Heading into 2019, we all figured there was a good chance the UFC flyweight division was on its last legs. But when Henry Cejudo knocked out TJ Dillashaw in the first round of their bout at UFC Fight Night 143, we thought there was a chance the division could be saved, especially since the UFC announced a couple of other fights at 125lbs for other events.
Well, it seems like that may not be the case, as the promotion has reportedly released several other flyweights.
According to Cejudo, who spoke to the media 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 removed from the UFC’s official rankings, indicating he too has been released. The UFC has not yet commented on if these fighters have indeed officially been released, but generally it’s up to the fighters to tell the media and fans when that happens. Almost anytime someone has been removed from the rankings for unknown reasons, though, it’s usually because the UFC released them.
Even though the UFC flyweight division is clearly on its way out, the decision to cut a quality 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 one of the better fights on that card. There’s a chance Benavidez gets the next 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 straight fights, including a head kick knockout over the aforementioned Nicolau, a decision win over Alexandre Pantoja — a talented flyweight who it seems has been 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 move up to bantamweight, which Alex Perez apparently is going to do (in addition to fighters like Said Nurmagomedov). Releasing such a talented and improved fighter like Ortiz outright just seems silly.
As for Nicolau, he had 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 still provided valuable depth at 125lbs. He also holds a notable win over Moraga, who it appears has also got the boot. That’s another cut that shocks me. Moraga was actually one of the first flyweights the UFC signed back in 2012, and although he had an up-and-down UFC career, he was still considered to be a solid 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 one of the few flyweights the UFC still has on the roster. There’s 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 one of the few fighters with finishing potential in a division that generally sees fights go the distance.
At this point, it’s very weird what the UFC is doing with the flyweights. If you ask UFC president Dana White, he says the promotion hasn’t made a decision on the division, but it feels like every day we are seeing a flyweight get cut, and then the next day we see a flyweight fight booked. It would be nice if the UFC could make up its mind and either cut all the flyweights or keep a full division, because right now the fighters have no idea what kind of job security they have going forward, and that’s not fair to anyone.