Heading into 2019, most of us guessed there was a fantastic possibility the UFC flyweight division was on its final legs. But 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 division could be saved, particularly since the UFC declared a few other battles at 125lbs for different events.
It looks like that may not be the case, since the marketing has allegedly released several different flyweights.
According to Cejudo, who talked to the press this past weekend at 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 positions, suggesting he too has been published. The UFC has not yet commented if these fighters have really officially been published, but normally it’s around the fighters to tell the media and fans when that occurs. Virtually anytime somebody has been eliminated in the rankings for unknown reasons, however, it is generally because the UFC released them.
Though the UFC flyweight division is clearly on its way out, the decision to cut a quality fighter such as Ortiz is downright shocking, and dare I say, dumb. Ortiz is coming off of a competitive unanimous decision loss to Joseph Benavidez at UFC Fight Night 143 that was one of the better fights on this card. There is an opportunity Benavidez understands another crack at Cejudo’s belt, meaning that the UFC simply cut Ortiz coming from a title eliminator. And prior to this Benavidez struggle, Ortiz had won three consecutive fights, including a mind kick knockout within the above Nicolau, a determination win over Alexandre Pantoja — a gifted flyweight who it appears has been spared from 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 must have advised Ortiz to maneuver around bantamweight, which Alex Perez apparently will do (along with fighters like Said Nurmagomedov). Releasing such a talented and improved fighter like Ortiz outright just looks silly.
In terms of Nicolau, he had won all three of his battles from the Octagon before dropping to Ortiz, and although 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 seems has also got the boot. That’s another cut that shocks me. Moraga was actually among the first flyweights the UFC signed back in 2012, and even though he had an up-and-down UFC career, 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 seems to be among the couple flyweights the UFC nevertheless has to the roster. There is no reason Moraga couldn’t have stuck around and continued to act in a gatekeeper role. It just seems overly harsh to reduce a guy who was one of those few fighters with finishing potential in a branch that normally sees fights go the distance.
Now, it is very weird that which the UFC is performing with the flyweights. If you inquire UFC president Dana White, he states the promotion hasn’t made a decision on the division, but it seems like every day we are seeing a flyweight get cut, and then another day we see a flyweight fight booked. It would be nice if the UFC could create its mind and cut all of the flyweights or maintain a full division, since now the fighters don’t have any idea what type of job security they have moving forward, and that’s not fair to anybody.
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