Heading into 2019, most of us guessed there was a good chance the UFC flyweight division was on its last legs. But when Henry Cejudo knocked out TJ Dillashaw in the first round of their bout at UFC Fight Night 143, we thought there was an opportunity the branch could be saved, especially since the UFC announced a few other battles at 125lbs for other events.
Well, it looks like that may not be the case, since the marketing has allegedly released several other flyweights.
In accordance with Cejudo, who spoke 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 too has been published. The UFC hasn’t yet commented if these fighters have really officially been published, but generally it is up to the fighters to tell the media and fans when that occurs. Almost anytime somebody was eliminated from the positions for unknown reasons, though, it’s generally because the UFC released them.
Though the UFC flyweight division is clearly on its way out, the choice to cut an excellent fighter like Ortiz is downright 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 clearly one of the better fights on this card. There’s an opportunity Benavidez understands another crack at Cejudo’s belt, meaning the UFC just cut Ortiz coming off of a title eliminator. And prior to the Benavidez fight, Ortiz had won three straight fights, including a head kick knockout within the aforementioned Nicolau, a decision win over Alexandre Pantoja — a gifted flyweight who it seems has been spared by the cuts so much — along with also a 15-second KO over Hector Sandoval which was the fastest knockout in UFC flyweight history. If anything, the UFC must have advised Ortiz to maneuver up to bantamweight, which Alex Perez apparently is going to do (along with fighters such as Said Nurmagomedov). Releasing such a gifted and improved 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 did not seem to be a title contender, he provided valuable depth at 125lbs. He also holds a notable triumph over Moraga, who it appears has also got the boot. That is another cut that shocks me. Moraga was really among the initial flyweights the UFC signed back in 2012, and although he had an up-and-down UFC profession, he was still considered to be a good gatekeeper and the ideal test for up-and-comers to take on. In his last fight, he was knocked out by Deiveson Figueiredo, who appears to be among the couple flyweights the UFC still has to the roster. There is no reason Moraga could not have stuck around and continued to behave in a gatekeeper role. It just seems overly harsh to reduce a man who was among the few fighters with finishing possible in a division that normally sees fights go the distance.
Now, it’s very weird that which the UFC is performing together with the flyweights. If you ask UFC president Dana White, he says the advertising has not made a determination on the division, but it feels like every day we’re seeing a flyweight get cut, then another day we see a flyweight fight booked. It would be nice if the UFC could make up its mind and cut all of the flyweights or keep a complete division, since right now the fighters don’t have any idea what kind of job security they have moving ahead, and that’s not fair to anyone.
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