Tuesday, January 26, 2021

What’s next? UFC’s Flyweight Division

The landscape of the UFC is ever changing, with contenders constantly jostling at the top of the rankings, and prospects always looking to crack into the top 15 in every division. We’re going to be taking an in depth look at the current state of each division and letting you know who to keep an eye out for over the next 12 months. We’re going be be starting out at 125 pounds and working our way up the weight classes. Today we’ll be taking a look at the flyweights, and delving deep into the rankings to find the next contender.

The Champion

The UFC’s flyweight division has been considered lackluster and shallow for a while now, with a large number of fans demanding that current champion Demetrious Johnson end his six year reign over the division and move up to bantamweight.

In the six years that Mighty Mouse has held UFC gold he has taken on all comers, defending his title a record 10 times (one he shares with all time great Anderson Silva). He has beaten every top contender the UFC have been able to offer him, including beating both Joseph Benavidez and John Dodson twice.

The UFC even went as far as inviting 16 champions from various divisions for The Ultimate Fighter season 24 – with the winner receiving a fight for the UFC gold. Unfortunately even this could not liven up the flyweight division all that much.

UFC The Top Five

If we take a look at the top five ranked fighters in the division currently, we can see that Johnson has already faced and beaten the top three. Number four ranked contender Jussier Formiga has losses to Benavidez, Henry Cejudo and Ray Borg – the current top three. If he was to secure a title fight, he would have to beat at least one of these three. Sergio Pettis lost his last fight in December to Henry Cejudo, however he is taking on Joseph Benavidez in a potential title eliminator at UFC 225 on Saturday.

  1. Joseph Benavidez (25-4-0)
  2. Henry Cejudo (12-2-0)
  3. Ray Borg (11-3-0)
  4. Jussier Formiga (21-5-0)
  5. Sergio Pettis (16-3-0)

Ray Borg is coming off a loss to the champion, meaning he is likely to be out of contention for the title for at least the next year, barring injuries or an incredibly impressive run of form. Benavidez is coming into his fight against Pettis following a year and a half layoff from his last fight after tearing his ACL, despite this he is expected to extend his current six fight winning streak and come out of this weekend with his hand raised.

While it is extremely uncommon for a fighter to have a third crack at a champion after losing the previous two, it would be extremely hard to deny Benavidez another attempt given the current state of the division.

The final contender to look at in the top five is Henry Cejudo, who is currently on a two fight winning streak. However before those two wins, he dropped his previous two – two important losses. Cejudo lost to both Mighty Mouse and Benavidez in the space of a year, meaning he would likely have to beat the #1 ranked fighter if he wanted another shot at the champion.

A Rising Star?

Matheus Nicolau is one of few upcoming prospects in the flyweight division, currently ranked 13th. Three fights in three years in the UFC is hardly a glowing CV, however he has won all three of those fights so far, with his last coming in December 2017. His next fight comes against long time contender Dustin Ortiz, if he can manage to come out of that fight with the victory it may not be long before we see him against the bigger names in the division.

Talking Points

The largest point of interest around the flyweight division currently is potential superfight between Demetrious Johnson and bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw. Dillashaw has stated a number of times that he would drop down to flyweight to take on Mighty Mouse, however it is expected this fight is on hold until we see who comes out on top of the latest battle for the bantamweight crown.

Must see fight: Joseph Benavidez vs Sergio Pettis @ UFC 225

Next challenger: Winner of Joseph Benavidez and Sergio Pettis

One to watch: Matheus Nicolau

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