Despite a fight with Leon Edwards at UFC 278 rapidly approaching, Kamaru Usman has not been shy in talking about his plans for moving on from the welterweight division following the Edwards fight. Aside from trying to secure a boxing match with one of the greatest in the world Canelo Alvarez, Usman has recently been highlighting his serious intentions to move up from 170lbs.
While it is totally normal for a dominant champ to look for a challenge in a new weight class, in fact, it is often expected, what is totally abnormal is that Usman will be skipping the 185lb division and heading straight up to Light heavyweight at 205lbs. A champion skipping a weight class and going two weight classes above is entirely unheard of and would be an unprecedented fight if it did indeed take place. This raises the question though, why does Usman want to skip the middleweight division and head to 205lbs?
Midnight Mania! Kamaru Usman doubles down on jump to light heavyweight https://t.co/qYAfnvJ6KT
— MMA mania (@mmamania) July 2, 2022
Why skip 185lbs?
The main reason for this is the fact that Israel Adesanya is the champion at middleweight. Usman, Adesanya and heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou are all African-born champions in the UFC and the trio are very proud to represent the continent in the organisation.
Usman and Adesanya have both repeatedly said that they do not wish to fight each other, with both showing a sense of Nigerian solidarity with one another and both feeling it best for their people and country to have two champions in the UFC rather than one double champion. Of course, this rules out the possibility of Usman going to middleweight as Adesanya looks to remain on the throne for the foreseeable future. With middleweight ruled out and a cut to lightweight being physically impossible for the already massive Usman, light heavyweight is the only option that remains.
What the fight could look like?
Despite being a totally dominant force at welterweight, Usman would undoubtedly be a tremendous underdog if he ever did move up to fight the light heavyweight champion. Usman is generally bigger and stronger than most of the competitors he faces at 170lbs and would be giving up his size and strength advantage at a move to light heavyweight.
If any argument could be made for him going up, you could probably say that maybe Jiri Prochazka is his ‘easiest’ match-up out of the current crop of title picture 205ers, yet easy would not be the word to describe that fight. Prochazka stands at 6ft 4 inches tall and has said his walk-around weight is generally around 100kg or 220lbs. This is not massive by light heavyweight standards but the difference in size between him and Usman would be monumental. The difference in strength and power would also be huge.
We have seen Jiri Prochazka manage to get off his back with the likes of Glover Teixeira on top of him. If Teixeira, himself a much bigger man than Usman and arguably as skilled or an even better grappler than the Nigerian, was unable to keep Prochazka down then it seems unlikely that Usman would be able to manage to contain the current champ.
Likewise, we have seen Usman rocked by fighters such as Gilbert Burns and Colby Covington. Burns is a former lightweight and Covington is a small welterweight who could easily make lightweight himself. If Usman was hit with these same punches but by someone with the size and power of Prochazka it looks like he would be extremely vulnerable to the knockout.
Why Usman Would Want to take the Fight
However, if Usman by some miracle did manage to beat Prochazka and win the light heavyweight title skipping a weight class entirely, it would solidify his legacy and truly catapult his claim to GOAT status. Easily being one of the biggest underdog stories in the history of the sport and he would be accomplishing something that most fans and pundits think is impossible. While the chances of him beating Prochazka are microscopic, it is easy to see why he would want to try, purely just to cement his legacy and truly go down as the greatest fighter of all time.
Ultimately, Usman moving up to 205 seems ridiculous when first analysing it and to be honest it is hard to imagine a match-up between Usman and Prochazka being taken seriously by fans. Yet, in the event of Usman winning, this fight would have to go down as one of the most impressive displays in mixed martial arts history. Most of all, if Usman does beat Leon Edwards in his next fight then surely he has earned the right to have a legacy champion versus champion contest if that is what he wishes.
With Khamzat Chimaev set to fight Nate Diaz and no other fight at welterweight really looking like the fight to make after Edwards and Usman, and if Adesanya remains the king of 185lbs and Glover Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz coming to the end of their careers at light heavyweight, do not be surprised if this matchup is made sooner rather than later.