Heading into 2019, most of us guessed there was a good possibility the UFC flyweight division was on its final legs. However, when Henry Cejudo knocked out TJ Dillashaw at the initial round of their bout at UFC Fight Night 143, we believed there was an opportunity the division could be spared, especially since the UFC declared a few other battles at 125lbs for different occasions.
It seems like that may not be the case, as the marketing has allegedly released several different flyweights.
According to Cejudo, who talked to the media this past weekend at UFC Fight Night 144, the UFC has launched top-ranked flyweights Dustin Ortiz and Matheus Nicolau. In addition, John Moraga has been removed from the UFC’s official rankings, indicating he also has been published. The UFC hasn’t yet commented on if these fighters have indeed officially been published, but generally it is up to the fighters to tell the media and fans when that occurs. Almost anytime somebody was removed in the positions for unknown reasons, however, it’s usually because the UFC released them.
Though the UFC flyweight division is clearly on its way out, the choice to cut a quality fighter such as Ortiz is downright shocking, and dare I say, dumb. Ortiz is coming from a competitive unanimous decision loss to Joseph Benavidez in UFC Fight Night 143 that was one of the better fights on that card. There’s an opportunity Benavidez understands another crack at Cejudo’s belt, meaning the UFC just cut Ortiz coming from a title eliminator. And before the Benavidez struggle, Ortiz had won three consecutive fights, such as a head kick knockout over the above Nicolau, a determination win over Alexandre Pantoja — a gifted flyweight who it appears was spared by the cuts so far — and also a 15-second KO over Hector Sandoval which was the fastest knockout in UFC flyweight history. If anything, the UFC must have advised Ortiz to move around bantamweight, which Alex Perez seemingly will do (in addition to fighters like Said Nurmagomedov). Releasing such a talented and improved fighter such as Ortiz outright just seems silly.
As for Nicolau, he had won three of his battles in the Octagon before dropping to Ortiz, and although he didn’t appear to be a title contender, he provided valuable thickness at 125lbs. He additionally holds a notable triumph over Moraga, who it appears has also got the boot. That. Moraga was really among the first flyweights the UFC signed back in 2012, and although he had an up-and-down UFC career, he was still considered to be a good gatekeeper and the perfect test for up-and-comers to take on. In his last battle, he was knocked out by Deiveson Figueiredo, who seems to be among the few flyweights the UFC still has on the roster. There’s no reason Moraga could not have stuck around and continued to behave in a gatekeeper role. It just seems overly harsh to cut a man who was one of the few fighters with finishing potential in a branch that normally sees struggles go the distance.
Now, it is very weird what the UFC is doing with the flyweights. If you inquire UFC president Dana White, he states that the advertising hasn’t made a determination on the branch, but it seems like every day we’re seeing a flyweight get cut, and then the next day we see a flyweight battle booked. It would be fine if the UFC could make up its own mind and cut all of the flyweights or keep a full division, because right now the fighters have no idea what kind of job security they have moving forward, and that is not fair to anyone.
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