JESSICA EYE VS. CYNTHIA CALVILLO
A former flyweight title challenger welcomes a long-time strawweight contender to the 125-pound weight class in a main event that is sure to have a significant impact on the championship picture going forward.
Last summer, Eye challenged Valentina Shevchenko for the flyweight title in the co-main event at UFC 238; it didn’t go well. The Ohio native and Las Vegas-based contender was felled by a thunderous head kick just 28 seconds into the second round. But six months later, the 33-year-old veteran returned to action against Viviane Araujo and halted the Brazilian’s rise up the ranks.
While many people focus on Eye’s struggles at bantamweight, where she posted a 1-5 record with one no contest verdict, the reality is that she was competing up a division. When competing outside of the 135-pound weight class, Eye is 14-2, including having gone 4-1 in the UFC.
Calvillo made a splash in her first year as a professional fighter in 2016, winning a trio of bouts on the regional circuit, including wins over current UFC flyweights Gillian Robertson and Montana De La Rosa, then added three more victories inside the Octagon. Since then, Calvillo, who now trains with the team at American Kickboxing Academy, has rebounded with a pair of victories and a majority draw decision against Marina Rodriguez.
In two of those bouts, however, Calvillo missed weight, prompting her shift up to the 125-pound ranks this weekend.
The Top 15 in the flyweight division is always fluid, with quality wins producing significant change in the standings on a regular basis, and this fight carries that same potential. Eye has already cemented her standing as one of the top contenders in the division and Calvillo can announce her presence as such with a victory on Saturday.
Both women are scrappy and usually happy to engage, so this should be a spirited affair from start to finish.
KARL ROBERSON VS. MARVIN VETTORI
This middleweight clash between Karl Roberson and Marvin Vettori has been scheduled on multiple occasions, but has yet to make it to the Octagon. Hopefully this time everything works out because the tensions between the two are close to boiling over and the potential for fireworks is high.
Roberson alternated wins and losses over his first four UFC appearances, but has started to find consistency over his last two outings, following up a split decision victory over Wellington Turman with a submission win over the previously unbeaten Roman Kopylov last November. After having two bouts scuttled by event cancellations and an illness delaying this tandem from sharing the cage last month in Jacksonville, “Baby K” will look to extend his winning streak to three in this middleweight pairing that has turned into a grudge match.
Originally scheduled to compete in London back in March, Vettori has had three assignments fall apart for various reasons, at different stages over the last three months, leaving the promising Italian itching for a fight. Sporting a 14-3-1 record overall, Vettori has just a single loss in his last five outings, that coming by split decision against current middleweight champ Israel Adesanya, and while he has not yet cracked the rankings, another quality showing here could change that.
Will Vettori take another step forward and channel the frustration he’s felt in recent months into a blistering performance or will Roberson collect a third straight victory and vault himself into the Top 15?
MERAB DVALISHVILI VS. GUSTAVO LOPEZ
Due to personal reasons, UFC bantamweight Ray Borg was forced to withdraw from his scheduled bout with Merab Dvalishvili this weekend. Replacing him will be UFC newcomer Gustavo Lopez, who will compete against Dvalishvili in a 140 lb. catchweight bout.
Lopez will make his UFC debut riding a three-fight winning streak with all of those victories coming via first-round stoppage. Lopez also boasts an impressive 90 percent finishing rate in his MMA career and will look to make an emphatic statement on short notice.
Dvalishvili earned the call to the Octagon following a 15-second knockout win over Raufeon Stots that pushed his winning streak to six. After two straight losses to begin his UFC tenure, the Serra-Longo Fight Team member has rattled off three straight victories, most recently outworking Casey Kenney in February.
ANDRE FILI VS. CHARLES JOURDAIN
Featherweights hovering just outside the Top 15 collide here as Team Alpha Male stalwart Andre Fili takes on up-and-coming Canadian Charles Jourdain in what should be a high-octane affair in the 145-pound weight class.
