I was 212 beginning of last year. I dieted down to the low 190s at probably 12% bf, but my lifts went way down. I didnt like it. I looked MUCH better than i did at 212, but i wasnt happy, so i started slowly increasing callories with CLEAN(er) food. Now i'm weighing 197ish and strong as ever. Also gained only minimal amount of body fat.
I have seen a LOT of guys recommend this approach. To strip the body fat off and then slowly add callories back in.
I've also seen peple recommend bulking and staying heavier and building a tremendous strength base, then cutting down to see your nice physique under the blubber, but this made my numbers drop too much.
But, none of this really matters if you're about to become assisted... i dont have experience there to share... i think you probably have a lot more left in you naturally. Especially since you werent far from your goals before anyway.