Women’s FlyweightsNo. 7 | Joanne Calderwood (14-5, 6-5 UFC) vs. No. 6 | Jessica Eye (15-8, 5-7 UFC)
ODDS: Calderwood (-120), Eye (+100)
Calderwood’s last fight certainly did not go as planned. The Scotswoman was announced as Valentina Shevchenko’s next challenger for a card in June, but that got quickly scuttled thanks to the pandemic and Shevchenko’s subsequently suffering an injury. Rather than hold tight and wait things out, Calderwood took a high-risk, no-reward bout against Jennifer Maia that was going well enough until she suddenly got caught in a fight-ending armbar. Amazingly, this may not have been the first time that Calderwood tapped away a title shot by choosing to stay active. Reading some tea leaves, she was likely in line for a strawweight title shot against Joanna Jedrzejczyk in 2015, until Maryna Moroz caught her— also via armbar—for a gigantic upset. At any rate, Calderwood has been helped by the UFC’s addition of the flyweight division. The lack of a weight cut has allowed her to fight at a faster pace and impose her will much better upon her opponents. In general, Calderwood has also done her due diligence to improve as a fighter. Her wrestling and grappling skills have improved to the point of no longer being liabilities, and while the Maia fight showed that she will never be an entirely overwhelming athlete, Calderwood is still set up well to remain a contender as Shevchenko continues to clean out the division.
Meanwhile, Eye has also found a more permanent home in the UFC’s flyweight division, although she has done so while coming down from bantamweight. Eye’s run at 135 pounds was an exercise in frustration. She has always had a decent set of tools, but her inability to put a stamp on her bantamweight fights led to a parade of close decision losses that often came down to one or two poor choices. For whatever reason, Eye’s daffy personality and penchant for malapropisms have not made her a particularly sympathetic figure, but it was still nice to see her turn things around immediately upon her cut down to flyweight. The additional bit of physicality allowed Eye to be a bit more of a bully, which in turn changed what were narrow losses at bantamweight into close wins at 125 pounds. Naturally, things quickly went sideways, mostly in the form of an absolutely devastating head kick from Shevchenko in Eye’s lone UFC title shot. Eye at least rebounded well with a win over Viviane Araujo to cap off 2019, but after a particularly rough 2020 campaign that included gallbladder surgery, staph and a lackluster loss to Cynthia Calvillo, “Evil Eye” could use a win here to regain some much-needed momentum.
Given that these two have a penchant for close decisions and not quite putting a stamp on their fights, it is pretty easy to say that this will likely wind up a coinflip. Eye is a middle-of-the-road talent—in both a positive and a negative sense—who lacks any sort of real overall game plan, so her success often comes down to the flaws of her opponents. Her three wins to get to Shevchenko were over opponents who would cede control and allow Eye to keep moving forward, while Araujo’s inefficient striking footwork tired her down to the stretch. While Calderwood may not be a particularly overwhelming force, she has shown a much more aggressive mindset at flyweight and—despite being a former strawweight— should have the physicality to hold her own against Eye in clinch and wrestling exchanges. This could wind up as an ugly fight where neither woman separates herself and there a ton of stalls in momentum, but Calderwood at least has more of a feeling of going out and trying to win her fights. Again, Eye’s success often feels like a referendum on her opponents in a way that she likely cannot exploit here. The pick is Calderwood via decision.
Continue Reading » Azaitar vs. Frevola