Watching the revival of the UFC flyweight division brings long term fans of the sport nothing but joy.
Since its humble beginnings in 2012, the flyweight division has spent much of its existence been ridiculed by many fans and even UFC President Dana White. Many lambasted the division for its lack of knockout artists, resulting in the flyweights getting labelled as boring.
This lack of love wasn’t always the case, at least during the early stages.
Dana White would often hit back at the critics, questioning their knowledge on the sport.
However, this good will quickly dried up.
Good Early Groundwork
However, this good will quickly dried up.
Very unfairly, a lot of the blame for the state of the flyweight division during much of its lifespan fell at the feet of Demetrious Johnson.
Johnson was the inaugural UFC Flyweight champion. He holds the record for the most consecutive title defences in flyweight and UFC history. ‘Might Mouse’ has won bonuses for Fight of the Night, Knockout of the Night, Submission of the Night and Performance of the Night during his historic championship run.
DJ also holds wins over notable names like John Dodson, Joseph Benavidez, Henry Cejudo, and Ray Borg. The latter even fell victim to an ungodly suplex into an armbar finish in the final round of their fight back in 2017.
On paper that doesn’t sound boring at all, right?
Was Demetrious Johnson Responsible?
Well, the issues really start to come to light when you investigate the impressive run of Johnson.
Johnson won the title on the 22nd of September 2012. He defeated Benavidez to become the first ever UFC Flyweight champion, via a split decision.
With that fight going the distant, a rematch was bound to happen some stage in the future. Lo and behold it did, just over a year later.
Therein lies arguably the main issue that the division faced early on, the lack of serious contenders.
Benavidez wasn’t the only rematch throughout Johnson’s stint as champion. He rematched with both Dodson and Cejudo too.
There isn’t anything wrong with a fighter earning themselves another shot at the gold.
Really, these were the only viable contenders in the division at the time. Even at that, Henry Cejudo was still a few years away from becoming the complete fighter that we all knew before his retirement.
Away from these men, nobody was realistically building up enough momentum to dethrone Demetrious.
This resulted in extremely low PPV buys and fans just becoming uninterested in what was happening at flyweight.
Which was a shame, many missed out on one of the greatest fighters in UFC history dominating his division.
In any other sport Johnson would be hailed as a first-class hall of famer.
Did Cejudo Lay The Foundations For Success?
Unfortunately, shortly after Cejudo beat Johnson in a razor close and somewhat controversial split decision, Johnson moved to One Championship in the first ever MMA trade.
During the reign of Cejudo, we did see some life starting to form in the division, but it was still far from safe.
Cejudo fought TJ Dillashaw in his first and only defence of the flyweight title, a fight that Johnson shot down in the past.
Henry Cejudo would develop his ‘King of Cringe’ character to try and pull eyes to the division.
After stepping up a weight to successfully win and defend the UFC Bantamweight title, Cejudo announced his retirement from the sport.
In hindsight, this probably turned out to be the best thing for the flyweight division going forward.
Even with Cejudo at the helm, things weren’t drastically changing for the better.
Interest was growing for the division, but other signs weren’t very positive.
In the build-up to their fight Dillashaw was claiming the UFC sent him down to kill the flyweight division.
We also seen prominent talents such as Jarred Brooks get released from his UFC contract. While people get cut all the time, talk was still rampant that the division was getting tossed to one side.
The Division Is In The Right Hands
So, while Cejudo did do wonders for the division, it’s only now we are witnessing it come into its own.
Current champion Deiveson Figueiredo has set to division on a new course.
The Brazilian holds a professional record of 20-1-1, with a UFC record of 9-1-1, with only two of his victories in the UFC coming by decision.
He is a killer and goes in looking to finish fights all the time. The hands of Figueiredo are filled with dynamite, he has some real knockout power.
Away from his stand-up, Deiveson can be devilishly smooth on the ground and has finished plenty of fights with slick submissions.
This arsenal of weapons really puts the boring perspective of the flyweight division at the top level to bed.
Even look at the championship run of Figueiredo so far. Finished Benavidez on both of their meetings, cranked Alex Perez into a guillotine choke and then we have his most recent draw against Brandon Moreno.
Now an excellent in depth look at the Moreno fight is already up on the Big Kick Off. I would recommend you checking that out. UFC 256: Figueiredo retains title in epic contest and is there a new contender at 155?
But to throw in my two cents, for me it was the greatest fight in UFC flyweight history and one of the best fights this year.
Off the back of that fight, all anyone is talking about is the resurrection of the flyweight division.
Suddenly, this division that looked set to be removed by the UFC seems so exciting. It’s rolling into 2021 like a runaway train with all the momentum in the world behind it.
The Key Changes
We have a likeable killer as our flyweight champ, an unexpected challenger in Brandon Moreno and best of all, fan support.
People are going wild for the flyweights and I can’t remember ever seeing this much hype around that division.
Fans are finally caring, if that can come across in PPV buy rates and live gate numbers when fans can come back, the UFC machine will care too.
Surely, they will rematch Figueiredo and Moreno after their instant classic.
After they do, whoever wins that fight has a que of elite talent waiting for their opportunity.
Fighters like Askar Askarov, Kai Kara France, Brandon Royval and Alexandre Pantoja all look like seriously viable contenders for future title fights.
That’s without evening mentioning the fact former bantamweight champion, Cody Garbrandt wants to drop down to 125 soon enough.
As good as Figueiredo is, we do have a whole host of genuine challengers for him to face. Another complaint of the Demetrious Johnson era that is non-existent these days.
That isn’t to discount the likes of Dodson and Benavidez, but the flyweight division is as stacked as it has ever been.
Like we even have guys outside of the top ten like Amir Albazi. Who with a bit more seasoning could find himself in the upper echelons of the division.
For now, the flyweight division is where it needs to be.
It’s stacked with top tier talent and has a champion leading the pack that the fans want to see.
As much as it hurts to say as I’m a big Demetrious Johnson fan, but the division really came alive once he went to One Championship.
Now with Deiveson Figueiredo on top, the UFC flyweight division is one of the healthiest divisions heading into the new year.