Why The Flyweights Aren't Going Anywhere...
Besides the fact that the UFC is literally bringing in a whole new division of Flyweight women. There have been recent rumors stating the potential selling of the UFC's entire men's Flyweight division. According to the ever so inconsistent UFC President, Dana White, the removal of the division has been talked about for awhile now. However, what the UFC is actually doing with the division at the moment indicates otherwise.
Currently, the Pound-4-Pound best fighter in the world today and just one of the very best to ever compete in MMA overall is the UFC's only Flyweight champion, Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson. In Johnson's next bout at UFC 215 against challenger, Ray Borg, he will be looking to break Anderson Silva's all time title defense record which stands right now at 10 defenses. If you've been following all of the recent turmoil in regards to the 125 lb weight class you would know that former UFC 135 lb Bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw was campaigning for his shot at the man known as Mighty Mouse. That obviously is not coming to fruition has now left us here with the fight we originally expected between Johnson and Borg.
An interesting match up and one of the very few remaining challengers for the champion, Borg will also be the youngest fighter that Johnson has ever defended against. Borg is only 23 which is just one year younger than Kyoji Horiguchi was when he attempted to dethrone Johnson back at UFC 186 in 2015. The style difference between Borg and Horiguchi makes the youth more of a factor for Borg as he's a much better wrestler than Horiguchi. Not to say that it's bad (because it isn't), but it's always been fair to say that wrestling has been Johnson's weakest part of his game. Repeat...that's not saying that his wrestling is bad because the guy just does everything incredibly well. That area has just been a common place of success for some of his opponents. The big question is always if they can get a hold of Mighty Mouse or not due to his mind boggling speed. We'll just have to wait and see if Borg himself can once September 9th rolls around.
Outside of next challenger Ray Borg, there are only two or maybe three real challengers left on the horizon for Johnson. Some may even argue that there are already none left. The most obvious next option being the winner of UFC Fight Night 114's headliners between Sergio Pettis and Brandon Moreno. Leading me into one of my indications that the Flyweight division will be sticking around: Pettis and Moreno are the main event. If the UFC was planning on getting rid of the division, wouldn't it feel like a waste of time to place two 125ers in a headline slot? "Well Fight Night 114 is in Mexico City and Moreno is Mexican." Yes, this is true, tapping into certain markets has always been something the UFC has tried to do. But really how popular is Moreno in Mexico? Especially being in a division that the UFC more often than not ends up putting on the prelims rather than main cards. It just doesn't make a lot of sense other than to keep trying to build up the division and the potential next title challengers which are definitely Moreno and or Pettis.
Aside from the obvious indication in UFC Mexico City's main event, there have been much smaller ones as of late that could be the most notable. Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series is well under way and five UFC contracts have already been given out to winners so far. None of those five being Flyweight fighters but there have been Flyweight bouts on the first two of three installments of the series with another already scheduled to come during this week's event. So, at the moment this means there's only one chance for one Flyweights to possibly get to jump up onto the big stage here despite two fights already happening with no contracts being awarded. What this really tells us is that the UFC/Dana White are still looking to expand the division which is what this Contender Series is all about. Unless they want to add onto a division for sales purposes there should be no point in scouting for new fighters at 125 lbs when you're planning on doing away with the division all together.
The 125 lb weight class has always been one that fans have had split emotions towards. Whether claiming that they're the most technical fighters in MMA or just too small to care about, there seems to be very little middle ground. Some of the blame for this can go on the champion, Demetrious Johnson, but not for the reasons you may be thinking.
Demetrious Johnson is great! He is one of the greatest fighters of all time! People have claimed he has had no competition and the division is shallow and weak which has always been a huge myth. The fighters at Flyweight are good, Johnson is just that much better. It has created a real illusion for a lot of fans. Especially once it's broken down, it shows how good the division really is and has been. Take Joseph Benavidez for a prime example. Benavidez has a 25-4 pro MMA record and has beaten just about everyone at Flyweight not named Demetrious Johnson. In fact, Benavidez's only four losses have came to just two of the greatest ever in Johnson and former WEC and UFC champion, Dominick Cruz. Benavidez won 14 fights at Bantamweight which include wins over former WEC champions, Miguel Angel Torres and Eddie Wineland before dropping down to Flyweight. Similar to Johnson who was 14-2 at 135 lbs (also holding a win over Torres).
There are many other fighters whom you can use these examples on. Whether it be the last title challenger, Wilson Reis who has had a solid career at Bantamweight too, grabbing wins over Ivan Menjivar or current UFC top 10 135er, Bryan Caraway not to mention he's only lost 2 of his 7 bouts at 125 (to Johnson & Jussier Formiga). Or you can look at Olympic Gold Medalist, Henry Cejudo who has only lost to Johnson and Benavidez (in an arguable decision) during his career. As for other recent signs of Flyweight's depth, look no further than when Tim Elliott took on Ben Nguyen at UFC Fight Night 110. Elliott won season 24 of The Ultimate Fighter thus earning his title shot. Elliott went in and gave Johnson his toughest fight in a long time and even had the champion in some danger early on in round one. Showing he had improved to top 5 status since his first UFC stint, Elliott defeated Louis Smolka then took on Nguyen. In just a matter of 49 seconds, Elliott found himself submitting to a tight rear naked choke and catapulting the unranked Nguyen into the top 10.
Anything can happen in MMA, but it's clear to anyone who's been paying attention that the Flyweights are a fun and very talented bunch and it would be a shame to see them go. Fortunately, for the time being, they don't appear to be going anywhere!
Follow me on Twitter: @Dre_Kriggs