Thursday, April 18

10 Best Flyweight Fighters In UFC History, Ranked

Highlights

  • The UFC’s flyweight division has gained popularity recently, especially with the rise of online betting.
  • Fighters like Pettis, Formiga, and Horiguchi have made significant contributions to the division’s growth.
  • Notable figures like Brandon Royval, Joseph Benavidez, and Brandon Moreno continue to shape the flyweight class.



The UFC‘s flyweight division used to be routinely overlooked since its introduction to the promotion in 2012. While the UFC debated shutting down the weight class, the flyweight division has gained popularity, especially with the rise of betting online.

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Fans are finally recognizing how dangerous, dynamic and explosive the 125 pound division can be. With that in mind, here are the most elite fighters who put the weight class on the map for UFC CEO, Dana White, and Co.


10 Sergio Pettis Had An Underrated UFC Run

Pettis Claimed Big Scalps With Diminutive Striking And Grappling

Sergio-Pettis-fighting


Date of Birth

Aug. 18, 1993

Age

30

Place of Birth

USA

Year of UFC Debut

2013

UFC Record

9-5

Overall MMA Record

23-6

Sergio Pettis’ run in the UFC was criminally underrated. Admittedly, Pettis came into the UFC with loads of hype behind him as the younger brother of Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis. Sergio needed a little time to get his footing. Once he did, he was electric.

Pettis took out names such as John Moraga, Brandon Moreno and Joseph Benavidez at his peak. Pettis struggled, though, with moving between flyweight and bantamweight. He departed for Bellator in 2020 where he lifted the bantamweight gold. Now, fans are eager to see Pettis evolve after the PFL acquisition.


9 Jussier Formiga Helped Paved The Foundation

Formiga Was A Scary Mix Of Power And Technique

Jussier-Formiga-Deiveson-Figueiredo

Date of Birth

Apr. 14, 1985

Age

38

Place of Birth

Brazil

Year of UFC Debut

2012

UFC Record

9-7

Overall MMA Record

24-8

Jussier Formiga has the unfortunate position of being one of the greatest fighters in UFC history to never fight for a title. Formiga had a four-fight win streak from 2017 to 2019, but the UFC was in discussions of cutting the division, so he never got a shot.


Sadly, he would end up on a three-fight skid, losing to Benavidez, Moreno and Alex Perez before departing the company in 2020. However, fans hold him up with the likes of Beneil Dariush, as someone who didn’t reap the rewards for fighting and beating some juggernauts. He claimed wins over champions like Deiveson Figueiredo, Pettis, and the current UFC flyweight champ, Alexandre Pantoja.

8 Kyoji Horiguchi Had Untapped Potential

Horiguchi Was Starching Opponents Before A Sudden Exit

Kyoji Horiguchi throws a knee in the UFC octagon

Date of Birth

Oct. 12, 1990

Age

33

Place of Birth

Japan

Year of UFC Debut

2013

UFC Record

7-1

Overall MMA Record

32-5 (1 NC)


Kyoji Horiguchi entered the UFC in 2013 with a lot of hype. He had the Shooto bantamweight title to his name, and proceeded to carve out a four-fight win streak over the likes of Dustin Pague and Jon delos Reyes. His striking and wrestling were very high-level, which is why the UFC rushed him to a title shot against the great Demetrious Johnson.

He lost that fight in 2015 but won three more, including a victory over the technical genius in Ali Bagautinov. The Japanese fighter shocked fans by leaving the UFC, but he saw success as he claimed bantamweight gold with RIZIN and Bellator. Flyweight wasn’t for him again, but that hasn’t stopped fans from wanting Horiguchi back in the UFC to shake up the flyweight rankings.

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7 Brandon Royal Has Eked Out An Impressive Resumé

‘Raw Dawg’ Has A Fearless Flyweight Approach


Date of Birth

Aug. 16, 1992

Age

31

Place of Birth

USA

Year of UFC Debut

2020

UFC Record

16-3

Overall MMA Record

16-7

Brandon Royval is one of the flyweights down for a fight anywhere, anytime. The good thing is he is quite young, so he has time to finesse the downs with the ups. After coming to the UFC in 2020, Royval has submitted Kai Kara-France and Matt Schnell, and put Matheus Nicolau out via TKO.


The crowning jewel, though, came with a decision win over Moreno, evening them up at 1-1. Royval’s aggression, striking and cardio impressed fans, leaving folks curious if he will get another crack at Pantoja’s flyweight belt. Royval has improved and evolved, teasing the best is yet to come against newcomers and veterans alike.

6 Joseph Benavidez Surprisingly Never Won A Title

Benavidez Was The Epitome Of A Pocket Rocket

Joseph-Benavidez-fighting

Date of Birth

Jul. 31, 1984

Age

39

Place of Birth

USA

Year of UFC Debut

2011

UFC Record

15-6

Overall MMA Record

28-8


Joseph Benavidez, like fighters such as John Dodson, would have lifted gold had there not been other kingpins present. From 2012 to 2016, Benavidez went 10-2, with losses to Johnson. He just couldn’t scrape the belt away from ‘Mighty Mouse.’ He failed to claim the belt in two attempts against Figueiredo, building to his retirement in 2021.