Fili had his modest two-fight winning streak snapped last time out against Sodiq Yusuff, but didn’t lose any ground in the division. After several years of inconsistency, the Sacramento native turned a corner following his UFC 220 loss to Calvin Kattar and has been putting in consistent quality efforts since, even if the results haven’t always gone his way.
Lanky and experienced, the 29-year-old self-described “outcast and underdog” is the kind of seasoned fighter every division needs standing at the gates of the Top 15, taking on all those with greater aspirations and establishing their own case for contention in the process.
After amassing nine wins in his first 10 appearances fighting on the regional circuit at home in Quebec, Jourdain made the short notice move to the UFC last May, competing at lightweight against Desmond Green in his hometown of Rochester, New York. Jourdain dropped a unanimous decision and admitted everything about the experience made him freeze up for two rounds but promised a more representative showing once he returned to featherweight.
His sophomore appearance in the Octagon came in the 145-pound ranks and once again took place in hostile territory, as he ventured to South Korea to face Doohoi Choi last December. As promised, the French-Canadian prospect showed out, scoring a second-round stoppage win over the returning fan favorite in an all-action affair.
This isn’t quite a classic “veteran vs. prospect” battle, as Fili is still very much in his prime and capable of making a run at the Top 10. However, it could provide a great deal of clarity in terms of what to expect from each man going forward, both in the second half of 2020 and beyond.
If Fili can turn back Jourdain, he’ll establish a foundation just outside the Top 15 and give himself an opportunity to face a ranked opponent next time out, while a victory for Jourdain would position him as one of the top young talents in the 145-pound weight class and propel him forward another step in his quest to claim UFC gold.
JORDAN ESPINOSA VS. MARK DE LA ROSA
Flyweights looking to snap out of skids meet in this one as Jordan Espinosa faces off against Mark De La Rosa.
After earning a UFC contract following a second Contender Series win, Espinosa pushed his winning streak to five with a victory over Eric Shelton in his promotional debut. Unfortunately for the Albuquerque, New Mexico native, it’s been tough sledding since. Espinosa enters Saturday’s contest on a two-fight slide, having dropped back-to-back fights via submission in matchups against Matt Schnell and Alex Perez.
One half of the UFC’s first husband and wife tandem to compete in the Octagon, De La Rosa dropped his debut, but rebounded with a pair of quality wins over Elias Garcia and Joby Sanchez to secure his place on the roster. Since then, however, the 25-year-old “Bumblebee” has lost three straight, most recently being stopped by Raulian Paiva in mid-February.
MORE #UFCVEGAS2: Charles Jourdain | Eye vs Calvillo Preview | Karl Roberson | Tyson Nam | Gina Mazany | Jordan Espinosa | Significant Stats: June 13 | Fighters You Should Know | Mark De La Rosa | Mariya Agapova | Watch on ESPN+
The 125-pound weight class is in the midst of a rebuild and both of these competitors have shown flashes of potential in the past. Given their recent struggles, expect both Espinosa and De La Rosa to come out guns blazing as they each search for a way to get back in the win column heading into the second half of 2020.
MARIYA AGAPOVA VS. HANNAH CIFERS
Promotional newcomer Mariya Agapova gets an immediate tough test as gritty divisional stalwart Hannah Cifers steps in to welcome the Contender Series alum to the Octagon for the first time, replacing Brazilian Melissa Gatto.
Agapova showed a steely resolve in a losing effort opposite Tracy Cortez last summer on the Contender Series, losing a unanimous decision, but showing the kind of promise that made you want to keep watching her development. By the end of the first week of October, the 23-year-old had validated that time investment and proven herself to be a legitimate prospect by collecting first-round stoppage wins over Alexa Conners and Marilla Santos in a pair of appearances with Invicta FC.
Cifers makes a quick return to action after suffering a first-round submission loss to Mackenzie Dern two weeks ago. After posting back-to-back wins over Polyana Viana and Jodie Esquibel in 2019, "Shockwave" has struggled in 2020, entering this weekend's short-notice opportunity on a two-fight skid. That said, the North Carolina native has far more experience overall and fought significantly tougher competition than Agapova throughout her career, so despite her recent struggles, Cifers is still a step up in competition for the promising UFC rookie.
