There’s no sugar-coating it, Saturday’s UFC card really didn’t provide a whole lot of meaning going forward. It was a solid, if unspectacular, announcement of Cynthia Calvillo’s entry into the flyweight division. And it provided a platform for Marvin Vettori to show his class as a potential top 10 middleweight. But, all told, that’s about it.
So, does the UFC continue pushing Calvillo toward a fight with Valentina Shevchenko before the year is out? What does Vettori’s path to an Israel Adesanya rematch look like? And what’s a “big name” fight the UFC could throw Andre Fili’s way?
I’ll be answering all those questions – and pretty much nothing else – using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights.
Not a dominating performance exactly, but a clear show of class. After a back-and-forth first round, Calvillo was just a half step ahead of Eye all the rest of the way through the fight. I’m fascinated to see how AKA can evolve her game down the line, and there are a ton of fight opportunities for her in her new division. A fight against the winner of Modafferi vs. Murphy or the winner of Maia vs. Araujo would both be easy bouts to put together after this win. But with Katlyn Chookagian calling Calvillo out after the fight, there’s really no reason for the UFC not to book it. If they were interested in protecting Calvillo from former title challengers who could put a stop to her own chance at becoming a contender, then they Eye booking already broke that mold. Might as well see if Calvillo can run through them all—they just gotta bring Liz Carmouche back first. Cynthia Calvillo vs. Katlyn Chookagian is as big a fight as Calvillo could get right now.
This loss has been brewing for Eye for a minute now. Outside of her title fight against the champ, her string of wins at 125 has been marked by impossibly close margins in almost every time out. And one of the most notable things she hadn’t faced in that stretch was a willing, confident wrestler. Calvillo hasn’t always played that game, but she put her takedowns and back-takes to great work here to solidfy an otherwise narrow contest.
Still, Eye isn’t way out of the running. If Joanne Calderwood’s chance at the belt is unsuccessful later this summer, then Eye vs. Calderwood would be a great fight to make—and one that would quickly put either woman back on track. Likewise a fight against the loser of Roxanne Modafferi vs. Lauren Murphy. However, if Eye wants to fight again fast, then a match-up with Andrea Lee is her best option on the table. Lee has the size to compete with Eye’s physicality, and mixes in some decent takedowns. But, she also has similarly struggled to control the pace of her opponents. Lee vs. Eye is a solid quick booking, but Eye could likely wait for a bigger fight.
Exactly the win Vettori needed to prove a point. He had the opportunity to go through a prolonged war with Roberson, but instead opted to take him down and out-grappled him on the mat for an emphatic victory. That should set him up well to tackle the top 15 at middleweight. That said, given his draw to Akhmedov, and with Shahbazyan and Brunson already booked to fight (and with Brad Tavares injured) there’s really only two options out there for the Italian: he can take on Krzysztof Jotko in a fight that will get very few people hyped. Or he can take on Uriah Hall (if Hall isn’t going to get that Jacare fight re-booked soon). Hall vs. Vettori is definitely the fight to make. The question is, is it available? If not Vettori vs. Jotko is fine. Not great, but fine.
Fili’s long history of bouncing between wins and losses make it feel a bit unlikely that he gets the kind of “big name” fight he asked for, especially if he’s looking for a ranked name opponent. He could take on someone like Ryan Hall or Dan Ige or Arnold Allen just to try and claim a spot, but they’re not exactly high profile fights. However, with veterans like Ricardo Lamas and Cub Swanson no longer ranked, it feels like there’s something to be made in terms of a featured action war for ‘Touchy.’ In fact, why not really throw him a real bone with a fighter that would almost certainly get him amped; one that somehow isn’t a current part of the UFC rankings. Edson Barboza. Barboza just dropped his featherweight debut, but he’s a longtime big name who would aboslutely have a war with the Team Alpha Male product. Andre Fili vs. Edson Barboza would be a great way to get Fili a big fight.
Espinosa had a solid callout ready after beating Mark De La Rosa, a flyweight bout against Tyson Nam, who picked up his own big win earlier in the night. But I’m always loath to match fighters up with opponents off their own card. It just feels lazy. Instead, I think a fight against Brandon Royval would be a great next move for Espinosa. Royval had an outstanding debut with a submission win last time out, but is determined to show himself as a striker first. Espinosa’s speed would likely give him a lot of problems. But, if this fight does get forced to the mat, Royval’s got the kind of grappling to make Espinosa pay for the mistakes he’s made in recent fights. Royval vs. Espinosa would be a rock solid flyweight scrap.
Lopez didn’t have the worst start to this fight, but by the time round 2 was over, Dvalishvili was firmly on his way to a landslide victory. Bantamweight’s aren’t known for gassing, but the Georgian is a whole different level of nonstop cardio. He called out Sean O’Malley after the win and it’s a totally reasonable fight to book for where both men are at in terms of just paper wins and losses. However, if I had to guess, it seems almost certain to be the kind of fight the UFC and O’Malley’s team aren’t interested in. Instead, fights against Brett Johns, Montel Jackson, or Raoni Barcelos all seem more likely. But there’s one fight I’d love to see Dvalishvili take at the moment, and that’s a bout against Enrique Barzola. Much like Dvalshvili, Barzola is a non-stop chain wrestling wildman with a fantastic gas tank and some aggressive punching. Would love to see them battle it out. Dvalishvili vs. Barzola would be all scrambles all the time.
OTHER BOUTS: Karl Roberson vs. Eryk Anders, Charles Rosa vs. Zubaira Tukhugov, Kevin Aguilar vs. Spike Carlyle, Charles Jourdain vs. Luiz Garagorri, Mark De La Rosa vs. Su Mudaerji, Mariya Agapova vs. Sabina Mazo, Hannah Cifers vs. Emily Whitmire, Gustavo Lopez vs. Tony Gravely, Julia Avila vs. Bea Malecki, Gina Mazany vs. Shanna Young, Tyson Nam vs. David Dvorak, Zarrukh Adashev vs. Bruno Silva, Christian Aguilera vs. Khaos Williams, Anthony Ivy vs. Gabriel Green