August 5, 2017

UFC Fight Night 114: The Brandon Moreno vs. Sergio Pettis Winner Should Get the Next Flyweight Title Shot

By Adam Martin

The main event of UFC Fight Night 114, which takes place tomorrow night in Mexico City, is a five-round flyweight bout between Top 10 contenders Brandon Moreno and Sergio Pettis. In a division that champion Demetrious Johnson has more or less cleaned out, the winner of Moreno and Pettis would be well-deserving of getting the next crack at Johnson’s belt after he attempts to defend it against Ray Borg at UFC 215 this September in Edmonton.

Not everyone will agree with me saying this. For many fans, media, and even UFC President Dana White, the winner of the bantamweight title fight between Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw would be a much more appetizing opponent for Johnson, who pretty much everyone expects to beat Borg. The UFC tried to book Johnson against Dillashaw while Garbrandt was injured, but the champ turned down the fight, stating that Dillashaw needed a win in the flyweight division to be deserving of a title shot. Clearly, though, he wanted more money.

I agree that Johnson vs. Dillashaw or Garbrandt would be amazing fights, but it’s pretty clear Johnson doesn’t want to move to 135 (assuming the UFC doesn’t dissolve 125) unless the UFC brass meets his asking price, which they won’t. That makes both of those matchups nothing more than dream fights, because it’s clear the UFC doesn’t want to pay Johnson seven figures to move up in weight. Besides, there are plenty of contenders at 135 like Dominick Cruz and Jimmie Rivera who deserve title shots right now. Although Johnson moving up to 135 to win a second title and further build his Hall of Fame resume is intriguing on paper, it doesn’t make a ton of sense business-wise. These are exciting fights for hardcore fans, but at the end of the day it’s still Johnson headlining a PPV, and fans don’t love paying to see him fight, regardless of opponent.

It makes way more sense for Johnson’s next fight -- again, assuming he beats Borg (obviously Borg would rematch Johnson if he pulled off the upset) -- to be against the winner of Pettis vs. Moreno. Aside from Jussier Formiga, who is coming off of a loss, Pettis and Moreno are the next highest-ranked flyweights in the division who have not fought Johnson yet. Both men are only 23 years old, and with Moreno 3-0 in the UFC and Pettis 6-2, both men both have records worthy of receiving a title shot in the shallow flyweight division. A win over the other in head-to-head competition at UFC Fight Night 114 would make either guy extremely deserving of the title shot.

A lot of people have complained about Pettis vs. Moreno as a main event, but I think it’s a good five-round fight, and if the UFC is thinking like me in wanting to book the winner of this fight against Johnson (again, I’m assuming he beats Borg), it has potential title implications. Both Pettis and Moreno are marketable young fighters who can finish fights, and either man is a worthwhile opponent for Johnson. I hope they would do that fight as the main event of a UFC on FOX card and not a pay-per-view, however, though I suppose the fight could work as a co-main event. Either way, the winner of Saturday’s main event should get Johnson next.

The prospect of Demetrious Johnson moving to 135 to fight the winner of Garbrandt vs. Dillashaw is intriguing, but it’s unrealistic. Instead, it makes much more sense for Johnson to fight the winner of UFC Fight Night 114’s Brandon Moreno vs. Sergio Pettis, and then the UFC can decide what to do from there. That’s why the fight this weekend is so important for both men, and why even though this Mexico card is flying under this radar, fans should make sure to watch this fight.

UFC Fight Night 114: Pettis vs. Moreno takes place August 5, 2017 at Mexico City Arena in Mexico City, Mexico.

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