Heading into 2019, most of us guessed there was a good possibility the UFC flyweight division was on its last legs. But when Henry Cejudo knocked out TJ Dillashaw at the initial round of the bout at UFC Fight Night 143, we believed there was an opportunity the branch could be spared, particularly since the UFC announced a few other fights at 125lbs for other occasions.
Well, it seems like that might not be the case, since the marketing has allegedly released several other flyweights.
According to Cejudo, who talked to the media last weekend at UFC Fight Night 144, the UFC has launched top-ranked flyweights Dustin Ortiz and Matheus Nicolau. Additionally, John Moraga has been 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 released, but normally it’s around the fighters to tell the media and fans when that occurs. Virtually anytime somebody has been eliminated in the positions for unknown reasons, however, it’s generally because the UFC released them.
Though the UFC flyweight division is obviously on its way out, the decision 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 at UFC Fight Night 143 which was clearly one of the better fights on this card. There is a chance Benavidez gets another crack at Cejudo’s belt, meaning that the UFC just cut Ortiz coming from a title eliminator. And before this Benavidez fight, Ortiz had won three consecutive fights, such as a head kick knockout over the aforementioned Nicolau, a decision win over Alexandre Pantoja — a talented flyweight who it seems 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 should have told Ortiz to maneuver up to bantamweight, which Alex Perez seemingly will do (in addition to fighters like Said Nurmagomedov). Releasing such a talented and improved fighter such as Ortiz outright just seems absurd.
In terms of Nicolau, he’d won all three of his fights in the Octagon before losing to Ortiz, and although he didn’t 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 is just another cut which shocks me. Moraga was really 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 few 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 cut a guy who was among the few fighters with completing possible in a division that generally sees struggles go the distance.
At this point, it is very bizarre what the UFC is doing together with the flyweights. If you inquire UFC president Dana White, he says that the promotion hasn’t made a determination on the division, but it seems like every day we’re seeing a flyweight get cut, then the next day we see a flyweight battle booked. It would be fine if the UFC could make up its own mind and cut all of the flyweights or keep a complete division, because right now the fighters don’t have any clue what type of job security they have going forward, and that’s not fair to anyone.
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