UFC Flyweight Divison: If You Build It, They Will Watch
With a potential flyweight division on the horizon, it seems as if the UFC and ZUFFA are already trying to familiarize their fan base with a few of their fighters. The hope is that it takes off quickly and gains as much popularity as the bantamweights and featherweights already have.
This season of the Ultimate Fighter (14) features several fighters who have fought at 125 lbs. in the past. They are clearly being put on display for fans to recognize after the season is over and the division is created.
With the popularity these fighters are getting based off the show, fighters that can easily cut from the bantamweight division and ZUFFA'S willingness to spend money on some of the very best fighters from outside companies, we could see a flyweight division debuting sooner than later.
Here we take a look at 10 fighters who could make up the potential division—with a bit of a spin. These are my personal predictions on where we'll see the flyweight division six months after its conception.
No. 10: Louis Gaudinot (5-1)
Gaudinot was the No. 1 pick of coach Michael Bisping, on season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter.
Gaudinot, clearly built for the flyweight division, relies on his striking and awkward angles to keep a fighter guessing. In his fight on TUF, he showed a good chin and ability to work back to his feet quickly when taken down.
At 27, he's in a good spot to hit his prime. Good ground defense and solid striking will land him a contract after the show is over.
Moving down to a more comfortable weight will allow him to fight guys more his size, which evens the playing field. A couple of big wins early on and he could easily be a guy to contend for a title shot.
No. 9: John Dodson (11-5)
Another of the Ultimate Fighter 14 cast mates, Dodson was was the first bantamweight chosen by coach Jason "Mayhem" Miller.
Dodson is another fighter who is better suited for the flyweight division in the UFC. Dodson is a very well-rounded fighter with a great wrestling background.
Training with Greg Jackson, his ever improving striking allows him to be a danger on his feet as well. Willing to take a risk, his gymnastic background and pure athleticism makes him a threat to attack his opponents at any angle, any time.
Dodson has proven his ability, with big wins of Jesse Riggleman and Clint Godfrey, as well as a controversial loss to highly ranked Yasurhiro Urushitani in which many felt he should have been declared the victor.
Like Gaudinot, Dodson is a 27-year-old primed for takeoff. Yet to fight on TUF this season, he seems destined for the flyweight division regardless of how far he makes it in the show.
Depending on how the season goes, look for Gaudinot and Dodson to fight early on after the show concludes. Maybe even at the finale.
No. 8: Alexis Vila (10-0)
Alexis Vila is currently fighting for Bellator, but is the perfect veteran for the UFC flyweight division.
At 40, he's not poised for a long run—but has the ability to quickly get a big win early on in his UFC career and challenge for a belt.
Fighting out of American Top Team, this Olympic wrestler already holds a win over a household name, Joe Warren. Fighting at bantamweight, he shows to be a bit undersized, which translates into a very easy cut for him to make 125 lbs. without any real complications.
Vila's wrestling background could make for some interesting fights with other fighters you'll read about later in this article. Hopefully the division is created soon so we can see Vila's talent on a main stage before his MMA days are over.
No. 7: KID Yamamoto (18-5)
Norifumi "KID" Yamamoto was a hot commodity from 2002 to 2007, where he had not lost a fight. MMA fans and critics were clamoring for a KID vs. Faber matchup at featherweight while Faber was the WEC poster boy. But the fight never came to fruition.
Yamamoto has now lost three of his last four fights, including a unanimous decision to Demetrious Johnson at UFC 126. He looks to rebound against Darren Uyenoyama on UFC's first ever FOX broadcast in November.
A big win could get him back on track, as could a move to 125 lbs., where he has not only fought before, but looked more comfortable.
Yamamoto's punching power, relentlessness and reputation alone could earn him a title shot very soon after the division debuts.
While I rank him low, he could easily be one of the first in line for a shot if he's able to win a big fight against a top 10 flyweight, especially if he can finish him—which he's shown he's very capable of doing.
Yamamoto's fan following makes him a marketable fighter and one of the bigger names for the division. Dana White will build on that.
No. 6: Ian McCall (11-2)
"Uncle Creepy" is a natural flyweight that's always taken the fight to guys in upper weight classes due to the lack of the division in the bigger promotions.
A WEC vet, McCall only has two losses on his resume. One loss to the Charlie Velencia at WEC 31 and a decision loss to current bantamweight champion, Dominic Cruz at WEC 38.
McCall has won his last four fights, including big wins over highly ranked Darrell Montague and Jussier da Silva.
McCall has an upcoming fight with yet another top flyweight Will Campuzano in December where he'll defend his Flyweight Title.
Certainly someone ZUFFA is familiar with, McCall should be one of the first people they call when building the division.
He could be put in the position to face their top contenders and be on a hot route to a title shot. A fight between McCall and Yamamoto makes perfect sense and would be easy to market.
McCall is my sleeper of the division. While I do not have him as my first ever flyweight Champion, I honestly wouldn't be shocked if he were the first guy to hold the title if he were to be brought in.
No. 5: Jussier Da Silva (10-1)
"Formiga" (which translates to ant…don't ask) is often regarded as one of the top ranked flyweights in the world.
While it doesn't make sense to have him ranked above Ian McCall due to McCall being the only man to beat him, I'm giving him the spot due to the more quality opponents he's beaten…plus his last name is Silva.
