The first of two female fights on the main card of UFC 219 is sure to shake up an already stacked women’s strawweight division. Two top #10 contenders look to add to their title shot campaigns. Although it may be a long shot to say either of them is next in line to challenge Rose Namajunas for the strap, we can certainly expect interesting future fights to come from this bout.
Two different roads
Both fighters will step into the Octagon at the age of 30, but their paths to get there are entirely different. Who has had a better 2017 than Cynthia Calvillo? The rising Team Alpha Male star looks to improve to 4-0 in the UFC and 5-0 this year. Calvillo made a name for herself when she took her first UFC fight on 10 days notice to tap Amanda Cooper via rear-naked choke at UFC 209. It was business as usual for her just a month later with another rear-naked choke finish over Pearl Gonzalez at UFC 210 in Buffalo. She was able to tack on another victory on July 16 at UFC Fight Night 113 in Glasgow, Scotland against the Scottish native Joanne Calderwood. Even with her busy 2017, Calvillo will enter Saturday with the most rest between fights in her professional career.
Across from Calvillo will be the former Invicta and UFC Strawweight champ Carla Esparza. The former two promotion champ has yet to defend a belt. After winning the inaugural Invicta strawweight belt, she entered the season 20 TUF house to defeat an impressive list of UFC contenders including the current division champion “Thug” Rose Namajunas, to become the first to hold the belt. Congrats Carla, here’s Joanna Jedrzejczyk, have fun. Esparza has compiled a 2-1 record since the reign of Joanna Champion came and went. A win against a surging Calvillo will certainly get her back in title contention.
Next in line?
It’s hard to believe that a win for Calvillo or Esparza will warrant a title shot.
The next strawweight championship is already being rumored for UFC 221 in Perth between “Thug” Rose and Tecia Torres. Normally, fighters don’t deserve an immediate rematch/title shot after losing the belt but Joanna, like Ronda, obviously does. With a win on Saturday, Calvillo will cap off a perfect 2017 and continue to climb the rankings. This, however, will be her first high-profile win. She may need to knock off a top #5 contender to punch that ticket.
Esparza is in the same boat. A win over Calvillo will only give her two consecutive wins. She certainly has beaten the who’s who in the division but mostly in the early part of their careers. With all of that being said, her dominance in the TUF house cannot be overlooked. Like any title run, the road will not get easier for either of these two. I’d imagine the winner would need to get through a killer like Gadelha, Kowalkiewicz, or maybe even Andrade. We know the UFC, especially in more recent history, hasn’t exactly stuck to the next man (or women) up system. But for the most part, this division has pretty much gone by the book as far as who deserves the next crack at the belt.
The hype train will continue with Calvillo at UFC 219.
Being the bigger fighter with a slight edge in reach, she’ll be able to avoid the takedown and stay long against Esparza. Calvillo does have knockout potential but I see this fight going to a decision. Cynthia doesn’t have an issue taking the back and seems more than comfortable on the ground but I think she will be wise to avoid Esparza’s wrestling and potential ground and pound.