Benson Henderson redeemed his previous outings at 155 lbs. in a bout that sparked comparisons of David versus Goliath.

Out-sized and arguably outmatched in the first two round of his main event bout against Brandon Thatch at Ultimate Fight Night 60, Henderson executed a remarkable performance in the third and fourth frames, fatiguing his larger opponent en route to a rear naked choke victory.

The subject of changing weight classes has proven to be a popular topic in the last few months. Missing weight ahead of their respective bouts at UFC 183 forced Kelvin Gastelum and John Lineker to move up a division in their next outings, while former featherweight Dustin Poirier tries his hand at lightweight in April at UFC Fight Night 63.

While the subject is fresh in popular discussion, here are three more examples of fighters who moved up a weight class looking to find success.

 

B.J. Penn

After the prodigy fell short in his first campaigns to win the UFC lightweight championship back in the early 2000s against Jens Pulver and Caol Uno, Penn would finally taste gold with a move up to welterweight, submitting Matt Hughes at UFC 46.

The haven of 170 lbs. would not satisfy the fighting Hawaiian, however. After disagreements with the UFC prompted Penn to jump ship to K-1, he would compete at middleweight once before agreeing to a now notable catchweight bout against current UFC middleweight and former light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida. Penn weighed in at 191 lbs., 34 less than his opponent, taking the contest to a decision in spite of the great size difference. Experience would not best mass however, Penn lost the bout and would eventually return to the UFC where he would rule the roost at lightweight for two years between 2008 and 2010.

 

Alistair Overeem

Overeem would spend the majority of his early career at light heavyweight, testing himself against some of the sport’s greatest names while competing in Pride Fighting Championships. After mixed results against the likes of Chuck Liddell, Antônio Rogério Nogueira, Vitor Belfort and Mauricio Rua, Overeem took the leap to heavyweight.

A new, more muscled physique accompanied Overeem’s new weight class and while the Dutchman’s means of gaining such an imposing frame are questionable, his success was undeniable. After claiming the inaugural Strikeforce Heavyweight Championship in 2007 with a victory over Paul Buentello, would win ten more outings including DREAM’s heavyweight championship, before succumbing to Antonio Silva in the wake of a suspension for excessive testosterone levels.

 

Dan Henderson

A veteran of several weight classes, Dan Henderson has proven time and again that size will not deter him from a fight.

Making a name for himself in Pride at the modern day equivalent of middleweight, Henderson would best the likes of Ryo Chonan, Akihiro Gono, Murilo Bustamante, before moving up to 205 lbs. In his final outing with the Japanese promotion, Henderson knocked out Wanderlei Silva to claim the championship.

Mixed success during his time in the UFC and Strikeforce between 2007 and 2010 saw Henderson unable to claim a middleweight title in either division. Making the jump to 205 lbs. once again, Hendo finished Rafael Cavalcante to claim the Strikeforce light heavyweight championship and rectify his unpleasant track record in recent title fights.

As Henderson’s elite pedigree will attest, no foe is larger than the Pan American gold medal winner’s competitive spirit. Embracing the challenge of a lifetime, Henderson would make one more leap, this time to heavyweight, to face Fedor Emelianenko. In one round, Henderson finished arguably the greatest fighter of all time by TKO to stake his own claim as one of the most accomplished fighters MMA has ever known.

About The Author

Aidan O'Connor
Staff Writer

A native of Maidstone, England, Aidan has been covering MMA in a news or feature capacity since 2010. In addition to writing for The MMA Corner, Aidan also runs the MMAmusing Twitter account and enjoys the sport as an avid enthusiast. A graduate in English and American Studies, he currently works in marketing and public relations.