Last week, the MMA world was shocked to find out that TJ Dillashaw had failed a drug test following UFC Fight Night 143 and decided to vacate the UFC bantamweight title while he is suspended for the next year by the New York State Athletic Commission. A ruling from USADA has yet to be determined. It’s likely the UFC would have stripped Dillashaw had he not voluntarily given up the strap, but either way, the bantamweight title now has no holder, and a vacant belt is going to be up for grabs in the coming months. Now the UFC has to decide who gets to fight for it.
Obviously, surging contender Marlon Moraes will be part of the title fight barring any unforeseen injury or contractual issue. Moraes is currently riding a four-fight win streak that has seen him finish Raphael Assuncao, Jimmie Rivera and Aljamain Sterling in less than one round of time combined, not to mention a decision win over John Dodson. There is no doubt Moraes should get to fight for the belt, and fans were salivating at the prospect of a Dillashaw vs. Moraes matchup. When Dillashaw tested positive, that fight obviously vanished into thin air.
Instead, Moraes is now likely set to fight Henry Cejudo, the man who just knocked out Dillashaw to defend the UFC flyweight champion. Cejudo is no doubt an amazing fight and he’s coming off of back-to-back phenomenal upset wins over Dillashaw and Demetrious Johnson, who are two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. The UFC had planned to do a rematch between Dillashaw and Cejduo, this time at bantamweight, and settle the score once and for all. That would have meant Moraes would have left without an opponent, and many were calling for a matchup against Pedro Munhoz, fresh off of a highlight-reel KO over Cody Garbrandt.
When Dillashaw dropped the title, it made all the sense in the world do the Moraes vs. Munhoz matchup, but this time with the vacant title on the line. Instead, the UFC is giving the title shot to Cejudo, who has no notable wins as a bantamweight. Instead of rewarding the fighters who are actually winning fights in the division, in this case Munhoz, the UFC is giving Cejudo the title shot and the chance to become a rare double champion.
That’s all fine and dandy, and there’s a good argument that Cejudo deserves the title shot. The problem is, though, is that now the bantamweight contenders have to wait in line once again, and the flyweight division’s future is even murkier than before. Instead of booking Cejudo against Joseph Benavidez or Jussier Formiga and keeping the flyweight division afloat for at least a few more months, the UFC is instead likely going to close 125 and then create a backlog at 135 with Cejudo sliding in the title fight. It’s the same thing that’s happening at 155 and 145 with Max Holloway moving up to fight Dustin Poirier for the interim lightweight title, and it sure seems like it’s an unnecessary move.
I don’t know why the UFC has such an obsession with double champs. I know it’s cool to see a fighter win belts in two weight classes, but truthfully, doing so often clogs up not one but two divisions and creates a backlog of contenders in both. That’s exactly what’s happening here, as 135 is going to be even more backlogged and we still have no idea what the UFC is doing with 125. It would have been so easy for the UFC to just book Cejudo in another flyweight title fight and give Moraes a vacant title fight against Munhoz, but the UFC apparently has other plans, plans I don’t agree with.