Now that International Fight Week is over, we have a lot to talk about.
UFC 200 became the largest event in MMA history, three new champions were crowned, Brock Lesnar won in his return and the UFC was sold for $4 billion. With all the excitement that has taken place over the last week, it is important to take stock and see where the sport stands. Here is the state of the UFC's flyweight division.
Demetrious Johnson has been absolutely incredible inside the Octagon throughout his career. His only loss came to Dominick Cruz for the bantamweight belt and has won 10 straight fights. After winning the inaugural UFC Flyweight Championship, he has yet to let go of it, racking up 8 title defenses in the process. He has six post fight bonuses and has not even come close to losing a fight. He is primed to be the longest reigning champion in UFC history. But that might change soon.
Mighty Mouse has suffered an injury and has to pull out of his fight against Wilson Reis later this month. While Reis has been assigned a replacement bout against Sean Santella, it has put the title on hold for the foreseeable future. So where does that leave the division with the pound-for-pound king gone?
The top two contenders, Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo, will be sidelined for the time being due to their responsibilities as coaches on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter. They will face each other in the coaches' fight following the conclusion of the show. These two men are among the division's most exciting fighters. Combine that with the champ being gone and it may be hard to get UFC fans to watch the flyweight division. Despite some incredible battles taking place inside the Octagon at 125, they have not attracted the large audiences that some other weight divisions have got.
DJ's injury may have even effected the prize for the show. The winner of TUF 24 was supposed to face him for the title as part of the deal for winning the show. However, it is still unclear how long the champion will be out for, which could throw a monkey wrench into the plans to have the fight in December. The UFC may have to scrap the idea that the TUF winner will fight DJ in 2016.
Now to focus on the fighters that can compete. The rest of the top five is full of talented flyweights. At No. 3, Jussier Formiga has been impressive in the Octagon. Though he is 4-3 in the UFC, his losses are against Benavidez, Cejudo and former title contender John Dodson. He even beat Reis who had a shot at the title. No. 4 Kyoji Horiguchi has been even more impressive. He is 6-1 in the UFC with the loss coming in a title fight. He has outclassed all opponents besides Johnson and could take on other top five fighters for an exciting fight. "Uncle Creepy" rounds out the top five.
Ian McCall struggled as a bantamweight, but is 2-2-1 at flyweight. His losses are against Johnson and Benavidez and he even drew with Johnson while fighting in the flyweight tournament. Any of these guys could be thrown in to the Octagon for an exciting fight. They may be responsible for carrying the division until Johnson, Benavidez and Cejudo can return to fight.
But who should they face? McCall is already set to face Justin Scoggins at UFC 201. If he were to win, he should look to take on a top 10 opponent like Louis Smolka. Smolka is coming off a win against Ben Nguyen in which both fighters appeared sloppy. Smolka could recover by earning an impressive win against a top five fighter.
Formiga and Horiguchi do not have any fights scheduled, but they should also look to top 10 opponents. A great fight for Formiga would be against Ali Bagautinov. He has already fought Zach Makovsky and Reis may not make it out of his fight against Santella. Formiga can use this chance to build his resume by beating a top 10 fighter and could potentially make a case to earn a title shot against DJ. Horiguchi in turn should face Makovsky, which would be an explosive fight. A win for Horiguchi shows he can compete with anyone and a win for Makovsky earns him a spot in the top five.
Out of the fighters ranked 10-15, only two — Ray Borg and Scoggins — have scheduled fights. That leaves four fighters who can face each other. John Moraga and Matheus Nicolau have already fought, so I see Moraga facing Sergio Pettis and Nicolau taking on Dustin Ortiz.
The flyweight division may be treading water with its three biggest stars unable to fight. However, there is still plenty of talent to keep the weight class afloat. As long as fans stay tuned to watch the 125ers go at at, they will keep putting on a show. These little guys know how to go the distance and get into absolute brawls. Hopefully they can have some excellent fights to close out 2016 and keep eyes on the division.
(Image via MMAWeekly.com)