Heading into 2019, we all guessed there was a fantastic possibility the UFC flyweight division was on its final legs. However, when Henry Cejudo knocked out TJ Dillashaw at the first round of their bout at UFC Fight Night 143, we believed there was an opportunity the branch could be spared, especially since the UFC declared a few other fights at 125lbs for other occasions.
Well, it seems like that might not be the case, as the marketing has allegedly released several other flyweights.
In accordance with Cejudo, who spoke to the media this past weekend in UFC Fight Night 144, the UFC has launched top-ranked flyweights Dustin Ortiz and Matheus Nicolau. In addition, John Moraga was eliminated from the UFC’s official rankings, indicating he also has been released. The UFC has not yet commented if these fighters have indeed officially been released, but normally it is up to the fighters to inform the media and fans when that occurs. Virtually anytime someone was removed from the positions for unknown reasons, however, it’s usually because the UFC released them.
Even though the UFC flyweight division is obviously on its way out, the decision to cut an excellent fighter such as 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 that was clearly one of the better fights on that card. There is an opportunity Benavidez gets the next 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 over the aforementioned Nicolau, a determination win over Alexandre Pantoja — a talented flyweight who it seems was spared by the cuts so much — along with a 15-second KO over Hector Sandoval that was the fastest knockout in UFC flyweight history. If anything, the UFC should have told Ortiz to maneuver up to bantamweight, which Alex Perez apparently will do (in addition to fighters such as Said Nurmagomedov). Releasing such a gifted and fighter such as Ortiz outright just seems silly.
In terms of Nicolau, he had won three of his fights from the Octagon before losing to Ortiz, and although he didn’t seem to be a title contender, he still provided valuable thickness at 125lbs. He also holds a notable win over Moraga, who it seems has also got the boot. That is just another cut that shocks me. Moraga was really 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 solid gatekeeper and the ideal test for up-and-comers to shoot on. In his last fight, he had been knocked out by Deiveson Figueiredo, who appears to be one of the couple flyweights the UFC nevertheless has on the roster. There’s no reason Moraga couldn’t have stuck around and continued to behave in a gatekeeper role. It simply seems too harsh to cut a man who was among those few fighters with finishing potential in a division that generally sees struggles move the distance.
Now, it is very bizarre that which the UFC is doing with the flyweights. If you inquire UFC president Dana White, he states the advertising has not made a determination on the branch, but it seems like every day we are seeing a flyweight get cut, and then another day we see a flyweight battle booked. It would be fine if the UFC could make up its mind and cut all the flyweights or keep a full division, since right now the fighters don’t have any clue what type of job security they have moving forward, and that is not fair to anyone.
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