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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 at the initial round of the bout at UFC Fight Night 143, we believed there was a chance the branch could be saved, especially since the UFC announced a couple of other battles at 125lbs for different events.
It seems like that might not be the case, as the marketing has allegedly released several different flyweights.
In accordance with Cejudo, who spoke to the media last weekend in UFC Fight Night 144, the UFC has released top-ranked flyweights Dustin Ortiz and Matheus Nicolau. Additionally, 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 normally it is around the fighters to inform the fans and media when that happens. Almost anytime someone was eliminated from the rankings for unknown reasons, however, it is generally 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 downright shocking, and dare I say, dumb. Ortiz is coming from 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 understands the next crack at Cejudo’s belt, meaning that the UFC just cut Ortiz coming off of a title eliminator. And before the Benavidez struggle, Ortiz had won three consecutive fights, including a head kick knockout within the above Nicolau, a decision win over Alexandre Pantoja — a talented flyweight who it seems has been spared by 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 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 fighter like Ortiz outright just seems absurd.
In terms of Nicolau, he’d won all three of his fights from the Octagon before dropping to Ortiz, and even though he didn’t seem to be a title contender, he provided valuable thickness at 125lbs. He additionally holds a notable win over Moraga, who it appears has also got the boot. That. Moraga was really among the first 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 solid gatekeeper and the perfect test for up-and-comers to shoot on. In his last fight, he had been knocked out by Deiveson Figueiredo, who seems 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 behave in a gatekeeper role. It simply seems too harsh to reduce a man who was among the few fighters with completing potential in a branch that normally sees fights go the distance.
Now, it’s very weird that which the UFC is doing together with the flyweights. If you inquire UFC president Dana White, he says that the promotion hasn’t made a decision on the division, but it seems like every day we are seeing a flyweight get cut, and then another day we see a flyweight battle reserved. It would be nice if the UFC will create its mind and 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 going ahead, and that’s not fair to anyone.
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