The UFC’s weight classes all have their ups and downs, in terms of both fan interest and the amount of attention given to them by the promotion itself. However, at times, all divisions run into difficulties.
Over the years, we’ve seen some of the UFC’s weight divisions run into issues or roadblocks, only for a fighter to be able to rescue them with either a great performance or a big title-winning victory.
Often, this fighter has been able to kickstart their weight division, ushering in a new era. Sometimes, they’ve even been able to save it from the chop altogether.
That being said, here are five UFC fighters who saved their weight division.
#5. Randy Couture – UFC heavyweight division (2007)
The UFC heavyweight division has had its fair share of ups and downs over the years, but it probably hit its lowest low back in 2006.
The year didn’t start off too badly, as Tim Sylvia knocked out Andrei Arlovski to win the UFC heavyweight title for the second time in his tenure with the promotion. The fight was wildly exciting, and seemed to bode well for Sylvia’s new reign.
However, ‘The Maine-Iac’ – never the most marketable fighter – then put on a pair of real stinkers in his first two title defenses, edging out Arlovski and Jeff Monson in dull fights that went the distance.
Both fights ended with the crowd largely booing, leaving the UFC worried about the state of the division.
Those feelings got even worse when Brandon Vera – who was supposed to challenge Sylvia for his title in early 2007 – had his head turned by rival promotion Elite XC fluttering their eyelids at him.
The UFC quickly shelved ‘The Truth’, and intended to go with a title bout between Sylvia and Gabriel Gonzaga – prior to his KO of Mirko Cro Cop, when he was still an unknown.
The fight would undoubtedly have drawn the least interest of any UFC heavyweight title bout ever. Thankfully, the UFC realised this and, instead of Gonzaga, they plucked former heavyweight and light heavyweight champ Randy Couture out of retirement to face Sylvia instead.
‘The Natural’ duly thrashed Sylvia in a big upset to claim the title for the third time. While he didn’t quite usher in a new era, he did end the below-par reign of ‘The Maine-Iac’ and saved the division. In turn, he opened the door for the era of Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos a couple of years later.