On Dec. 6, 2019, UFC strawweight Cynthia Calvillo barricaded herself in her Washington, D.C., hotel room and wept, alone, for hours — one day before she was to face an undefeated, surging prospect in Marina Rodriguez.
Calvillo, who faces Jessica Eye (15-7) at UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Las Vegas, was devastated before her most recent fight, after she missed the 116-pound strawweight limit by 4 pounds. Missing weight is widely viewed as a disgrace for any UFC athlete, but that was Calvillo’s second time doing so in three appearances, and it was caused by a private matter.
“It’s hard for me as a female athlete — I have an irregular period,” said Calvillo, who has spoken openly about how it’s affected her previous weight cuts. “I know other female fighters have said they get around it. Well, it’s different. Every woman is different. And it was embarrassing. It was very embarrassing.
“All I could do — I cried a lot. After the weigh-ins for my last fight, I locked myself in that hotel room and just cried nonstop. And I called my mom.”
Calvillo (8-1-1) has since elected to move up to the 125-pound flyweight division, and the UFC has shown its faith in her — booking her against the promotion’s No.1-ranked contender. This will be Calvillo’s first main event.
The San Jose, California, native also has returned to her roots ahead of this fight, as she departed Team Alpha Male in Sacramento in favor of American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose. For someone with fewer than 10 professional bouts, Calvillo has experienced a lot. She has fought on short notice in the UFC, competed abroad and now bounced weight classes.
What she really wants to do now is settle into the flyweight division and fight. Frequently. The 32-year-old fought five times in 2017, but that number fell to just once in 2018 and twice in 2019. If all goes well, and eliminating the stress of a crippling weight cut can’t hurt, Calvillo would like to be far more active and turn fan attention far away from her weight and toward her title hopes.
By the numbers
4: Flyweight wins by Eye, tied for third most in history behind Valentina Shevchenko‘s and Katlyn Chookagian‘s five. Eye has won four of five fights since joining the division in 2018. She had gone 1-5 with a no contest at bantamweight.
1: Fights in which Calvillo did not land a takedown, among her seven in the UFC. She has 10 takedowns total.
11: Victories by Eye, among her 15 total, that have gone to decision.
2: Fights in which Calvillo missed weight, among her past three bouts. Those fights were at strawweight, necessitating her move to flyweight for this bout.
4.17: Significant strikes landed per minute by Eye, fourth most among active 125-pound women.
Sources: ESPN Stats & Information and UFC Stats
Five vs. five
Jessica Eye’s most recent results
Win: Viviane Araújo (UD, Dec. 14, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Loss: Valentina Shevchenko (KO2, June 8, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Katlyn Chookagian (SD, Dec. 8, 2018)
Win: Jessica-Rose Clark (UD, June 23, 2018)
Win: Kalindra Faria (SD, Jan. 14, 2018)
Cynthia Calvillo’s most recent results
Draw: Marina Rodriguez (MD, Dec. 7, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Cortney Casey (UD, Feb. 17, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Poliana Botelho (SUB1, Nov. 17, 2018)
Loss: Carla Esparza (UD, Dec. 30, 2017)
Win: Joanne Calderwood (UD, July 16, 2017)
Brett Okamoto’s prediction
And the winner is … Calvillo. Her only loss is to former strawweight champion Carla Esparza via unanimous decision in a very close fight. Calvillo is strong wrestler, which I really think will help her in this transition to 125 pounds. Eye is a physical flyweight and a little more dangerous on the feet, but in a longer fight — and a smaller cage — I lean with the forward pressure and grappling of Calvillo.
Saturday’s fight card
ESPN/ESPN Deportes/ESPN+, 9 p.m. ET
Jessica Eye vs. Cynthia Calvillo | Women’s flyweight
Karl Roberson vs. Marvin Vettori | Middleweight
Merab Dvalishvili vs. Gustavo Lopez | Men’s catchweight (140 pounds)
Andre Fili vs. Charles Jourdain | Men’s featherweight
Jordan Espinosa vs. Mark De La Rosa | Men’s bantamweight
ESPN/ESPN Deportes/ESPN+, 6 p.m. ET
Mariya Agapova vs. Hannah Cifers | Women’s flyweight
Charles Rosa vs. Kevin Aguilar | Lightweight
Julia Avila vs. Gina Mazany | Women’s bantamweight
Ryan Benoit vs. Tyson Nam | Men’s flyweight
Jordan Griffin vs. Darrick Minner | Men’s featherweight
Christian Aguilera vs. Anthony Ivy | Welterweight
What else to look for … beyond the main event
Shall we call the co-main event Roberson vs. Vettori 1.5?
The middleweights were scheduled to meet on May 13 in Jacksonville, Florida, but Roberson was pulled from the card less than 24 hours before fight night because of medical issues related to his weight cut. This left Vettori upset, and he confronted Roberson in the hotel lobby as Roberson’s team was checking out.
Now they will fight.
Both men come in on two-fight win streaks. Roberson (9-2, 4-2 in the UFC) has won three of his past four. Vettori (14-4, 4-2 UFC) last experienced defeat in a split decision against Israel Adesanya in 2018, prior to Adesanya becoming UFC middleweight champion.
Five things to know (from ESPN Stats & Information)
1. Merab Dvalishvili, who takes on Gustavo Lopez in a bantamweight bout, is coming off a big performance. In February, Dvalishvili took Casey Kenney down 12 times, becoming the fourth fighter in UFC history to have multiple fights with 10-plus takedowns. The others: Demetrious Johnson (3), Georges St-Pierre (2) and Colby Covington (2). Borg has a 46.7% takedown defense in his UFC career, below the roster average of 55.0%.
2. Veteran featherweight Andre Fili will be making his 15th walk to the Octagon, seventh most in division history. Fili faces Charles Jourdain, a Canadian fighting in the UFC for the third time. Notable: It’s “Touchy” Fili vs. “Air” Jourdain. You’re welcome.
3. Charles Rosa will be fighting in the UFC for the eighth time — but for the first time in the promotion’s home base of Las Vegas. The lightweight known as “Boston Strong” might prefer that the fight be back home at TD Garden, though. Rosa is 3-0 in Boston and 0-4 outside of Boston in his UFC career.
4. No fighter on the card has more experience in MMA than Darrick Minner, who fights for the 36th time since his debut in 2012. Among his previous fights, 32 have ended with a finish (22 wins, 10 losses), including his UFC debut in February, which he lost to Grant Dawson by submission.
5. Anthony Ivy will make his UFC debut, one week after he briefly replaced Ian Heinisch in the UFC 250 lineup, before Heinisch was cleared to fight. Ivy will put his five-fight win streak on the line against Christian Aguilera, who is also making his UFC debut.