Heading into 2019, most of us guessed there was a fantastic chance the UFC flyweight division was on its final legs. However, when Henry Cejudo knocked out TJ Dillashaw at the first round of the bout at UFC Fight Night 143, we thought there was a chance the division could be spared, particularly since the UFC announced a few other battles at 125lbs for different occasions.
It seems like that may not be the case, since the promotion has reportedly released several different flyweights.
According to Cejudo, who talked to the media last weekend in UFC Fight Night 144, the UFC has released top-ranked flyweights Dustin Ortiz and Matheus Nicolau. Additionally, John Moraga has been eliminated from the UFC’s official positions, suggesting he also was published. The UFC hasn’t yet commented if these fighters have really officially been published, but generally it’s up to the fighters to tell the fans and media when that happens. Almost anytime someone has been removed in the rankings for unknown reasons, though, it is generally because the UFC released them.
Even though the UFC flyweight division is clearly on its way out, the choice to cut an excellent fighter such as Ortiz is utterly shocking, and dare I say, dumb. Ortiz is coming off of a competitive unanimous decision loss to Joseph Benavidez in UFC Fight Night 143 which was one of the better fights on that card. There’s an opportunity Benavidez gets the next crack at Cejudo’s belt, meaning the UFC just cut Ortiz coming off of a title eliminator. And before the Benavidez fight, Ortiz had won three straight fights, including a mind kick knockout within the aforementioned Nicolau, a decision win over Alexandre Pantoja — a gifted flyweight who it appears was spared by the cuts so much — and a 15-second KO over Hector Sandoval which was the fastest knockout in UFC flyweight history. If anything, the UFC should have advised Ortiz to maneuver up to bantamweight, which Alex Perez apparently is going to do (in addition to fighters like Said Nurmagomedov). Releasing such a gifted and fighter like Ortiz outright just seems silly.
In terms of Nicolau, he had won all three of his battles in the Octagon before dropping to Ortiz, and even though he did not seem to be a title contender, he provided valuable thickness at 125lbs. He also holds a notable win over Moraga, who it seems has also got the boot. That’s another cut that shocks me. Moraga was really one of the initial flyweights the UFC signed back in 2012, and even though he had an up-and-down UFC profession, he was still considered to be a solid gatekeeper and the perfect test for up-and-comers to shoot on. In his last fight, he had been knocked out by Deiveson Figueiredo, who seems to be among the few flyweights the UFC nevertheless has to the roster. There’s no reason Moraga could not have stuck around and continued to behave in a gatekeeper role. It simply seems too harsh to cut a guy who was among those few fighters with finishing potential in a branch that normally sees fights move the distance.
At this point, it’s very weird that which the UFC is performing together with the flyweights. If you inquire UFC president Dana White, he states that the advertising has not made a determination on the branch, but it seems like every day we are seeing a flyweight get cut, then the next day we see a flyweight battle reserved. It would be nice if the UFC will create its mind and cut all of the flyweights or maintain a full division, because right now the fighters don’t have any clue what type of job security they have moving forward, and that’s not fair to anyone.
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