Heading into 2019, most of us guessed there was a fantastic chance the UFC flyweight division was on its last legs. But when Henry Cejudo knocked out TJ Dillashaw at 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 declared a couple of different battles at 125lbs for other events.
It looks like that may not be the case, as the promotion has reportedly released several different flyweights.
In accordance with Cejudo, who spoke to the press this past weekend at UFC Fight Night 144, the UFC has released top-ranked flyweights Dustin Ortiz and Matheus Nicolau. In addition, John Moraga has been eliminated from the UFC’s official positions, suggesting he also was released. The UFC hasn’t yet commented if these fighters have really officially been released, but generally it is up to the fighters to inform the fans and media when that happens. Virtually anytime someone has been eliminated in the positions for unknown reasons, however, it is usually 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 that card. There’s an opportunity Benavidez gets another crack at Cejudo’s belt, meaning the UFC just cut Ortiz coming off of a title eliminator. And prior to the Benavidez fight, Ortiz had won three consecutive fights, including a mind kick knockout within the aforementioned Nicolau, a decision win over Alexandre Pantoja — a gifted flyweight who it appears has been spared by the cuts so far — along with also a 15-second KO over Hector Sandoval that was the fastest knockout in UFC flyweight history. If anything, the UFC should have advised Ortiz to maneuver up to bantamweight, which Alex Perez apparently will do (along with fighters like Said Nurmagomedov). Releasing such a gifted and improved fighter such as Ortiz outright just seems absurd.
As for Nicolau, he’d won three of his battles from 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. Moraga was actually one of the first flyweights the UFC signed back in 2012, and even though he had an up-and-down UFC profession, he was still considered to be a solid gatekeeper and the perfect test for up-and-comers to shoot on. In his last battle, he was knocked out by Deiveson Figueiredo, who appears to be among the few flyweights the UFC nevertheless has on the roster. There is no reason Moraga could not have stuck around and continued to act in a gatekeeper role. It simply seems overly harsh to reduce a guy who was one of those few fighters with completing possible in a division that generally sees fights move the distance.
Now, it’s very weird what the UFC is performing together with the flyweights. If you inquire UFC president Dana White, he says the promotion hasn’t made a decision on the division, but it feels like every day we’re seeing a flyweight get cut, then the next day we see that a flyweight battle reserved. It would be fine if the UFC will make up its own mind and either cut all the flyweights or maintain a full branch, since now the fighters don’t have any idea what type of job security they have going ahead, and that is not fair to anyone.
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