Heading into 2019, we all guessed there was a good chance the UFC flyweight division was on its last legs. However, when Henry Cejudo knocked out TJ Dillashaw in the initial round of the bout at UFC Fight Night 143, we believed there was a chance the branch could be saved, particularly since the UFC announced a few different fights at 125lbs for other events.
Well, it seems like that might not be the case, since the promotion has reportedly released several different flyweights.
According to Cejudo, who talked to the media last 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 positions, indicating he also has been released. The UFC has not yet commented on if these fighters have really officially been released, but normally it is up to the fighters to inform the fans and media when that occurs. Virtually anytime someone has been removed in the rankings for unknown reasons, though, it’s generally because the UFC released them.
Though the UFC flyweight division is obviously on its way out, the decision to cut an excellent fighter like Ortiz is downright shocking, and dare I say, dumb. Ortiz is coming from a competitive unanimous decision loss to Joseph Benavidez at UFC Fight Night 143 that was clearly one of the better fights on that card. There’s a chance Benavidez gets another crack at Cejudo’s belt, meaning that the UFC just cut Ortiz coming from a title eliminator. And prior to the Benavidez struggle, Ortiz had won three straight fights, including a head kick knockout within the aforementioned 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 should have advised Ortiz to maneuver around bantamweight, which Alex Perez apparently will do (in addition to fighters like Said Nurmagomedov). Releasing such a gifted and fighter such as Ortiz outright just seems absurd.
As for Nicolau, he’d won all three of his battles in the Octagon before losing to Ortiz, and although he did not seem to be a title contender, he still provided valuable thickness at 125lbs. He also holds a notable triumph over Moraga, who it seems has also got the boot. That is another cut that shocks me. Moraga was actually among the initial flyweights the UFC signed back in 2012, and even though 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 battle, he was knocked out by Deiveson Figueiredo, who appears to be among the few flyweights the UFC still has on the roster. There’s no reason Moraga couldn’t have stuck around and continued to act in a gatekeeper role. It just seems overly harsh to cut a man who had been one of those few fighters with finishing possible in a branch that normally sees fights move the distance.
At this point, it’s very weird that which the UFC is performing with the flyweights. If you inquire UFC president Dana White, he states that the advertising has not made a decision on the division, but it seems like every day we are seeing a flyweight get cut, then another day we see a flyweight fight booked. It would be fine if the UFC could make up its own mind and cut all of the flyweights or maintain a complete branch, because right now the fighters have no idea what type of job security they have moving ahead, and that’s not fair to anyone.
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