The UFC reopens its APEX Centre doors this weekend for yet another card behind closed door, as Jessica Eye faces off with Cynthia Calvillo in the main event.
We go through the card to break down every fight and make our picks.
Anthony Ivy (8-2) vs Christian Aguilera (13-6) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Riding in off a five-fight win streak, Anthony Ivy takes on Christian Aguilera as both men make their UFC debuts. Aguilera has won his last two fights and looked dominant in the process with a strong stand-up game. Ivy has won accrued all 8 of his wins via stoppage (5 KO’s and 3 submissions) but has shown holes in his game on the floor. A match-up between two good strikers both looking to make a name for themselves should mean fireworks and I’d be surprised to see this one go the distance. PICK – Anthony Ivy via KO/TKO
Tyson Nam (18-11-1) vs Zarukh Adashev (3-1)- (Flyweight/125lbs)
Adashev steps into this fight as a late replacement for Octagon veteran Ryan Benoit to make his UFC debut. ‘The Lion’ has won his last three in a row, two via KO, after losing his first professional bout back in 2015. He also competes in kickboxing, which shows you where his strengths lay. Tyson Nam will have other ideas however. The 36 year old is coming off back-to-back defeats and needs a win to cement his spot in the company and will believe this is a perfect good match-up for him. While Adashev won’t look to take this fight to the ground, he probably has the striking advantage due to his Glory days. At the lower weight-class it’s rare to see knockout victories but the short-notice will likely make a big difference in this one, so I expect Nam to be able to pip his opponent. PICK – Tyson Nam via Unanimous Decision
Julia Avila (7-1) vs Gina Mazany (6-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Julia Avila comes into this one on a wave of momentum having won her last three fights in a row. Her only professional defeat came when suffered a nasty compound fracture of her finger and the fight was stopped. Gina Mazany on the other hand has lost two of her last three fights, being knocked out by Ultimate Fighter winner Macy Chiasson along the way. ‘Danger’ is stepping into this fight on just one week’s notice and it’s not a great match-up for her. Mazany needs to be able to ground Avila and gain top position to really cause any trouble here for ‘Raging Panda’ and with Avila’s good takedown defence and crisp striking, this could end with a nasty KO. I’ll back the decision myself but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t make it to the judges. PICK – Julia Avila via Unanimous Decision
Charles Rosa (12-4) vs Kevin Aguilar (17-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
‘Boston Strong’ Charles Rosa steps into the Octagon for the eighth time in career and second time in three months this weekend to fight Kevin Aguilar. Rosa was beaten by ‘Thug Nasty’ Bryce Mitchell at UFC 249, where the submission game of the younger fighter proved too much for him in a decision loss. Aguilar last fought in February, suffering a second successive defeat after getting KO’d by Zubaira Tukhugov in the first round. While Rosa will have a significant advantage on the ground, every fight starts on the feet and Aguilar will be confident he can keep the fight there. His chin seems to have left him in more recent times which is a concern but Rosa doesn’t possess the greatest stand-up skills, so I expect ‘The Angel of Death’ to be able to get back in the win column. PICK – Kevin Aguilar via Unanimous Decision
Jordan Espinosa (14-7 1N.C) vs Mark De La Rosa (11-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Jordan Espinosa makes the move up to Bantamweight for this fight where he meets a desperate Mark De La Rosa. Espinosa has lost his last two, both by first round submission, while De La Rosa has lost his last three fights. Both fighters will be keen to end their skids. Together they combine for 13 career wins and a 5 career losses by submission. On the feet, De La Rosa is a better combination puncher while Espinosa carries more power. If the fight ends up on the ground it’s likely to be because Espinosa has scored a knockdown, but ‘Bumblebee’ is savvy enough to potentially get hold of a neck in a scramble. The likelihood however, is that Espinosa out-punches De La Rosa en route to a decision win. PICK – Jordan Espinosa via Unanimous Decision
