The biggest loser of the UFC’s decision to close the flyweight division isn’t someone you would expect.
It appears that it’s just about official now. UFC 233 appears to be the final UFC event to have a flyweight fight, a title bout between bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw and current flyweight champion Henry Cejudo. After almost seven years of the division being around, most of it being dominated by Demetrious Johnson, it appears that the division is being ended on a transparent attempt by the UFC to get TJ Dillashaw a second championship belt.
The cuts are already coming, Jose Torres and Justin Scoggins among others have received their walking papers and have been told that the division is coming to a close. It seems that any flyweight that the UFC does not see as being a ranked fighter at 135 pounds is being cut. That can mean everyone from Brandon Moreno to Wilson Reis will soon be released from the biggest MMA promotion in the world.
But with all the lost jobs, and lost opportunities coming from the loss of the division, a single fighter sticks out, and it’s not someone being cut. It’s actually someone who will likely go on to bantamweight and be a contender there as well, that man is Jussier Formiga.
Jussier Formiga appeared to be on the Michael Bisping path. Fighting in the UFC since 2012, Formiga would always win fights on the way to the top, then lose one to a top contender which would then put him back down the ladder and he would have to climb back up again. It all started for Formiga in his first UFC fight, a flyweight championship eliminator against John Dodson.
Dodson, who was a monster at the time, dispatched Formiga inside of two rounds. But all was okay for the Brazilian newcomer, Formiga would then face Chris Cariaso next, he would then beat Cariaso via decision in May of 2013. Formiga was then given another shot to prove himself as one of the division’s best in a fight against Joseph Benavidez a couple of months later.
At this time, Joseph Benavidez had only lost to the likes of Demetrious Johnson and Dominick Cruz, and he ultimately defeated Formiga via stoppage in round one. However, Formiga rebounded quite nicely, picking up three wins in a row including a big win over Wilson Reis. He was then slotted in a flyweight eliminator fight against Henry Cejudo in November of 2015.
Cejudo and Formiga had a very close back and forth fight that would go to the judges’ scorecards, in a fight that many people thought Formiga won, including one of the judges, but the decision would end up going to Henry Cejudo. Cejudo would then go on to lose to Demetrious Johnson at UFC 197. Formiga then split his next two fights, losing to Ray Borg, who received the next flyweight title shot.
But after the loss to Borg, things changed for Jussier Formiga. Formiga followed up with a win over Ulka Sasaki his next time out. Sasaki has a habit of beating foes he normally shouldn’t, and Formiga shut him down, submitting him inside of one round in Sasaki’s home country of Japan.
Formiga then signed on to face the up-and-coming Ben Nguyen in Australia. Nguyen had quite the fanbase down under, as he moved to Australia in 2012 to pursue a career in martial arts. It’s also worth noting that Nguyen was coming off the biggest win of his career, an upset over former flyweight title challenger Tim Elliott.
Formiga went out and submitted Nguyen in the third round, earning a Performance of the Night bonus in the process. Formiga was back to looking like a contender at flyweight, and was soon matched up with the second-ranked flyweight in Sergio Pettis. Sergio had won five of six including becoming the first man without a belt to defeat Joseph Benavidez.
At UFC 229, Jussier Formiga grappled his way to a clear decision win over Sergio Pettis. He called for a title shot at the end of the fight, and it would make sense as Formiga had lost a very close bout to newly-crowned champion Henry Cejudo not long before.
Once the rankings were released the following week, Formiga was rightfully ranked as the number-two bantamweight in the world, behind Mighty Mouse. Soon after, the UFC made a historic trade where they sent Demetrious Johnson to ONE Championship in return for welterweight superstar Ben Askren.
With DJ gone, Formiga was moved to the number one spot. After all the close fights, all the losses and all the wins, all the ups and downs, Jussier Formiga was finally, at long last, the number-one ranked flyweight in the world.
Now the division no longer exists.