Heading into 2019, most of us guessed there was a fantastic possibility the UFC flyweight division was on its final legs. However, when Henry Cejudo knocked out TJ Dillashaw in the initial round of their bout at UFC Fight Night 143, we thought there was an opportunity the branch could be spared, especially since the UFC announced a couple of different battles at 125lbs for other events.
It looks like that might not be the case, as the promotion has allegedly released several other flyweights.
According to Cejudo, who talked to the media this past weekend at UFC Fight Night 144, the UFC has launched top-ranked flyweights Dustin Ortiz and Matheus Nicolau. In addition, John Moraga was eliminated from the UFC’s official positions, suggesting he also was released. The UFC hasn’t yet commented on if these fighters have indeed officially been released, but generally it is around the fighters to inform the fans and media when that occurs. Almost anytime someone was eliminated in the positions for unknown reasons, though, it’s usually because the UFC released them.
Though the UFC flyweight division is obviously on its way out, the decision to cut an excellent 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 in UFC Fight Night 143 that was clearly one of the better fights on this card. There’s an opportunity Benavidez gets another crack at Cejudo’s belt, meaning that the UFC just cut Ortiz coming from a title eliminator. And prior to this Benavidez struggle, Ortiz had won three straight fights, such as a mind kick knockout within the aforementioned Nicolau, a decision win over Alexandre Pantoja — a gifted flyweight who it seems was spared by the cuts so far — and also 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 seemingly is going to do (in addition to fighters such as Said Nurmagomedov). Releasing such a gifted and fighter such as Ortiz outright just looks absurd.
In terms of Nicolau, he had won all three of his fights in the Octagon before dropping to Ortiz, and even though he didn’t seem to be a title contender, he still provided valuable depth at 125lbs. He additionally holds a notable win over Moraga, who it appears has also got the boot. That’s just another cut that shocks me. Moraga was actually one of the initial flyweights the UFC signed back in 2012, and even though he had an up-and-down UFC career, he was still considered to be a good gatekeeper and the perfect test for up-and-comers to take on. In his last battle, he was knocked out by Deiveson Figueiredo, who seems to be one of the few flyweights the UFC still has to the roster. There’s no reason Moraga could not have stuck around and continued to act in a gatekeeper role. It just seems too harsh to cut a man who was one of those few fighters with finishing potential in a branch that generally sees fights move the distance.
Now, it’s very bizarre what the UFC is performing with the flyweights. If you inquire UFC president Dana White, he states that the advertising has not made a determination on the division, but it seems like every day we’re seeing a flyweight get cut, and then the next day we see that a flyweight battle booked. It would be fine if the UFC could make up its mind and either cut all of the flyweights or keep a complete branch, because right now the fighters have no idea what kind of job security they have moving ahead, and that’s not fair to anybody.
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