That said, Benavidez’s grappling and quick striking is still talked about. He picked up massive wins over names such as Henry Cejudo, Formiga, Ian McCall, and many more. Benavidez certainly has his place in history as one of the best to never win a UFC title.

5 Brandon Moreno Is A Legend In The Making

The ‘Assassin Baby’ Cannot Be Stopped


Date of Birth

Dec. 7, 1993

Age

30

Place of Birth

USA

Year of UFC Debut

2016

UFC Record

10-5-2

Overall MMA Record

21-8-2

Brandon Moreno is the epitome of how perseverance and resilience can lead underdogs to success. He joined the UFC with an 11-3 record after losing on The Ultimate Fighter to Pantoja in 2016. Moreno went 3-2 but got cut after losing to Pettis and Pantoja again. However, he was re-signed the following year and went on an insane run. Moreno beat France, Formiga and Royval, while drawing with Askar Askarov.


He drew with Figueiredo, beat him for the belt, lost the belt, beat France and stopped Figueiredo again to cement his place at the top. That is a stacked C.V., even with subsequent losses to Pantoja and Royval. Moreno is so good in terms of striking and wrestling, he is always just a win away from another title bout.

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4 Alexandre Pantoja Is Dominant In The Division

Pantoja Has An Unstoppable Zombie-Like Energy

Date of Birth

Apr. 16, 1990

Age

33

Place of Birth

Brazil

Year of UFC Debut

2017

UFC Record

11-3

Overall MMA Record

27-5


Alexandre Pantoja went from TUF and losing in the semifinals to Hiromasa Ougikubo to greatness. He signed with the UFC and took out the likes of Moreno and Wilson Reis. He stumbled against Figueiredo in 2019 and Askarov a year later. Since then, he scalped Manel Kape, Royval and Perez.

Pantoja’s reign was inevitable, which led to him beating Moreno for the belt at UFC 290 and defending it against Royval at UFC 296. Fans would like fresh matchups for him, but until that day, folks can savor his unbelievable cardio, his granite chin, and how he keeps marching forward a la the ‘Korean Zombie.’ As a bonus, fans love Pantoja for his speech about his father abandoning him, making him one of the most relatable guys on the roster.

3 Deiveson Figueiredo Is A Two-Time Champion

‘Deus Da Guerra’ Is A Flyweight Titan

Deiveson-Figueiredo-about-to-fight


Date of Birth

Dec. 18, 1987

Age

36

Place of Birth

Brazil

Year of UFC Debut

2017

UFC Record

11-3-1

Overall MMA Record

22-3-1

The first-ever two-time UFC flyweight champion, Figueiredo flew under the radar until his shot at the vacant gold in 2020. Figueiredo entered the bout as an overlooked underdog against Benavidez, but he quickly turned in one of the most one-sided rivalries of all time.


Figueiredo battered the future Hall of Famer in two straight fights, capturing the UFC title in the stretch. He followed that up with a win over Perez, showcasing terrifying power and some of the nastiest chokes in the game. He later engaged Moreno in four fights before losing the belt and moving up to the UFC bantamweight division. He couldn’t handle the weight cut anymore, but with the likes of Tim Elliott, Moraga and Pantoja under his belt, the Brazilian ‘God of War’ cannot be denied as a flyweight legend.

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2 Henry Cejudo Beat The Best At Flyweight

‘The King of Cringe’ Has Turned Out Some Elite Athletes

Date of Birth

Feb. 9, 1987

Age

37

Place of Birth

USA

Year of UFC Debut

2014

UFC Record

10-4

Overall MMA Record

16-4


The UFC’s Henry Cejudo is a polarizing figure in the MMA community. He became a “champ-champ,” winning the flyweight and bantamweight belts before retiring in 2020. It annoyed White and fans who felt he left in his prime, only to return in 2023 and struggle since.

However, his flyweight record cannot be diminished. Cejudo recovered from losing to Johnson and Benavidez to then beat Reis, Pettis and ‘Mighty Mouse’ for the flyweight gold in 2018. He defended it against T.J. Dillashaw before moving up and earning a second title. Like him or not, the 2008 Olympic gold wrestling medalist has fought some of the best and trumped them.

1 Demetrious Johnson Is The Gold Standard

‘Mighty Mouse’ Remains The Pinnacle Of Technical Excellence


Date of Birth

Aug. 13, 1986

Age

37

Place of Birth

USA

Year of UFC Debut

2011

UFC Record

15-2-1

Overall MMA Record

25-4-1

Demetrious Johnson’s unbeaten run at flyweight from 2012 to 2017 cemented his place as one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time. Johnson won UFC gold, establishing himself as the leader for most consecutive title defenses with 11. He also set the record for most finishes (7), which Figueiredo eventually tied.


During the stretch, Johnson defeated many former and future champions. ‘Mighty Mouse’ scalped Cejudo, Benavidez, Dodson, and Horiguchi. With all of his title defenses and victories, Johnson is easily atop the flyweight mountain. It’s best summed up by that flying armbar over Ray Borg in 2017. That jaw-dropping moment proves ‘DJ’ is a ninja — something he has maintained since moving to ONE FC.

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