Preview: UFC on ESPN 39 Prelims

UFC on ESPN 39 has a solid six-fight slate for the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s brief return to the UFC Apex on Saturday in Las Vegas. The featured preview is crucial: Former female strawweight contender Nina Nunes looks to start her flyweight journey on a strong note, while Cynthia Calvillo tries to break a frustrating slide. Meanwhile, bantamweights should provide the best action. Ronnie Lawrence and Saidyokub Kakhramonov meet in a fight that should be much higher on the card, and “The Ultimate Fighter 29” winner Ricky Turcios draws a fun pairing against Aiemann Zahabi. Everything is as well paired as ever, making for an effective appetizer.

Now for the UFC on ESPN 39 prelims preview “Dos Anjos vs. Fiziev”:

Women’s flyweight

#11 WFLW | Cynthia Calvillo (9-4-1, 6-4-1 UFC) vs. #7 WSW | Nina Nunes (10-7, 4-4 UFC)

ODDS: Calvillo (-150), Nunes (+130)

Calvillo exploded onto the UFC scene in 2017. Signed just months into her pro career, she was immediately featured on pay-per-view cards and greatly impressed as a talented and venomous grappler. At the end of the year, Calvillo was paired with Carla Esparza in a hugely important fight, and although that was where the Californian’s unbeaten streak ended, she still thought she had a bright future considering of its rapid rise to this point. Calvillo still racked up wins — and a draw against Marina Rodriguez — over the next few years, but she’s tumbled since her June 2020 victory over Jessica Eye, as she’s lost three in a row and seems to be struggling to find some answers. A major problem is that Calvillo completely drifted away from her forces as she rose through the ranks. It makes sense that she would want to develop striking, but she struggled more and more behind range play which, while decent at times, did little to help her win fights. Calvillo is still finding her big moments on the mat, but she is increasingly content with trying to outplay her opponents from afar. It just blew her up against Jessica Andrade, and when she had the worst of it against Andrea Lee in November, Calvillo tried to pivot into her wrestling, only to get pulled over and stop the fight between rounds. Calvillo was briefly linked to a strawweight bout, where she started her UFC career, but instead returns to try to figure some things out against Nunes, who is actually dropping from 115 pounds.

Nunes was another fighter whose success in the UFC came out of nowhere, although in her case it was much more of a slow burn. The wife of the all-time great Amanda Nunes, she didn’t particularly look like a UFC-level fighter in her first two trips to the Octagon, dropping bouts against Juliana Lima and Justine Kish. However, she turned things around in a shocking and effective way to set up a four-fight winning streak. Despite some obvious physical disadvantages against Randa Markos and Claudia Gadelha, Nunes fought smart, stayed consistent, and emerged victorious against her flakier opponents. After making a game effort not to just get crushed by Tatiana Suarez, Nunes missed around two years due to pregnancy before returning in April 2021 against Mackenzie Dern – a fight that didn’t go particularly well. past. In one of the most targeted efforts of Dern’s career, she scored a takedown and a submission in relatively short order. With that move up to 125 pounds, it will be interesting to see if Nunes is helped by the extra mass. Either way, it seems relatively assured that she’ll put up a smart and cohesive fight. That seems enough to get him to approve. If Calvillo can channel a more focused approach through what brought her to the dance, there’s a chance she could replicate Dern’s fight, but that’s also been a pivot she apparently should have done these last years. The choice is Nunes by decision.

Jump to “
Calvillo vs. Nunes
Turcios vs. Zahabi
Shevchenko vs Casey
Gore versus Brundage
Nzechukwu vs Roberson
Lawrence vs. Kakhramonov

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