Ranking every UFC flyweight champion through history

Ranking every fighter, man or woman, who has held UFC flyweight gold from worst to best.

The flyweight division doesn’t have the deepest history in the UFC when it comes to the time as a division or the number of champions. But the division has still produced two of the promotion’s most dominant champions ever. And these days, it contains some of the richest talents that one can find with quite a bit of depth.

The youngest of the male UFC divisions, flyweight was formally introduced to the UFC in 2012 and was the first UFC division — and still to this day the only one of the male UFC divisions — to determine its inaugural champion through a tournament.

This tournament saw Joseph Benavidez, Yasuhiro Urushitani, Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall competing to determine the inaugural champion, with Johnson defeating Benavidez in the final to accomplish the feat.

Meanwhile, five years later, after finally introducing women’s fighters to the UFC and making championships for bantamweight, strawweight and featherweight, the UFC then introduced a women’s flyweight division, with Nicco Montano going on to become the inaugural champion by winning the 26th season of The Ultimate Fighter.

Neither flyweight division has been a smooth ride, with the men’s flyweight division nearly at one point scrapped altogether. But 125 has featured some of the most talented fighters, some great champions and plenty of memorable moments, and it’s great that both men’s and women’s flyweight are here in the UFC today.

Here are all of the UFC flyweight champions — men and women combined — ranked from worst to best.

6. Nicco Montano

Yeah, you probably saw this one coming from a mile away, didn’t you?

Nicco Montano’s run in the UFC started in an amazing fashion, in that it came from nowhere. She had just five fights under her belt with a 3-2 record — though having earned the King of the Cage women’s flyweight title — when she entered season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter, which crowned the first UFC women’s flyweight champion.

Montano was ranked just No. 14 in the tournament, but that didn’t stop her. She pulled off massive upsets via decision over Lauren Murphy, Montana Stewart and Barb Honchak to reach the finals.

She experienced a late opponent change, with top-seed Roxanne Modaferri subbing for Sijara Eubanks on one day’s notice, but that didn’t stop Montano. She defeated Modafferi and became the inaugural champion of the UFC’s female 125-pound division.

Then things fell apart quickly and in dramatic fashion.

The UFC wanted her to defend the title against Valentina Shevchenko, and after much delay, the fight was booked for UFC 228. Montano didn’t make it to the cage, however, being hospitalized for a botched weight cut on the day of weigh-ins. The UFC elected to strip her of the championship, ending the title reign at 280 days with no title defenses.

Montano was then suspended for six months for ostarine usage before returning to bantamweight and losing to Julianna Pena in July 2019.

Injury, COVID-19 and travel restrictions then put a damper on her next three scheduled bouts before she was recently booked to face Wu Yanan. Montano missed the bantamweight limited by seven pounds and she was released from the UFC.

5. Brandon Moreno

There’s only one simple reason why Brandon Moreno, despite his major win and incredible story, is only ranked at No. 5 here: his reign just started. We don’t know how it’ll play out yet.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t take away from his great run and awesome comeback tale towards gaining the 125-pound gold.

Moreno had a run with the UFC between 2016 and 2018 and got off to a strong start with wins over Louis Smolka, Ryan Benoit and Dustin Ortiz. But after back-to-back losses to Sergio Pettis and Alexandre Pantoja, Moreno was cut by the UFC.

He’d win the LFA flyweight title in a one-off fight before being re-signed to the UFC, where a draw with Askar Askarov and wins over Kai Kara-France, Jussier Formiga and Brandon Royval resulted in a title opportunity.

About a month after their wins at UFC 255, Moreno and then-champ Deiveson Figueiredo competed in a battle for the ages at UFC 256, with the two battling to a close, narrow draw.

The rematch at UFC 263, however, Moreno made sure wasn’t close, submitting Figueiredo in a star-making performance and delivering an emotional post-fight speech as he won over even more hearts than he already had.

There’s still a lot to see in the reign of Moreno, but it’s certainly gotten off to an awesome start.

4. Henry Cejudo

As much as Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo are sort of intertwined with one another, Henry Cejudo definitely has a say in being just as important as those two when it comes to the UFC men’s flyweight title. Because if it wasn’t for Cejudo, Figueiredo and Moreno wouldn’t have had a belt to fight over.

Point blank: Henry Cejudo saved the UFC’s flyweight division.

It all started when Cejudo avenged his previous title match defeat to Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and edged him out in a controversial decision at UFC 227 to score a major upset and end Johnson’s long inaugural title run.

Johnson was then traded to ONE Championship, several 125-pound talents were let go and it appeared that the men’s flyweight division could end should then-bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw successfully defeat Cejudo for the flyweight belt in the UFC’s first card of 2019.

Cejudo didn’t let that happen, however, stopping Dillashaw in just 32 seconds to retain the title in Brooklyn, NY. Then, after Dillashaw was forced to vacate his 135-pound title after testing positive for EPO, Cejudo moved up to that weight class and defeated Marlon Moraes to become the fourth champ-champ in UFC history.

Following that win, UFC President Dana White confirmed flyweight was here to stay.

Sure, Cejudo had a cringeworthy gimmick, and he’d vacate the flyweight belt not long after and had just one more fight with Dominick Cruz before retiring at UFC 249. But what Cejudo did in his year-and-a-half as flyweight king (and nearly two years as a UFC champ regardless of weight class) was truly more meaningful than even some champions who held their UFC titles for longer.

