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MMA uses weight classes for a reason

Tito Ortiz won at Bellator 120
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

The central idea of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) as a martial art is that it balances the playing field so that a smaller man can defeat a larger opponent through skill and technique. However, when the two combatants are equally skilled, the reality is that the larger man is going to defeat the smaller man more often than not. For some unknown reason, Tito Ortiz, a former light heavyweight (205 lb.) champion of the UFC, took on Alex Shlemenko, the current middleweight (185 lb.) champion of Bellator, in Bellator 120 on May 17. In a result that was as predictable as death and taxes, Ortiz took the victory by submission in the first round.
Shlemenko is the better fighter of the two; he is younger, quicker and more athletic. However, the size difference between the two was striking. Shlemenko started off fine, landing strikes on his larger opponent. It was only a matter of time until Ortiz took him down, landed in top position and basically walked right into the fight-ending submission.
So what did this fight prove? Nothing. Ortiz is a good fighter with a good submission game. However, his best days are well behind him. This win will get him another fight, but that is about all. Even a fight with Mo Lawal, who lost in the main event, would see Ortiz as a big underdog.
And Shlemenko? This loss hurts his aura as the champion, even if it was less than a fair fight. For comparison, Cyborg Justino’s credibility in MMA was recently damaged by a loss to Jorina Baars in a Muay Thai fight, even though Cyborg showed skills and the heart of a lion just to finish the fight. The only thing this loss really does is make it harder for Shlemenko to make it into the UFC with a big contract.
There are weight classes in MMA for a reason. Yes, Anderson Silva could move up a weight class and beat some middling fighters in the UFC, but he wanted no part of Jon Jones. Silva was smart enough to know that he would lose and that the loss would damage his reign as champion. Cross-weight matches are a bad idea for the fighters and the promotion. Bellator should have known better.

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