Heading into 2019, most of us figured there was a good possibility the UFC flyweight division was on its last legs. However, when Henry Cejudo knocked out TJ Dillashaw in the first round of their bout at UFC Fight Night 143, we believed there was a chance the branch could be spared, particularly since the UFC announced a few other fights at 125lbs for other events.
Well, it looks like that may not be the case, as the promotion has allegedly released several other flyweights.
According to Cejudo, who talked to the media this past weekend in UFC Fight Night 144, the UFC has released top-ranked flyweights Dustin Ortiz and Matheus Nicolau. Additionally, John Moraga has been removed from the UFC’s official rankings, suggesting he also has been released. The UFC has not yet commented on if these fighters have really officially been released, but normally it’s around the fighters to tell the fans and media when that occurs. Virtually anytime somebody has been removed in the rankings for unknown reasons, however, it’s usually because the UFC released them.
Even though the UFC flyweight division is clearly on its way out, the decision to cut an excellent fighter such as Ortiz is downright 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 that card. There’s a chance Benavidez understands the next crack at Cejudo’s belt, meaning the UFC just 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 within 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 that was the fastest knockout in UFC flyweight history. If anything, the UFC should have advised Ortiz to maneuver up to bantamweight, which Alex Perez seemingly is going to do (in addition to fighters such as Said Nurmagomedov). Releasing such a gifted and improved fighter such as Ortiz outright just seems absurd.
In terms of Nicolau, he’d won all three of his battles from the Octagon before dropping to Ortiz, and even though he did not appear to be a title contender, he still provided valuable depth at 125lbs. He also holds a notable triumph over Moraga, who it seems has also got the boot. That’s just another cut which shocks me. Moraga was really among the initial flyweights the UFC signed back in 2012, and although he had an up-and-down UFC career, he was still considered to be a good gatekeeper and the perfect 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 still has on the roster. There is no reason Moraga couldn’t have stuck around and continued to behave in a gatekeeper role. It just seems too harsh to reduce a man who had been one of those few fighters with completing possible in a division that normally sees struggles go the distance.
At this point, it’s very bizarre that which the UFC is doing with the flyweights. If you inquire UFC president Dana White, he states that the promotion has not made a decision 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 fight booked. It would be nice if the UFC will create its mind and either cut all the flyweights or keep a full division, because right now the fighters have no clue what type of job security they have moving forward, and that’s not fair to anyone.
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