Silva's resume speaks for itself. A lone loss to McCall, with victories over Junior Assuncao, Shinichi Kojima, Danny Martinez and most recently highly ranked Mamoru Yamaguchi, it's not hard to see why he's ranked so high.
Silva could be a mainstay in the 125 lb. division for the UFC and a guy they could really showcase as one of their top talents early on.
One of the better Jiu-Jitsu practitioners for flyweights, he'd be very dangerous for all the wrestlers this division has created, making for very good matchups.
Look for Silva to finish out his Tachi Palace contract and for ZUFFA to move in quickly on such a top talent.
No. 4: Mike Easton (11-1)
"The Hulk" Mike Easton is already under contract with the UFC and debuted for them at UFC LIVE: Cruz vs Johnson, defeating Byron Bloodworth via TKO.
Easton is a jiu-jitsu black belt and trains with current bantamweight champion, Dominic Cruz with team Lloyd Irvin.
Small for the bantamweight division, of which his teammate is currently the title holder, Easton could easily make weight at 125 lbs. and be an immediate threat for the flyweight title.
His speed and athleticism makes him a danger on his feet, and his extensive jiu-jitsu background allows him to stay just as comfortable on the ground.
With wins over current Ultimate Fighter castmates John Dodson and Josh Ferguson, as well as a controversial victory over former WEC bantamweight champion, Chase Beebe, Easton has the ability to rise the ranks quickly at 125 lbs.
A potential threat for anyone in the division, look for him to be one of the first to drop when the official announcement is made for the division to debut.
No. 3: Miguel Torres (39-4)
Maybe the most surprising on this list is the former UFC bantamweight champion.
Torres has lost three of his last five fights. Although, against top level talent, Torres just may need a change of scenery. What better place to put Angel than the flyweight division.
An already recognizable name, he would bring notoriety to a division that would need familiar faces to spark the division to take off.
Torres brings an impressive resume, a former champion and an unmistakable mullet. OK, the last one isn't exactly helpful to the division, but he's a very marketable name that people can get behind.
The only real question with Torres is his ability to cut weight and be comfortable. At 5'9" he would be a taller flyweight, but that would be an advantage.
Can he cut to 125 lbs. and be able to fight with no problems? It shouldn't be too difficult due to his size, as he's smaller in stature. Either way, it's worth a shot. This could be the career boost Torres needs to get back on path and back into title contention.
Torres seems better suited for the flyweight division. It's probably the quickest way for him to get a title shot. A new division means a clean slate. He's easily a favorite if he decides to make the move.
No. 2: Demetrious Johnson (9-2): No. 1 Contender
"Mighty Mouse" just put on an impressive performance against the bantweight champion on October 1st. While he came up short, he pushed the action and put Cruz on the run several times.
He was out-striking the champion and frustrating him so much that Cruz had to completely change his game plan and use his size and strength advantage to put Johnson on the ground and keep him there.
A move to flyweight just makes perfect sense. While Johnson has stated he's comfortable at bantamweight and fine in the division, he is the picture perfect 125-er. No one in the division is going to be able to man handle him due to a size advantage. This is where Johnson would excel.
At 25, he has a long career ahead of him. Already one of the top names at bantamweight, a drop to flyweight would make him an instant contender for the title. Johnson holds big wins over Damacio Page and two guys already on this list: KID Yamamoto and former Bantamweight king, Miguel Torres.
While many will criticize Johnson for not finishing (five of his last six have gone to decision) Johnson certainly possesses the tools and ability to close out fights. In a division he was built for, Johnson would be one of the most dangerous fighters in the division for a very long time.
Hopefully once the division is created and given the green light, he jumps at the opportunity and we get to see "Mighty Mouse" get the chance to be the bully for a change.
No. 1: Joseph Benavidez (15-2): Flyweight Champion
The first "king" of the flyweight division is a guy that is the pure definition of flyweight. Benavidez was born for the 125 lb. division.
Clearly able to make the drop from bantamweight, Benavidez would be the instant favorite to be crowned the first ever UFC flyweight champion.
He holds notable victories over the likes of Wagney Fabiano, Miguel Torres, Rani Yahya, Danny Martinez, Jeff Curran and most recently, Eddie Wineland. His only two losses of his career are at the hands of current bantamweight champion, Dominic Cruz.
One of those two victories—a split decision at WEC 50 in which many feel Benavidez should have won—could have at least been called a draw.
Benavidez is the total package. Excellent striking, great wrestling and comfortable on the ground. He's next to impossible to keep down if you are able to wrestle him down. He doesn't panic, has great submission defense and can get back up and in control before you know what happened.
He's never been in real danger in his career, and a drop to a division where he'd clearly be more comfortable would make him just that more dangerous.
With Team Alpha Male putting Chad Mendes at featherweight, Urijah Faber at bantamweight and Benavidez making the drop to flyweight, they have a chance to hold three titles in three different weight divisions.
Benavidez is my odds on favorite to be the first flyweight champion. I do however, see him having epic battles with many in the division, his biggest rival being Demetrious Johnson.
These two could put on Fight Of the Night fights every time they square off. Something I'm sure fans and critics alike are already looking forward to.
What an exciting division this could be.