Heading into 2019, most of us figured there was a fantastic chance the UFC flyweight division was on its final legs. But when Henry Cejudo knocked out TJ Dillashaw at the first round of the bout at UFC Fight Night 143, we thought there was an opportunity the branch could be spared, especially since the UFC announced a few other battles at 125lbs for other events.
It looks like that may not be the case, as the promotion has allegedly released several other flyweights.
In accordance with Cejudo, who spoke to the press this past weekend at UFC Fight Night 144, the UFC has launched top-ranked flyweights Dustin Ortiz and Matheus Nicolau. Additionally, John Moraga has been removed from the UFC’s official positions, indicating he too has been released. The UFC hasn’t yet commented if these fighters have really officially been published, but generally it’s around the fighters to inform the media and fans when that happens. Almost anytime somebody was eliminated from the rankings for unknown reasons, though, it is generally because the UFC released them.
Though the UFC flyweight division is clearly on its way out, the choice to cut a quality fighter like Ortiz is utterly shocking, and dare I say, dumb. Ortiz is coming from a competitive unanimous decision loss to Joseph Benavidez in UFC Fight Night 143 which was clearly one of the better fights on this card. There is an opportunity Benavidez understands another crack at Cejudo’s belt, meaning the UFC simply cut Ortiz coming off of a title eliminator. And prior to this Benavidez fight, Ortiz had won three consecutive fights, such as a head kick knockout over the above Nicolau, a decision win over Alexandre Pantoja — a talented flyweight who it appears was spared from the cuts so much — along with 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 maneuver around bantamweight, which Alex Perez seemingly will do (in addition to fighters such as Said Nurmagomedov). Releasing such a talented and fighter like Ortiz outright just looks absurd.
In terms of Nicolau, he had won three of his battles in the Octagon before losing to Ortiz, and although he did not seem to be a title contender, he provided valuable depth at 125lbs. He additionally holds a notable win over Moraga, who it seems has also got the boot. That. Moraga was actually one of the first flyweights the UFC signed back in 2012, and even though he had an up-and-down UFC profession, 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 couple flyweights the UFC nevertheless has to the roster. There is no reason Moraga couldn’t have stuck around and continued to act in a gatekeeper role. It simply seems overly harsh to reduce a man who was among those few fighters with finishing possible in a branch that generally sees fights go the distance.
Now, it is very bizarre that which the UFC is doing with the flyweights. If you ask UFC president Dana White, he says that the advertising hasn’t made a determination on the branch, but it feels like every day we’re seeing a flyweight get cut, and then another day we see that a flyweight fight booked. It would be nice if the UFC will create its mind and cut all of the flyweights or maintain a full division, because now the fighters have no clue what kind of job security they have moving ahead, and that is not fair to anyone.
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