anyone who has competed in combat sports in the past surely understands the problems that arise when facing a much larger opponent. Yes, size is not the only factor in a fight, but it would be false to claim it can’t be an advantage in an MMA fight.

Brock Lesnar is the best example of how beneficial size can be in an MMA fight. Lesnar obviously took the time to study MMA, and his collegiate wrestling helped a great deal. He was able to overwhelm Frank Mir in his first UFC fight with his large size advantage, and only ended up getting caught in a kneebar, because of his own carelessness.

Two fights after losing his UFC debut, Lesnar shocked many MMA fans with his win over UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture. Couture dominated the UFC light-heavyweight and heavyweight division mainly due to his wrestling ability. Going against the larger Lesnar, who actually has to cut weight in order to make the 265 pound heavyweight division limit, Couture struggled with Lesnar’s overwhelming size and strength.

The second fight between Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir is another example of size playing a huge role in MMA. As a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner, I was frustrated watching Mir try his best to escape the solid ground control of Lesnar. Mir is a Brazilian Jiu jitsu black belt who surely has multiple escapes in his arsenal. Yet against Lesnar, all his techniques seemed ineffective.

With the increasing popularity of MMA in recent years, now might be a good time for organizations like the UFC to add a new weight class. There should be heavyweight division ranging from 205-230 pounds and a super-heavyweight division for those in the 230-265 pound range.

While I congratulate Antonio Silva for his recent victory over Fedor Emelianenko, I can’t say Silva is the better MMA fighter between the two. He’s a better grappler, and he used his enormous size advantage to beat one of the greatest fighters in the history of MMA.

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