Will the gritty Cifers get back into the win column or will Agapova's second trip to the UFC Apex produce her first victory inside the Octagon?
CHARLES ROSA VS. KEVIN AGUILAR
Charles Rosa makes his second appearance in a handful of weeks as the Massachusetts native looks to rebound from his loss to Bryce Mitchell in a showdown with former LFA champ Kevin Aguilar.
A talented fighter whose UFC career has been marred by injuries, Rosa got outworked on the canvas by the ascending Mitchell at the start of last month. Despite the lopsided scorecards, the 33-year-old didn’t take much damage and now makes an expedient return, hoping to get back into the win column swiftly and re-affirm his standing as a tough veteran presence positioned just outside the featherweight rankings.
Aguilar earned victories in each of his first two Octagon appearances to push his winning streak to nine and his record to 17-1 overall, but “The Angel of Death” has landed on the wrong side of the results in each of his last two outings. After going the distance in a hard-fought battle with Dan Ige last June, Aguilar ventured to Auckland, New Zealand in February where he was stopped by Zubaira Tukhugov.
Both of these men profile as the kind of veteran stalwarts every division needs — guys who separate the wheat from the chaff as they climb the featherweight ranks — and they’re each in serious need of a bounce-back performance on Saturday, so don’t be surprised if this one starts quick and is action-packed for as long as it lasts.
JULIA AVILA VS. GINA MAZANY
Bantamweights looking to take another step forward in the wide-open division meet in this one as Julia Avila faces off with Gina Mazany.
Nicknamed “The Raging Panda,” Avila was a rising contender under the Invicta FC banner before getting signed by the UFC. Now, the 32-year-old Oklahoma City product has become one to watch in the 135-pound weight class thanks to an impressive unanimous decision victory over Pannie Kianzad in her promotional debut and a tidy three-fight winning streak overall.
Mazany makes her return to the Octagon after a victorious appearance outside of the promotion at the start of the year. She arrived in the UFC with an unbeaten 4-0 record at the outset of 2017, but lost three of four, including two straight against Lina Lansberg and Macy Chiasson. Now the Las Vegas-based veteran is back in hopes of collecting her second UFC victory and beginning to build a little momentum.
The lower third of the bantamweight rankings is constantly in a state of flux as hopefuls jockey for position and try to string together victories. Should the victor here do so in impressive fashion, she could find herself stationed in the Top 15 and staring at a noteworthy step up in competition next time out.
RYAN BENOIT VS. TYSON NAM
Veteran flyweights looking to get back into the win column as the second half of 2020 draws nearer meet in this one as Ryan Benoit locks up with Tyson Nam.
Benoit made his UFC debut in November 2013 and immediately became an intriguing, but inconsistent, addition to the 125-pound weight class, alternating losses and wins through his first six fights while turning in several performances that highlighted his obvious talent and upside, including a stoppage win of Sergio Pettis and a split decision loss to Brandon Moreno.
Following more than two years on the sidelines, Benoit returned to action last December in South Korea, landing on the wrong side of a split decision verdict against AlatangHeili, continuing his “lose one, win one” run inside the Octagon. This weekend, the now 30-year-old “Babyface” is back once again, aiming to maintain his off-and-on pattern in this clash with Nam.
A pro since 2006, Nam finally got the call to compete in the Octagon last fall after logging 28 appearances around the globe and a five-year run that saw him post a 6-1-1 record against quality competition. Through two starts, Nam has yet to taste victory, dropping unanimous decisions to Pettis and Kai Kara-France in entertaining, spirited contests.
The 36-year-old veteran has a two-inch height advantage on Benoit and should also carry an edge in the power department, though the Texan will carry an advantage in the speed and scrambling departments.
Both men are eager to get back into the win column and try to start building momentum and each has to be looking at this showdown on Saturday night as the perfect opportunity to start.