When Henry Cejudo halted TJ Dillashaw at the beginning of 2019, the general thought was that the flyweight champ had “saved” the 125-pound division. Once lorded over by Demetrious Johnson, Cejudo carried plenty of momentum in the next few months, culminating in his capturing of the vacant bantamweight title a few months later at UFC 238.
That’s when things got a little funky.
Longtime contender Joseph Benavidez – who handed Cejudo his last loss – stopped Jussier Formiga in a No. 1 contender fight a month later, but the injuries Cejudo sustained against Marlon Moraes kept him from defending either belt. Eventually, Cejudo vacated, which led to a title fight where the winner, Deiveson Figueiredo, missed weight and was ineligible for the title. So, more than a year later after Cejudo’s big win in Brooklyn, it is the only weight class lacking a champion. But what it isn’t lacking is a bevy of interesting contenders making their case for a shot.
Here’s a look at the flyweight division:
More Divisional Breakdowns: Strawweight | Women's Flyweight | Women's Bantamweight | Women's Featherweight | Bantamweight | Featherweight | Lightweight | Welterweight | Middleweight | Light Heavyweight | Heavyweight
Outlook: After Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez duked it out in Norfolk, UFC President Dana White said he is interested in matching the two again. What complicates that potential rematch is Henry Cejudo saying he wants to come back to “defend” his flyweight belt, in which case Figueiredo might get his first shot at Cejudo. Any mixture of those three squaring off for the belt makes for a fun matchup, though.
Last Fight: TKO Win vs Joseph Benavidez (2/29/2020)
Next fight: N/A
Outlook: The flyweight division’s “God of War” might be the most menacing man in the division. He finished five of his seven wins in the UFC, and his knockout of Joseph Benavidez – although not without a little controversy – was more of the same. He caught the veteran in a deep armbar attempt in the first round before getting the job done with his hands in the next, and he might have the best finishing instincts in the weight class. That said, missing weight in his first title shot is something that more than clouded what could’ve been a coming-out party of sorts. With his emphatic performance and eye-catching style, though, he very well could have earned an immediate re-shot at the belt, and it’s hard to imagine the Brazilian will allow the scale to deny him another chance to hear “And new” soon enough.
Last Fight: TKO Loss vs Deiveson Figueiredo (2/29/2020)
Next fight: N/A
Outlook: After Joseph Benavidez knocked out Jussier Formiga in Minnesota, a collision course with Henry Cejudo seemed set, but when it seemed clear that Cejudo intended to defend the bantamweight title first, Benavidez found himself with a title shot anyway. The mood in Norfolk around his matchup with Deiveson Figueiredo almost felt like a coronation of sorts, like one of UFC’s original flyweights finally making it to the top. It made sense, in a way. Benavidez’ only UFC losses came twice to Demetrious Johnson and a split decision to Sergio Pettis, and he looked as good as ever against Formiga. It especially felt like he was bound for gold after Figueiredo missed weight. Instead, he suffered just his second knockout loss, dropping him to 0-3 in UFC title fights. He could bounce back for his fourth shot, though, if a rematch with Figueiredo is booked. With what we know about Benavidez, it’s not a bad bet to think he’s going to come in top form and in a good headspace as he closes in on another chance at gold.
Last Fight: Unanimous Decision Loss vs Brandon Moreno (3/14/2020)
Next fight: N/A
Outlook: One of the more prolific submission artists in the division, Jussier Formiga is on a short two-fight losing skid, but don’t mistake that for him being done contending. He’s the only man to beat Deiveson Figueirdo, which is coincidentally Formiga’s last win. That said, he’s a tough out for anyone, and going to the ground with him is ill-advised. With a submission game like that, Formiga is going to be in every fight for as long as he chooses to compete. The 34-year-old Brazilian does need to find a way back into the winner’s circle, but his path to victory ensures that he’ll at least remain near the top of the pile.
Last Fight: KO win vs Matt Schnell (12/21/2019)
Next fight: N/A
Outlook: To his credit, Alexandre Pantoja might rival Deiveson Figueiredo’s finishing prowess. Winner in four of his last five fights, Pantoja’s three most recent victories came by way of first-round finish, and his only loss in the run was a Fight of the Night effort against Figueiredo. Since coming to the roster three years ago, he has continued his habit of ending fights early, and it’s not hard to imagine Pantoja finding his way in the title picture with a couple more definitive victories.
Last Fight: Unanimous Decision Win vs Jussier Formiga (3/14/2020)
Next fight: N/A
Outlook: “The Assassin Baby” is making the most of his second UFC stint. Brandon Moreno showed off a much-improved striking game since returning to the roster, particularly in a fun fight against Kai Kara-France at UFC 245. His unanimous decision win over Jussier Formiga was a major feather in his cap as it allowed him to show off the full blend of his skills, and if his striking continues to improve, his submission record makes him an all-around nightmare. Pair that with his toughness and flair, and the 26-year-old seems primed to become a longtime contender in the division.
Outlook: While the top of the flyweight division is filled with veterans and experienced fighters, flyweight is starting to see an influx of younger talent make their case for contention. Askar Askarov, Kai Kara-France and Alex Perez are all 28 years old or younger and have made real statements for themselves in the top 15. Askarov had an interesting bout with Tim Elliott most recently, and the unbeaten Russian gave the veteran all he could handle en route to a decision win. Kara-France is yet another New Zealander fighting out of City Kickboxing, and he bounced back from his first UFC loss with a nice win against Tyson Nam in Auckland. Alex Perez is coming off a nice submission of Jordan Espinosa in Raleigh, and his only loss in the Octagon came against Joseph Benavidez, but he returned with a nice win over Mark De La Rosa. Kara-France and Alex Perez will make for a fun fight in May, as it could serve as an entryway into a fight against someone in the top 5.
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