Heading into 2019, most of us guessed there was a fantastic 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 an opportunity the branch could be spared, particularly since the UFC announced a few different fights at 125lbs for different events.
Well, it seems like that might not be the case, as the marketing has allegedly released several different flyweights.
In accordance with Cejudo, who spoke to the press this past weekend in UFC Fight Night 144, the UFC has released top-ranked flyweights Dustin Ortiz and Matheus Nicolau. In addition, John Moraga was removed from the UFC’s official positions, indicating he too has been released. The UFC has not yet commented on if these fighters have indeed officially been published, but normally it is around the fighters to tell the media and fans when that occurs. Virtually anytime someone was removed from the positions for unknown reasons, though, it’s usually because the UFC released them.
Though the UFC flyweight division is clearly on its way out, the choice to cut a quality 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 that was one of the better fights on this card. There is an opportunity Benavidez understands the next crack at Cejudo’s belt, meaning that the UFC simply cut Ortiz coming from a title eliminator. And prior to the Benavidez fight, 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 appears was spared from the cuts so far — and a 15-second KO over Hector Sandoval which was the fastest knockout in UFC flyweight history. If anything, the UFC must have told Ortiz to maneuver up to bantamweight, which Alex Perez seemingly will do (along with fighters like Said Nurmagomedov). Releasing such a talented and improved fighter such as Ortiz outright just seems silly.
In terms of Nicolau, he’d won three of his fights in the Octagon before losing to Ortiz, and although he did not appear to be a title contender, he provided valuable depth at 125lbs. He also holds a notable win over Moraga, who it seems has also got the boot. That. Moraga was actually among the initial flyweights the UFC signed back in 2012, and although he had an up-and-down UFC career, he was considered to be a good gatekeeper and the perfect test for up-and-comers to shoot on. In his last fight, he was knocked out by Deiveson Figueiredo, who seems to be one of the couple flyweights the UFC nevertheless has on the roster. There’s no reason Moraga could not have stuck around and continued to act in a gatekeeper role. It simply seems too harsh to cut a guy who had been one of those few fighters with completing possible in a division that generally sees fights move the distance.
Now, it is very bizarre that which the UFC is doing with the flyweights. If you ask UFC president Dana White, he states that the promotion hasn’t made a determination on the branch, but it seems like every day we’re seeing a flyweight get cut, then another day we see a flyweight fight reserved. It would be fine if the UFC could make up its mind and cut all of the flyweights or keep a complete division, because right now the fighters have no clue what type of job security they have moving forward, and that is not fair to anybody.
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