Here we go again with a look at the flyweight division for the past 10 years. Given the lack of other major promotions with active flyweight divisions, the UFC acquired a monopoly on the division. Even the *flyweight* division in ONE Championship is really bantamweight. Nonetheless, we all knew who the king of the division was as a case could have been made Demetrious Johnson was the best fighter of the decade overall. The list is largely made up of many of those whom he turned away in their conquest to be the best.
1. Demetrious Johnson: 11 consecutive successful title defenses. A 14-fight undefeated streak to open his career in the division. The lone loss coming in a razor thin controversial decision. Johnson’s dominance over the flyweight division didn’t receive the notoriety it deserved. Did people not think his armbar of Kyoji Horiguchi with a single second wasn’t impressive? How about his KO of Joseph Benavidez? I haven’t even mentioned one of the most creative submissions in the history of the sport when he ragdolled Ray Borg into an armbar. We may never see a more dominant flyweight in the history of the sport. Keep in mind, his loss to Cejudo was one of the more controversial decisions of the decade too.
2. Henry Cejudo: Even though Cejudo has chosen to ply his trade at bantamweight moving forward, his dethroning of the long-reigning Mighty Mouse was monumental, avenging an earlier loss to Johnson in the process. That alone is enough to overcome the lengthier resume of Benavidez, plus Cejudo’s loss to the longtime Team Alpha Male representative. Then again, Cejudo’s loss to Benavidez wasn’t without controversy and Cejudo was decimating his opposition on the way to his rematch with Johnson. Given he debuted in the UFC in 2014, Cejudo did just about all that he could do.
3. Joseph Benavidez: If it wasn’t for Johnson, Benavidez would assuredly have taken the top spot on this list. He is tied with Johnson for the most wins in the UFC’s history of the flyweight division with 13, a figure that often flies under the radar. His only losses came to Mighty Mouse and when he was fresh of an ACL repair to Sergio Pettis. Plus, many forget he owns a win over Cejudo to go with his three wins against other former title challengers. Benavidez may very well be the greatest non-champion in UFC history.
4. John Dodson: Dodson’s spot might have been higher had he decided not to make his way up to bantamweight, fighting only nine times at flyweight, seven in the UFC. However, his only losses at 125 came to – you guessed it – Johnson. The Magician is a rarity in the weight class in that he was more likely to finish a fight than go to decision, scoring three stoppages out of his five wins… and those three finishes were all brutal KO’s. He only has one win over another fighter on this list in Jussier Formiga, making his ranking debatable. Nonetheless, I’m sticking with him here.
5. Jussier Formiga: Up until his recent loss to Brandon Moreno, the rule with Formiga is an automatic title shot for whoever beats him. I don’t know if that says he’s a choke artist or if he’s the ultimate stepping stone. Regardless, there was a time early in the 2010’s when most believed Formiga was the best flyweight in the world. That he’s still relevant a decade later is a hell of an accomplishment. Despite not ever claiming an opportunity at the belt, Formiga pulled in 16 wins in the decade with wins over several members on this list, including the next man on the list…
6. Deiveson Figueiredo: Many may believe Figueiredo should be higher off his brutal KO of Joe-B, but that was 2020 and we’re talking 2010’s. Aside from his loss to Formiga, Figueiredo was unbeaten in the decade with over a pair of former title challengers in Tim Elliott and John Moraga. Only three of his 17 wins in the decade came via decision, indicating the powerhouse may be the best finisher for the decade at 125, though some of the level of competition hurts him in that argument.
7. Ian McCall: For those of you who came into the sport in the later part of the decade, Uncle Creepy came thisclose to fighting for the inaugural flyweight title, securing mount and putting a beatdown on Johnson, the future kingpin being saved by the bell and – perhaps – some dodgy judging. McCall was never the same after that, looking flat in his rematch with Johnson and only winning two more fights for his career. Still, most believed McCall was the best flyweight on the planet in 2011, wresting away that title from Formiga.
8. Dustin Ortiz: Perhaps the most unheralded flyweight in the history of MMA, workmanlike is the best way to describe the Tennessee native. Sure, his record is full of losses, but have you seen who those losses came against? Ortiz always sought top competition and always hung tough at the very least against the likes of Benavidez (twice), Formiga, and McCall while picking up wins over Alexandre Pantoja and Zach Makovsky. It’s a shame he appeared to be hitting his stride when the UFC began cutting loose the division. They sure could use him right now.
9. Sergio Pettis: I’m sure many would argue Pettis is only on this list thanks to his win over a rusty Benavidez, but it isn’t like his wins over Brandon Moreno and Moraga mean nothing. Pettis’ calculated point fighting tends to drive many crazy, but there’s no denying it has proven effective. After all, he went 9-5 in his UFC run, including 6-3 at flyweight.
10. Alexandre Pantoja: For a long while, many considered Pantoja to be the best flyweight in the world not in the UFC. When he finally arrived, it took a bit for him to find his footing, but he eventually did and looks like he could be a threat to the title… if the UFC decides to keep the division around. Nonetheless, Pantoja has already proven himself to be one of the better talents at flyweight. Even more encouraging is that we may not have seen the best of him yet.
Honorable Mentions: Ray Borg, John Lineker, John Moraga, Ali Bagautinov, Kyoji Horiguchi, Brandon Moreno.
Borg and Lineker didn’t make the list due to their inability to consistently make weight. It doesn’t feel right to call them some of the better flyweights when they weren’t always fighting at the acceptable weight. Moraga was certainly solid, but what was his best win? Many would say Ortiz, but I scored that in favor of Ortiz. Bagautinov’s record outside the UFC needs to be considered as what he did in the UFC doesn’t cut the mustard, but I still don’t think it was enough. Horiguchi didn’t spend enough time at flyweight with his best wins coming at bantamweight. Moreno improved by leaps and bounds and is currently one of the best flyweights in the world, but his signature win came in the new decade, coming into his own too late for the 2010’s.
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