Predicting who could be champion if the UFC added 165, 175, 195-pound divisions

Which fighters would benefit most from 165, 175, and 195-pound divisions?
Ilia Topuria Press Conference After Winning The UFC Featherweight Championship
Ilia Topuria Press Conference After Winning The UFC Featherweight Championship / Aldara Zarraoa/GettyImages

The most recent changes to the men’s UFC weight classes came in 2011 when they acquired WEC and absorbed the 135 and 145-pound divisions, and then in 2012 when they announced the addition of the 125-pound division. Aside from adding the lower weights that were previously nonexistent in the promotion, the UFC has not amended anything between 155 and 265 pounds since the early 2000s when they initially formed the present-day weight classes.

Recently, a popular hypothetical that made the rounds on social media asked if the UFC were to change weight classes to 125,135,145,155,165,175,185,195, and 205 who would be the 165,175,195 pound champions? Adding two weights, 165,195, and shifting 170 to 175 pounds would be an interesting move made by the UFC that would open the door for more championship opportunities, and create some unique matchups. We don’t know who would truly consider the move, but we can theorize what fighters the move would benefit the most.

The newly formed weights would have no real impact on the 125,135,145 pound divisions. 155 and 165 pounds would be the most impacted weights due to the plethora of talent that would fill those divisions. Let’s examine 155 pounds and each of the three proposed weights, and address the likely scenarios that could occur. A few things I will keep in mind, I won’t consider a simultaneous champ, I will focus on the top 15 of each weight to see who could shift around, and for relevancy, my theorized fights would be expected to occur sometime in the immediate future.

How would 155 and 165 pounds shake out?

Both 155 and 165-pound potential champs would be dependent on where Islam Makhachev goes. If Makhachev stays at 155 pounds, he will continue his run as lightweight champion with a fight against Arman Tsarukyan on the horizon. Makhachev staying at 155 makes 165 pounds wide open, with three fighters who I see making a strong case to move up. Starting with Charles Oliveira who would be the most likely fighter to bump up due to his history of weight issues, and recently losing a number one contender fight. Another interesting fighter who may be tempted to throw his name in the hat for the inaugural 165-pound belt, would be Dustin Poirier. If he gets back to full health and yet another title opportunity presents itself, it could be just what motivates Poirier to make the walk to the octagon one more time. A dark horse whose name could be a future staple of the top five at the new weight is Benoit Saint-Denis. Aside from his loss against the more experienced Poirier, Saint-Denis has proven he’s talented enough to work his way to the top of the rankings, and moving up 10 pounds wouldn’t be as much of an issue for him due to a majority of his fights before his UFC career being at 170 pounds.

Now if Makhachev moves up to 165 pounds, he would be a heavy odds-on favorite to be named the first 165-pound champ, which would make any 155-pound fighter considering moving up to think twice. With Makhachev gone at 155 pounds, the most likely fight for the vacant title would be a rematch between Tsarukyan who is the current number one contender, and the man he just fought to earn that distinction, Oliveira. This time, however, the fight would be a five-round affair and hopefully leave less doubt in fans’ minds after the 25-minute brawl.

One more thing that needs to be factored in would be what 170-pound fighters could drop down to 165-pounds? Currently, 170 pounds seems to have more of an age gap between fighters in the top 10 than other weights in the organization. There is a mix of solid up-and-comers (Shavkat Rakhmonov, Jack Della Maddalena, Sean Brady, Ian Machado Garry) and also vets (Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington, Gilbert Burns) who may still have gas left in the tank. While it may be a little late in their careers, the most likely to drop would be Covington or Burns. Covington has always been billed as someone who isn’t much of a weight cutter to get to 170 pounds, and he’s a name that could get in there for the inaugural belt. Burns, who began his career in the UFC at 155 pounds, is at a crossroads coming off back-to-back losses and could be motivated to shed an extra five pounds for a possible title opportunity.

What would happen at 175 pounds?

This weight seems pretty cut and dry since it really would only be a five-pound increase of the current welterweight limit. In this scenario, Leon Edwards stays champ until those same young guys at 170 pounds sort themselves out, and one eventually takes the next step into title contention. The biggest impact of the five-pound increase at this weight wouldn’t be the influx of fighters from other weights merging, but rather the current 170-pound fighters not having to shed the extra five pounds, which could ultimately lead to increased fight night performance.

As far as fighters coming down from middleweight, there isn’t a ranked 185-pounder that sticks out to drop down and make an immediate impact. Most of the top-ranked 185-pounders are big for their current weight and seem more likely to consider the move up to 195 than the move down to 175 pounds.

Who would challenge at 195?

Possibilities-wise, this weight is on par with a Makhachev-less 165 pounds. If this weight was implemented in the short-term future the fighter most likely to bump up would be Robert Whittaker, who has been on record about his out-of-camp weight and willingness to move to 205. While Whittaker is considered a top contender for the 185-pound championship, there seems to be a slight logjam with the guys in front of him (Dricus Du Plessis, Israel Adesanya, Sean Strickland). With Whittaker deciding to move up, he would be the immediate 195-pound title contender and would likely face a 205-pound contender who would be moving down.

Most of the top-ranked fighters at 205 pounds are massive, and may not be keen on the idea of dropping another 10 pounds. While he may be tempted to move back down for a third championship, I’ll keep Alex Pereira at 205 pounds for now as he seems motivated to attempt a run at heavyweight. The top 205-pounder to drop would most likely be Jiri Prochazka, who has spoken before about dropping back to 185 pounds where he previously fought early in his career. A Whittaker vs Prochazka championship fight would be intriguing and not something many would have expected to see happen.