How does the UFC book the flyweight division after UFC on Fox 8?

Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

Dana White recently mentioned that the flyweight division of the UFC is "on pace", but it's totally unclear who the next challenger will be after UFC on Fox 8's title fight.

The UFC's flyweight division has always been sort of unique. The lower weight classes have generally struggled to be major draws in MMA and unlike featherweight and bantamweight, the division was effectively started from scratch in the UFC rather than being built up in the WEC. In fact, Zuffa talked about adding a 125-lb. division in the WEC all the way back in 2009 but no one got around to it until last year. And after some judging mistakes and injury issues, the division didn't even have a champion until just 10 months ago.

So now you have a champion, Demetrious Johnson, who has defeated some top competition Ian McCall, Joseph Benavidez) in the mini-tournament to take the title and has narrowly defeated the challenger (John Dodson) in his first title defense. But the UFC has done little to build the division around the champ thus far. There are only 15 fighters in the entire UFC 125-pound weight class, and couple of them have yet to actually fight at that weight in the organization. So with a big title fight coming up next week and only four other flyweight fights booked over the next four months, who gets the next title shot after UFC on Fox 8?

The same thing was being said before the last title fight was booked. After Johnson beat Dodson, no one else in the division had the resume to challenge for the title other than the guy DJ had fought and beat before that, Joseph Benavidez. So instead, the shot went to John Moraga. While Moraga is 2-0 in the UFC, both of his fights have been on Facebook and a lot of fans have no idea who he is. Now he's fighting in the main event of a Fox card. This happened back in the WEC as well, when Mike Brown went from the prelims to a fetherweight title shot against Urijah Faber. The WEC took some heat for that, and the UFC deserves some for this booking as well. But they might be in an even worse position after this fight.

If Moraga does what Mike Brown did to Faber, then the division is wide open. Johnson could rematch for the title. Benavidez could get another shot. Dodson needs another win first, but even he'd be back in the race. If Johnson is able to beat Moraga though, then what? Do they go back to Benavidez again if he beats Jussier Formiga at UFC Fight Night in September? If Formiga wins, does the shot go to him despite his loss to Dodson less than a year ago? Neither of those look likely to me.

It seems like John Lineker is the most viable candidate in my eyes. Lineker is somewhat surprisingly on the main card of UFC 163, taking on Phil Harris. This would be three wins in a row for him if he gets by Harris, and only Benavidez could match that with a win in his bout. Let's not forget that Lineker lost his UFC debut to Louis Gaudinot and missed weight just 14 months ago though. That might be held against him.

The only other candidate might be Gaudinot himself. He has been out for over a year due to injuries though and hasn't fought since that win over Lineker. He meets Tim Elliott at UFC 164 and if he wins, he'd be the only suitable candidate with an undefeated record and more than one fight at flyweight in the UFC.

So while there are options for Mighty Mouse if he's able to get by Moraga in Seattle next weekend, there's not really one that stands out. Dana White recently said the division was "on pace", and that Johnson puts on exciting fights that are worthy of headlining on network television. If flyweight title fights do continue to get marquee spots (remember, this bout was originally scheduled to headline the TUF 17 Finale, not a Fox show), I think they should do a little more to build contenders first. Because when you look at the list of possible contenders above, there's not a lot of name value. UFC on Fox 10: Johnson vs. Lineker? I hope not. But it could very well be what happens later this year.

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