The Casual Fan's Guide to the UFC's Flyweight Division
Joe Camporeale-US PRESSWIRE
In December 2011, the UFC announced that it was, for the first time ever (for all intents and purposes) adding a brand new weight class. Granted, the UFC “added” the featherweight and bantamweight division when it axed the WEC and absorbed all their fighters. But now, the UFC is building a full stable of fighters from the ground up.
This entire endeavor is hard for casual fans to wrap their heads around, and many want to know more about this process. That's what we are here for.
Welcome to the Bleacher Report Casual Fan's Guide to the UFC Flyweight Division.
Here, you will learn all you need to know about what the UFC is doing to attract fighters, who they currently have on-staff, the division's title picture and what is happening in the rest of the world among flyweights.
Get ready to be informed!
Why Did the UFC Create a Flyweight Division?
Look at the Cruz vs. Johnson weigh-in and the major size difference makes it obvious why a flyweight division is necessary.
Back in October, bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz faced off with Demetrious Johnson in the last ever UFC event aired on the Versus sports network. Johnson, even as one of the fastest fighters in the world, with strong standup and a solid ground game, was plain and simple bullied around the cage due to Cruz's insurmountable size advantage.
“Mighty Mouse” was by no means the first fighter to experience this.
While the bantamweight division was the smallest in the UFC (135 lbs), there was a clear rift between the fighters therein size-wise. Fighters like Cruz stand at 5'8" and walk around at 160 lbs and cut down to 135 in the days before the fight.
A fighter like Johnson stands at 5'3" and walks around quite close to his fighting weight. Because of this, numerous highly-skilled fighters in the UFC's bantamweight division were at a disadvantage against others in their weight class.
In addition to competitive, there were also business reasons behind the move. A number of other international promotions have quietly helped to grow a solid flyweight scene. Singapore's OneFC, Japan's Shooto, and Pancrase promotions all have flyweight divisions and represent some of the UFC's biggest competition abroad, outside of M-1 Global. Recognizing this niche, the UFC wanted to put itself into position to block prospective competition.
For both of these reasons, the UFC added a 125 lb division.
Who Is Fighting in the UFC's Flyweight Division?
Louis Gaudinot is one of the UFC's flyweight fighters who has made a splash.
Joe Camporeale-US PRESSWIRE
As stated, there were several bantamweights who were at a physical disadvantage in their weight class. Many of them jumped at the chance to move down to flyweight. This includes Demetrious Johnson, Joseph Benavidez, Chris Cariaso and more.
In addition, The Ultimate Fighter will also likely bring more flyweights into the fold. John Dodson, for example, won TUF14's bantamweight tournament and promptly dropped back down to flyweight. Watch for any future bantamweight classes (and maybe even featherweight classes) to yield some 125 lb fighters.
Growing stars from within is not the only way to fill up the division, though. The UFC has been actively recruiting from other promotions as well. The highest profile fighter that the UFC acquired to bolster its flyweight division was Ian McCall from Tachi Palace Fights. Others include Yasuhiro Urushitani and Tim Elliott.
Indeed, the UFC is actively trying to outbid its competitors, when it comes to fighters of this size. Jussier Da Silva is the most recent example and will certainly not be the last in the next few months.
UFC.com has a somewhat-comprehensive list of flyweight fighters that you can see here.
Who Is the UFC's Flyweight Champion?
Joseph Benavidez, Demetrious Johnson, Ian McCall and Yasuhiro Urushitani were the four men bracketed for a chance to become the first flyweight champ. Benavidez vs. Johnson will determine the champion at UFC 152.
When the UFC announced that it was starting a flyweight division, it stated that the first champion would be determined by a four-man tournament. The two semifinal bouts were scheduled for UFC on FX: Alves vs. Kampmann in March 2012. The UFC also took the extra step with its promotion—should the fight be declared a draw after three rounds, they would have a tiebreaker round.
The first fight, which was between long-time WEC and UFC bantamweight Joseph Benavidez and Shooto's 125 lb champion, Yasuhiro Urushitani, ended without the judges being a factor. Benavidez scored an early second-round knockout to earn his spot in the finals.
The next fight between Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall was not nearly as easy. Johnson and McCall had a hard fought battle. When the two fighters ended up hand-in-hand with the ref, Johnson was declared the winner by a split decision. Unfortunately, he should not have been.
A scoring error in which the 10-8 round was read as 10-9 robbed McCall of what should have been a majority draw and resulted in the aforementioned tiebreaker round. This caused a serious headache for UFC President Dana White, who had to put the finals on hold and schedule an immediate rematch, which would come in June at the next UFC on FX event.
This time, Johnson was correctly declared the winner. The final, a bout between Johnson and Benavidez, is scheduled to go down September 22, 2012 at UFC 152 and will determine who gets the belt strapped around their waist.
What Is Going on with Flyweights Outside the UFC?
One FC is one of the promotions that already have a flyweight division.
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Currently, none of the UFC's biggest competitors have a flyweight division. Strikeforce (though it technically is no longer competition) still ranges strictly from lightweight to heavyweight in its men's fighting. The same goes for M-1 Global. Bellator ranges from bantamweight to heavyweight, as did Dream when it still lived.
Flyweights can be found peppered in smaller promotions throughout the world. Once again, Shooto, OneFC and Pancrase all have flyweight divisions. Tachi Palace Fights, a small promotion started by the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in California, also houses a number of flyweights.
As with the UFC, though, many promotions have fighters that should be fighting at flyweight in their bantamweight division. The UFC is trying to snag these smaller fighters, while its biggest competitors are likely going to mull over the idea of starting their own flyweight divisions in order to keep their bantamweight talent.
Watch for the UFC to court many fighters such as Bellator's Zach Makovsky and numerous Tachi Palace Fighters.
What Does the Flyweight Top 10 Look Like?
Demetrious Johnson, Ian McCall and Joseph Benavidez are generally agreed upon as being the top three flyweights in MMA.
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Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez are generally the unanimous top two fighters in the division. Past those two, Ian McCall often gets the bronze medal.
After those three, however, it is anyone's guess.
Most people, as they perhaps should, give the benefit of the doubt to the UFC's flyweights. John Dodson, Yasuhiro Urushitani and Chris Cariaso often end up appearing somewhere on the top 10 lists. The newly-signed Jussier da Silva often ends up at or around the fifth spot. The green-haired Louis Gaudinot often ends up on the fringe of the top 10.
Random fighters, from all over, fill in the blanks elsewhere. Popular names include Mamoru Yamaguchi of Tachi Palace Fights, Haruo Ochi of Shooto and the division's King of Pancrase, Mitsuhisa Sunabe.
You can check out the Bleacher Report flyweight rankings here.