3. Deiveson Figueiredo

Brandon Moreno is the current champ and has a great story, but his reign has just begun. Cejudo saved the division and made history, but he only made one defense in his span. And while Cejudo was a notable storyline for the UFC in 2018-19, it played a lower role when compared to the rises of Israel Adesanya and Jorge Masvidal.

But Deiveson Figueiredo took the flyweight title and took 2020 — a year in which fighters who could needed to step up due to the circumstances of the world — and made it his own. It was such an impressive run that he was one of the top stars for the promotion that year.

In fact, in FanSided MMA’s case, Figueiredo was the most dominant champion of 2020.

The year didn’t get off on the right foot for Figueiredo, however. While he knocked out Joseph Benavidez in the main event of UFC Norfolk, he was ineligible to win the vacant flyweight title that was on the line due to missing weight.

He made up for it though, and on Fight Island in July, he dominated Benavidez in an even more one-sided fashion to claim the strap.

Figueiredo then submitted Alex Perez at UFC 255 in just under two minutes to retain the belt before he and Moreno, who beat Brandon Royval earlier that evening, did something crazy and had never been done before.

Not even a full month after their victories, Figueiredo and Moreno, in the shortest such turnarounds in UFC history, competed in the main event of UFC 256 with the title on the line. And the two men delivered, putting on one of the greatest fights in MMA, let alone UFC, history. It was a fight that could have been 2020 Fight of the Year had it not been for Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

The bout went to a draw, and Figueiredo could have gotten the win had it not been for losing a point due to a foul in the fight.

Figueiredo’s reign came to an end in the rematch with Moreno at UFC 263, but that doesn’t take away from the incredible run he had in such a short span.

2. Valentina Shevchenko

Though Nicco Montano had her one, awkward nine-month reign as women’s flyweight champion, it’s been long since forgotten thanks to the dominance and appeal of Valentina Shevchenko. It’d be arguable to say that Shevchenko is the one legit champion that belt has ever had.

Shevchenko was already an established name in combat sports through her success in Muay Thai and kickboxing. She then had a decent run at bantamweight that included challenging Amanda Nunes for the women’s bantamweight title at UFC 215, losing a controversial decision.

But Shevchenko then dropped to 125 and the rest is history. She pounded Priscila Cachoeira into oblivion in her flyweight debut. Then, she goes and wins the then-vacant title by wiping the floor with Joanna Jedrzejczyk like no one had ever done before other than the first Rose Namajunas fight. But while that Namajunas fight was one round and ended in a tap to strikes, Shevchenko pretty much wiped the floor clean with the former strawweight champ for 25 minutes.

Then, the destruction continued. A brutal, highlight KO of Jessica Eye. A lackluster, one-sided contest with Liz Carmouche. A strong finish of Katlyn Chookagian. A beatdown of Jennifer Maia.

Then, at UFC 261, Shevchenko took who everyone thought was her toughest challenge in a while, former strawweight champ Jessica Andrade, and made it look too easy in another second-round finish.

Right now, it seems impossible to find someone at 125 who can give Shevchenko a legit challenge and be a threat to take the title away from her. The UFC should have to eventually consider making a trilogy bout with Nunes or allowing Namajunas or Weili Zhang to move up and challenge her.

1. Demetrious Johnson

Was there ever any doubt who would be at the top of this list? For the longest time, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson was the only one to ever hold the UFC flyweight championship. In fact, for quite a time, when there was no women’s 125 division, Johnson was the one and the only person to be the top dog of the weight class.

After a failed attempt to capture the bantamweight title, Johnson took part in the inaugural flyweight championship tournament. He’d battle Ian McCall to a controversial draw before getting the decision win in a rematch. Johnson then edged out Joseph Benavidez in a controversial decision to become the inaugural UFC flyweight champion at UFC 152.

While plenty in Toronto that night weren’t too fond of Johnson’s victory, they didn’t realize what was to come.

Following that fight, anybody who stood in Johnson’s way seemed to look inferior to him. He easily KO’d Benavidez in a rematch. He TKO’d Henry Cejudo. He had highlight submission wins over the likes of Chris Cariaso, Kyoji Horiguchi, Wilson Reis and Ray Borg.

Johnson’s reign wasn’t just dominant; it was historical. Johnson’s win over Borg gave him 11 consecutive defenses of the UFC flyweight title, setting not just a UFC flyweight record, but breaking Anderson Silva’s record for most overall consecutive defenses of any UFC championship. In fact, his 11 defenses of the gold currently places him in a tie with Jon Jones for most title defenses in UFC history.

That win over Borg, where he unleashed a flying armbar, put a stamp on his success, giving Johnson the 2017 Submission of the Year.

Johnson would ultimately see his winning snapped in a controversial loss to Cejudo and then get traded to ONE Championship. But he’d go on to win the ONE Flyweight Grand Prix and challenged Adriano Moraes for the ONE flyweight title, where he’d shockingly be finished for the first time in his career.

In spite of that loss in ONE, and in spite of losing the UFC flyweight title and getting traded like he did, no one in MMA can erase the massive success Johnson had at flyweight. He is certainly a pioneer of the division and arguably, overall, one of the greatest of all time.

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