The Great Cruiserweight Debate

It’s fine to argue for a cruiserweight division…when the moment merits it

Sunday morning, my friend and colleague Paul “The Mauler” Lazenby offered the following on Twitter, setting my thoughts in motion on The Great Cruiserweight Debate:

I agree with @BasRuttenMMA that Fedor’s loss to Bigfoot adds more weight to the argument in favour of a 235 lb. class.

My response, that “Bigfoot” would have still had 40-pounds on a 240-pound fighter Sunday night and that we only discuss this topic when an icon loses, set-up a back-and-forth between myself and Lazenby, and made this article inevitable.

Oh, and my initial question still remains: how come people only stump for a cruiserweight division when an icon loses? Think about it:

Randy Couture loses to Brock Lesnar; the size difference is too much, we need a cruiserweight division.

Fedor loses to “Bigfoot” Silva; can’t beat a guy who has 50 pounds on you, we need a cruiserweight division.

No one batted an eye when Cheick Kongo gave up nearly 30 pounds to Frank Mir at the weigh-ins for UFC 107, a difference that probably got a little greater by the time both fighters took to the cage the next night in Memphis. A 30-pound difference between Brendan Schaub and Roy Nelson didn’t earn “The Hybrid” any sympathy votes either, just a first-round starching at the hands of “Big Country.”

In addition to being an inconsistent complaint that only seems to surface when legends fall victim to larger men, the cruiserweight argument also ignores the numerous instances where poor, little David defeated big, bad Goliath without the help of his trusty slingshot as well.

Couture may have been on the wrong side of a great weight difference against Lesnar, but a similar disadvantage didn’t prevent him from earning his historic back-from-retirement, signature win over Tim Sylvia at UFC 68.

“Bigfoot” outweighed Fabricio Werdum by 21-pounds when they weighed in for their meeting in suburban Chicago in November 2009, and most likely more when the cage door closed the following night, but that didn’t stop “Vai Cavalo” from maintaining positional dominance on his fellow Brazilian for two rounds en route to a unanimous decision win. Fedor gave up 32 pounds to Brett Rogers in the main event of that card, and “The Last Emperor” was still able to earn what could be his last win the following night on CBS.

So how come now that Fedor was beaten by Silva it’s time to revisit the cruiserweight debate?

Here’s the thing: I’m all for installing a divisional break somewhere around 235 pounds to split the difference in the 59-pound gap between the current heavyweight limits; I just don’t think it will make as great a difference as people think and disagree with broaching the subject only when an icon falls to a bigger man.

If this is something people really want, fight for it, don’t just bring it up at moments when an iconic figures who hasn’t evolved with the sport or challenged himself regularly over the last few years is beaten by a hungrier fighter with a much better game plan who also happens to be significantly larger.

It’s like the argument for a division between middleweight and light heavyweight; the Rich Franklin class where ‘tweeners like “Ace” could carve out a niche, until you realize that Franklin is just 1-1 in bouts at 195-pounds, and 3-2 at the 205-pound limit.

The real truth about the former middleweight champion is not that he’s caught between two weight classes, it’s that his jack-of-all-trades, master of none approach and 1974 date of birth place him at a disadvantage against a lot of fighters, regardless of weight class.

Size matters, but it’s not the only factor in a fight.

Yes, instituting a cruiserweight division that gives fighters at the lower end of the heavyweight limit a chance to fight opponents of a similar size will eliminate literal squash matches, but it’s not as if we’ve seen a great deal of those in the last few years either.

While size certainly has helped Silva and Lesnar over their careers, do not focus solely on their size and belie their obvious talents in the cage.

Silva is a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt who used strong technique in conjunction with his size to dominate Fedor in the second round of their fight, and Lesnar’s freakish athleticism works with his size to make him a formidable foe, albeit one who doesn’t like to be punched in the face.

His size didn’t help him overcome the face-punching issue against Cain Velasquez, nor did it do him any good against Mir the first time around, yet no one had an issue when those champions got the better of the bigger, stronger man.

And that’s the point: if you’re going to argue a cause, you have to stand by it night and day, rain or shine, not just when it hits close to home.

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