A recent fanpost entitled "You Can't Beat a Flyweight" introduced readers to the arrogance some fans hold toward the lighter weight classes. I have no delusion, despite the fact that I weigh 200 plus pounds, that I can beat a high level, professional fighter, at any weight class. In fact, I have less of a "punchers chance" when it comes to the lighter weight fighters. They are just that fast. I agree with the article that the delusion that larger, non-pro fighter "Joes" can beat smaller guys exists. However, there are other reasons why the lighter divisions aren't catching on with fans like they should be. I will explain this after the jump. Here are the bullet points for my arguments.
1) It's a blow to most guys' egos to admit they could be beaten by a man who could be all of half their size.
2) Fighting styles in the lighter weight classes are more homogenized.
3) The differences in body size, including height and muscularity, tend to be more homogenized in the lighter weight classes.
4) Lastly, the history of these lighter weight classes have yet to produce compelling champions.
1) It's a blow to most guys' egos to admit they could be beaten by a man who could be all of half their size. This one goes without saying. The truth is that smaller fighters are really good at shooting takedowns on larger guys. The longer your legs, the more easy it is for a smaller guy to get in there and "dump you on your butt" so to speak. Most guys with longer legs don't have the sprawl of a Chuck Liddel or Anderson Silva. Likewise, we don't have the crazy trips of a Jon Jones.
2) Fighting styles in the lighter weight classes are more homogenized. So far, there have not been any really specialized fighters crossing over from disciplines other than freestyle wrestling. There aren't jiu-jitsu or submission grapplers specialized like a Demian Maia or a Paul Sass in these divisions as of yet. Let's hope that someone from boxing or high level jits crosses over to give diversity. So far, a majority of fighters in 125 and 135 are of the boxer-wrestler type. They also tend to point fight and not get as many subs or kos. Of course, there are fighters like Pickett and Barao who tend to be the exception rather than the rule.
3) The differences in body size, including height and muscularity, tend to be more homogenized in the lighter weight classes. We'll never see anything like Pat Barry vs. Stephan Struve in these divisions. Even the 155 division has guys more than half a foot taller than the other. Sean Sherk and Corey Hill come to mind. Many fans, myself included, like to see a shorter guy try to use footwork to beat a larger guy. It's part of what makes Jon Jones so interesting. The reach advantage. The lighter weight class are less likely to have discrepancies in reach advantages.
4) Finally, this has been touched on in other articles, the fact that these lighter weight fighters have yet to produce memorable fighters. Sure, Benavidez's and Johnson's similar life stories were compelling to me. Both could have turned to a life of crime. Unfortunately, for some odd reason, Johnson was relatively quiet and seemingly sedate at the press conference following his title win. Maybe it was fatigue. Ian McCall would have made a more colorful champion just because of his funky facial hair and nickname. Urishitani would have been the first full blooded Asian champ and an enigma to some. (Note: Machida, Penn and Benderson are half Asian). Maybe these guys can learn to market themselves like a Sonnen or Rampage?
There we have. Some reasons why the lighter weight classes have yet to catch on with casual audiences and some hard core fans. I personally wouldn't say that the fights are any better or worse than the fights of the bigger guys. I just think they are different. I get as equally annoyed when people make fun of the heavyweights as when they do the lighter guys. There's reason to get excited for any weight class. The UFC, Bellator and all the other big promotions are putting some awesome fights on T.V. for us. Never before in the history of MMA have we had this many fights to watch. I became a fan in 2006 and have slowly learned to appreciate every fighter. Even the guys with losing records. Even the "little guys", 135 and under, whom I first wrote off as "boring".