Andre Fili (20-7) vs Charles Jourdain (10-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Andre ‘Touchy’ Fili may be my favourite nickname in all of MMA, so it helps that he’s a pretty good fighter too. Fili has won four of his last six but was defeated in his last outing, coming out on the wrong side of a decision to Sodiq Yusuff. ‘Air’ Jourdain caused a shock back in December when he beat Doo Ho Choi via knockout and will be looking for more of the same come fight night. The Quebec native will stay aggressive at all times, pushing forward and looking to force mistakes from Fili. The American Top Team fighter is very experienced though, having made his Octagon debut in 2013 and I think he will be able to weather the storm. A more accurate striker and a much stronger wrestling game, I expect Fili to pick up a straight-forward decision win. PICK – Andre Fili via Unanimous Decision
Merab Dvalishvili (10-4) vs Gustavo Lopez (11-4) – (Catchweight/140lbs)
Originally scheduled to fight Ray Borg, ‘The Machine’ Merab Dvalishvili is now scheduled to fight UFC newcomer Gustavo Lopez on just 3 days notice. Borg pulled out on Thursday night, citing a family emergency, and in stepped Combate Americas Bantamweight Champion Lopez. In his 11 previous wins, Lopez has picked up 10 stoppage victories including 5 KO’s and 5 submissions. A very well rounded fighter, this will be Lopez’s first fight against top level opposition. While he’s no Ray Borg, he will look to finish the fight early and has the power in his hands to do so. Merab however, is not someone you want to fight on short notice. The Georgian is well known for his conditioning and has absolutely no problem with a high pace fight for 3 rounds. I expect this will be the case and The Machine will pick up a comfortable decision victory. PICK – Merab Dvalishvili via Unanimous Decision
Marvin Vettori (14-4-1) vs Karl Roberson* (9-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
*Roberson weighed in at 190.5lbs, 4.5lbs over the limit
A fight here with two dark horses in the Middleweight division. Two prospects coming in with a solid record and improving in every fight, this one should prove to be a treat. Roberson has won his last two and shown that being an ex-kickboxer isn’t the only thing that his opponents should be worried about, submitting Roman Kopylov late in the third round in his last outing. Much of the same can be said for Vettori too. Since his split-decision defeat to now Middleweight king Israel Adesanya in 2018, the Italian has turned in his two most impressive performances to date with two decision wins.
Vettori has struggled with finishing his opponents in the UFC, with just one fight not going the distance. Roberson has only seen the judges scorecards twice and this could be something to think about. Roberson is by far the more explosive fighter and his striking is better but Vettori is a very strategic fighter and will likely keep his distance in an attempt to control the pace of the fight. While Vettori is the bookies favourite, I’m going with an upset victor for ‘Baby K’ by knockout. PICK – Karl Roberson via Knockout
Jessica Eye* (15-7) vs Cynthia Calvillo (8-1-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
*Eye weighed in at 125.25lbs, 1/4lbs over the limit
An interesting if not spectacular main event on this card, No.1 ranked Jessica Eye takes on Cynthia Calvillo who makes her debut in the division. Eye has turned herself into one of the best in her division, some way behind champion Valentina Shevchenko, since dropping down from Bantamweight when the division was created. ‘Evil’ Eye has won four of her last five, the only defeat in her world title fight with ‘Bullet’ and has been convincing every time. A good boxer, she often uses her striking to close the distance, before letting off more powerful shots and stepping out again. This style shows when you see that 11 of her 15 wins have come via decision.
Calvillo however has more to her game, despite being much earlier in her career. The 32 year old’s only defeat came to Carla Esparza in 2017, although her most recent fight ended in a draw against Marina Rodriguez. Calvillo will be looking to take this fight to the ground, as she knows Eye has the advantage in the striking department. While Eye will likely catch Calvillo as she charges in for the takedown, Eye doesn’t hit hard enough to make her opponent worry about not going through with the attack. If the fight goes as expected, Eye will turn this into a boxing clinic and do all she can to keep it on the feet, or she may be in danger. PICK – Jessica Eye via Unanimous Decision