Heading into 2019, most of us figured there was a fantastic possibility the UFC flyweight division was on its final 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 a chance the branch could be spared, particularly since the UFC announced a few different fights at 125lbs for other events.
Well, it seems like that may not be the case, as the marketing has reportedly released several other flyweights.
In accordance with Cejudo, who talked to the press last weekend in UFC Fight Night 144, the UFC has launched top-ranked flyweights Dustin Ortiz and Matheus Nicolau. Additionally, John Moraga was removed from the UFC’s official rankings, suggesting he too has been released. The UFC hasn’t yet commented on if these fighters have really officially been released, but generally it’s around the fighters to tell the media and fans when that occurs. Virtually anytime somebody was eliminated in the positions for unknown reasons, though, it is usually because the UFC released them.
Even though the UFC flyweight division is clearly on its way out, the choice to cut a quality 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 at UFC Fight Night 143 that was clearly one of the better fights on that card. There is a chance Benavidez gets the next 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 straight fights, including a head kick knockout over the aforementioned Nicolau, a determination win over Alexandre Pantoja — a gifted flyweight who it appears has been spared from the cuts so far — 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 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 such as Ortiz outright just looks absurd.
In terms of Nicolau, he had won three of his battles from the Octagon before losing to Ortiz, and although he didn’t appear to be a title contender, he still provided valuable depth at 125lbs. He additionally holds a notable triumph over Moraga, who it appears has also got the boot. That. Moraga was actually among the first 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 take on. In his last fight, he was knocked out by Deiveson Figueiredo, who appears to be among the few flyweights the UFC nevertheless has to the roster. There’s no reason Moraga couldn’t have stuck around and continued to behave in a gatekeeper role. It just seems too harsh to cut a man who had been one of those few fighters with completing possible in a division that normally sees struggles go the distance.
At this point, it is very bizarre that which the UFC is performing with the flyweights. If you ask UFC president Dana White, he says the promotion hasn’t made a decision on the branch, 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 own mind and either cut all the flyweights or maintain a complete branch, because now the fighters don’t have any clue what kind of job security they have going ahead, and that’s not fair to anybody.
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