Flies Under the Radar: How the 125-Pounders Could Steal the Show at UFC 187

By Raphael Garcia

UFC 187 is set to be a “big man’s night.” The main event features Anthony Johnson vs. Daniel Cormier, where the winner will be the first man to hold the light heavyweight title in four years. This is sure to be the focal point leading into and right after the show. However, the flyweight division has two very interesting matchups that will push the direction of the division for the remainder of 2015.

Four of the top ten contenders in the division are in action this Saturday. A matchup pairing #2 and #5 (according to the UFC) features Joseph Benavidez fighting John Moraga. The #1-ranked John Dodson faces #9-ranked Zach Makovsky in the matchup before that. The outcomes of both of these fights will have sudden implications for the weight class.

First, there is Dodson. “The Magician” returns after a knee injury pushed him to the shelf for the better part of a year. The only man that’s given Demetrious Johnson any trouble is looking for his second shot at the belt. If he can defeat Makovsky, that path is pretty much clear. Johnson’s laid waste to everyone in the division and is among the best within the entire sport. Dodson proved that he has what it takes to win a fight with the reigning champion; some feel he did so when they met back at UFC on Fox 6. Still, the official record books have Johnson as the winner, and Dodson is one step away from the opportunity to avenge his only loss in nearly six years.

Makovsky, on the other hand, is an often forgotten name in the division — perhaps it’s because he doesn’t have a hip nickname or gimmick. However, Makovsky is a worthy opponent for every ranked fighter within the division. He’s a former bantamweight champion in Bellator and has performed very well since moving to the UFC’s flyweight division in 2013. If he can defeat Dodson, he can stake claim to the number one contender’s slot, especially since he’s the only man among the four competing that has not already become a notch on Johnson’s belt.

The other fight includes two men that have been violently finished by Johnson in recent bouts. Benavidez fell to Johnson twice — first at UFC 152 and the second time at UFC on Fox 9. Moraga was defeated in his title bid back at UFC on Fox 8. Still, they have continued to perform very well within the division and have remained relevant as this weight class grows. Their paths to a title shot are of the longer variety, but if they can put on a great show on Saturday, the first step will have been completed.

Mainstream mixed martial arts fans have not taken to the flyweight division. Johnson is struggling to carry a PPV, and the rest of the fighters rarely gain exposure on main cards. This weekend’s showcase of two flyweight bouts is a great opportunity for the promotion to feature four of the best fighters this division as to offer. With these two pairings, the division could create some interesting future matchups without cannibalizing any up-and-comers. The main event may shine the spotlight on light heavyweights, but UFC 187 is an opportunity for the flyweights to steal the show.

UFC 187

Joseph Benavidez vs. John Moraga

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UFC 187

John Dodson vs. Zach Makovsky

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UFC 187: Johnson vs. Cormier (formerly UFC 187: Jones vs. Johnson) takes place on May 23, 2015 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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