Heading into 2019, we all guessed there was a good possibility the UFC flyweight division was on its final legs. But when Henry Cejudo knocked out TJ Dillashaw at the initial round of their bout at UFC Fight Night 143, we thought there was a chance the branch could be saved, especially since the UFC declared a few different battles at 125lbs for other occasions.
Well, it seems like that may not be the case, since the promotion has allegedly released several different flyweights.
In accordance with Cejudo, who spoke to the press this past weekend in UFC Fight Night 144, the UFC has launched top-ranked flyweights Dustin Ortiz and Matheus Nicolau. In addition, John Moraga has been eliminated from the UFC’s official rankings, indicating he also was published. The UFC hasn’t yet commented if these fighters have really officially been published, but normally it’s up to the fighters to tell the media and fans when that happens. Almost anytime somebody has been eliminated from the rankings for unknown reasons, though, it is usually because the UFC released them.
Though the UFC flyweight division is obviously on its way out, the decision 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 at UFC Fight Night 143 which was clearly one of the better fights on that card. There is an opportunity Benavidez gets the next crack at Cejudo’s belt, meaning the UFC simply cut Ortiz coming off of a title eliminator. And prior to this Benavidez struggle, Ortiz had won three consecutive fights, including a head kick knockout over the aforementioned Nicolau, a determination win over Alexandre Pantoja — a talented 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 move around bantamweight, which Alex Perez seemingly will do (in addition to fighters such as Said Nurmagomedov). Releasing such a gifted and fighter like Ortiz outright just looks absurd.
As for Nicolau, he’d won three of his fights from the Octagon before dropping to Ortiz, and even though he didn’t 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’s another cut that shocks me. Moraga was actually one of the first flyweights the UFC signed back in 2012, and although 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 shoot on. In his last battle, he had been knocked out by Deiveson Figueiredo, who appears to be among the couple flyweights the UFC still has on the roster. There is 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 those few fighters with completing possible in a branch that normally sees struggles go the distance.
At this point, it’s very bizarre that which the UFC is performing together 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 battle reserved. It would be fine if the UFC will create its own mind and either cut all of the flyweights or maintain a full division, since right now the fighters don’t have any idea what type of job security they have going ahead, and that is not fair to anyone.
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