Heading into 2019, we all guessed there was a good chance the UFC flyweight division was on its final legs. However, when Henry Cejudo knocked out TJ Dillashaw at the initial round of the bout at UFC Fight Night 143, we thought there was an opportunity the branch could be saved, particularly since the UFC announced a few other battles at 125lbs for different occasions.
It looks like that may not be the case, as the promotion has reportedly released several different flyweights.
In accordance with Cejudo, who talked to the press last weekend at UFC Fight Night 144, the UFC has launched top-ranked flyweights Dustin Ortiz and Matheus Nicolau. Additionally, John Moraga was removed from the UFC’s official rankings, indicating he also was released. The UFC hasn’t yet commented on if these fighters have really officially been published, but generally it is up to the fighters to inform the media and fans when that happens. Virtually anytime someone was eliminated from the positions for unknown reasons, though, it’s generally because the UFC released them.
Even though the UFC flyweight division is obviously on its way out, the choice to cut an excellent fighter like Ortiz is utterly shocking, and dare I say, dumb. Ortiz is coming off of a competitive unanimous decision loss to Joseph Benavidez at UFC Fight Night 143 which was clearly one of the better fights on that card. There’s an opportunity Benavidez understands the next crack at Cejudo’s belt, meaning the UFC just cut Ortiz coming off of a title eliminator. And prior to the Benavidez struggle, Ortiz had won three straight fights, including a mind kick knockout within the above Nicolau, a determination win over Alexandre Pantoja — a gifted flyweight who it appears was spared from the cuts so far — and also a 15-second KO over Hector Sandoval that was the fastest knockout in UFC flyweight history. If anything, the UFC must have told Ortiz to move around bantamweight, which Alex Perez seemingly will do (in addition to fighters such as Said Nurmagomedov). Releasing such a talented and fighter such as Ortiz outright just looks silly.
As for Nicolau, he had won all three of his fights from the Octagon before losing to Ortiz, and even though he didn’t seem to be a title contender, he still provided valuable thickness at 125lbs. He additionally holds a notable triumph over Moraga, who it seems has also got the boot. That is just another cut which shocks me. Moraga was actually among the first flyweights the UFC signed back in 2012, and although he had an up-and-down UFC career, he was considered to be a good gatekeeper and the ideal test for up-and-comers to take on. In his last fight, he was knocked out by Deiveson Figueiredo, who seems to be one of the few flyweights the UFC still has on the roster. There’s no reason Moraga could not have stuck around and continued to act in a gatekeeper role. It just seems too harsh to cut a man who was one of the few fighters with completing potential in a division that generally sees struggles move the distance.
At this point, it is very weird that which the UFC is doing with the flyweights. If you inquire UFC president Dana White, he says the promotion 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 that a flyweight battle booked. It would be fine if the UFC will make up its mind and cut all the flyweights or keep a complete branch, since right now the fighters don’t have any clue what kind of job security they have moving ahead, and that is not fair to anybody.
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