The easiest thing for fighters to do when they struggle in the modern era of mixed martial arts is to jump from one weight class to another. Currently, the UFC has eight weight classes for its male fighters, which is the most the promotion has ever had. Due to the diversity of weight classes, it is easy now for a fighter to decide that the division they fight in doesn’t best fit them and make the jump up or down to a different weight class. We see it all the time, but the results are mixed.

Lightweight T.J. Grant was a middle-of-the-road welterweight who found success after making the move to 155 pounds, where he has gone undefeated and has earned a title shot. Chael Sonnen couldn’t get over the hump at middleweight, so he went up to light heavyweight and has found himself with a 1-2 record while fighting at 205 pounds. Although making the move from one division to another division doesn’t always guarantee success, it is at times a move that needs to be made to help revive a career.

During his time at light heavyweight, James Te Huna was a guy who looked like he could be a big prospect early in his UFC career. After starting off at 1-1 inside the Octagon, he won four straight fights and was clearly on the rise. After earning a step up in competition, he has lost two fights, not making it to the third minute against Glover Teixeira or Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.

You can’t really discredit the guy for losing to the current No. 1 contender, the former champion and Alexander Gustafsson, a former No. 1 contender. However, he didn’t make it out of the first round against any of them, which hurts his credibility at 205 pounds.

In his last outing, he faced a big test when he squared off with Shogun. Unfortunately for him, didn’t pass the test. The victory over the Brazilian would have been a big step forward for Te Huna in his career. Instead, it became a step back when he was knocked out in just over one minute. Until that point, he had been a fighter that could rise to the occasion when he wasn’t taking on a top guy, which is a fancy way of saying that he can’t beat ranked fighters. Although there are a number of factors as to why a fighter may be released from a promotion, fight results is one of the more important ones. If you can’t beat anyone that is ranked above you, you won’t last long fighting inside the Octagon.

Recently, the Kiwi announced his plans to drop weight classes and become a middleweight. Although it might be the right career move after his recent setbacks at light heavyweight, it may also stand as his only move at this point. If Te Huna hung around at light heavyweight, his next fight would likely have come against a mid-tier guy in the division—perhaps Nikita Krylov, Gian Villante or Cyrille Diabate—but a victory in a fight against any of those guys would do little to boost Te Huna’s stock.

Given his choices and the fact that the move to middleweight is more or less mandatory at this point, there is only one thing for him to do in his new weight class—he must succeed. If he can’t, then the promotion will not have a place for him. One can argue his success at middleweight by looking at his light heavyweight record in the UFC. He won five fights, including decisions over Ryan Jimmo and Joey Beltran and knockouts of Igor Pokrajac, Ricardo Romero and Aaron Rosa. But of those opponents, only two—Jimmo and Pokrajac—still have contracts with the UFC, and they aren’t exactly top fighters, either, with a combined record of 6-8.

Te Huna, therefore, has a lot to prove when he makes the move. If his trial run at a weight cut goes well and he is able to successfully transition to the new division, then he needs to do more than take out a mid-tier guy like Tom Lawlor. He needs to take out Lawlor and then parlay that into a winning streak with a victory against a fighter like Costas Philippou or Alan Belcher. Then, and only then, people will start buying into him as a fighter with potential.

Te Huna is facing an uphill battle in his search to find that missing success in the middleweight division, which is as loaded as it has ever been. The move from 205 pounds to 185 pounds is like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, and Te Huna may find it far more difficult to score that career-defining victory at 185 pounds than it was in his prior weight class.

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.