Heading into 2019, we all figured there was a good chance the UFC flyweight division was on its final legs. However, when Henry Cejudo knocked out TJ Dillashaw in the first round of the bout at UFC Fight Night 143, we thought there was an opportunity the division could be spared, particularly since the UFC declared a few different fights at 125lbs for different occasions.
Well, it looks like that may not be the case, as the promotion has allegedly released several other flyweights.
In accordance with Cejudo, who talked to the press this past weekend at UFC Fight Night 144, the UFC has launched top-ranked flyweights Dustin Ortiz and Matheus Nicolau. Additionally, John Moraga has been eliminated from the UFC’s official rankings, indicating he too was released. The UFC hasn’t yet commented if these fighters have indeed officially been released, but generally it is up to the fighters to tell the media and fans when that happens. Virtually anytime someone has been removed in the positions for unknown reasons, though, it’s generally because the UFC released them.
Even though the UFC flyweight division is obviously on its way out, the choice to cut an excellent fighter like Ortiz is utterly 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 off of a title eliminator. And before the Benavidez fight, Ortiz had won three consecutive fights, including a head kick knockout within the aforementioned Nicolau, a determination win over Alexandre Pantoja — a gifted flyweight who it appears has been spared from the cuts so much — and 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 seemingly will do (along with fighters such as Said Nurmagomedov). Releasing such a talented and improved fighter such as Ortiz outright just looks absurd.
In terms of Nicolau, he’d won three of his battles in the Octagon before dropping to Ortiz, and even though he didn’t appear 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 which shocks me. Moraga was really one of the initial flyweights the UFC signed back in 2012, and although he had an up-and-down UFC profession, he was considered to be a solid gatekeeper and the perfect test for up-and-comers to shoot on. In his last battle, he had been knocked out by Deiveson Figueiredo, who appears to be one of the few flyweights the UFC nevertheless has on the roster. There’s no reason Moraga couldn’t have stuck around and continued to act in a gatekeeper role. It simply seems too harsh to reduce a guy who was one of the few fighters with finishing possible in a branch that generally sees struggles go the distance.
Now, it’s very weird what the UFC is doing with the flyweights. If you inquire UFC president Dana White, he states that the promotion hasn’t made a decision on the branch, but it feels like every day we’re seeing a flyweight get cut, then the next day we see that a flyweight fight reserved. It would be nice if the UFC will make up its mind and either cut all the flyweights or maintain a full branch, because right now the fighters don’t have any clue what type of job security they have going forward, and that is not fair to anyone.
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