Carla Esparza Outlasts Cynthia Calvillo In Hard-Fought Battle

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Photo: Tom Szczerbowski for USA TODAY Sports

Top-ranked women’s strawweight contenders Carla Esparza and  Cynthia Calvillo looked to continue climbing their way to a title shot versus Rose Namajunas when they battled on the main card of tonight’s (Sat., December 30, 2017) UFC 219 from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

No. 6 Calvillo had enjoyed one of the most mercurial rises in women’s 115-pound history, winning three straight fights in 2017 and looking to close it out with an unprecedented fourth. No. 9 former divisional champion Esparza needed a win to re-establish her standing, making this fight an intriguing potential jump-off spot for Calvillo to score her biggest-ever win.

The fight began with Esparza aggressive with two stinging shots, but Calvillo fired back with her own. A low kick landed from Esparza. Calvillo scored an impeccably-timed takedown to ground Esparza as she went to work possibly setting up an arm triangle choke from the half guard. Esparza held on and eventually went for an armbar from bottom guard, and it looked tight for a second before Calvillo slid out of it.

She went to work in side control, but Esparza landed some elbows from the bottom. Calvillo responded with big knees from the top. A dominant round ended with Calvillo on top landing big shots from the mount, only to see Esparza spin back to the top in exciting fashion.

The second kicked off with a right from Esparza. Calvillo threw a combination as Esparza kept her footwork working before running into a stiff punch. Two punches cored from Calvillo and a low kick from Esparza. She landed a big right and Calvillo landed one of her own. The fighters clinched with Calvillo using it to land two strikes. Esparza shot in but was easily shucked off by Calvillo and they traded punches. Calvillo began to land, yet Esparza was able to throw some shots. Finally, the former champion got her first takedown with a single leg that Calvillo soon got back up from. Esparza landed a knee to the body in close and another single leg to close out the second round.

The fighters traded punches in the center of the Octagon to begin the third round. Calvillo landed a hard right hand, and Esparza shot for another takedown. This one was reversed by Calvillo, who controlled a brief clinch. Another leg kicked scored from Esparza. Strikes were thrown but few clean ones landed until Esparza rushed forward to two solid shots, only to eat a stiff jab from Calvillo. Calvillo then shot for a takedown, but Esparza went for a choke and landed a hard left on the break. Both fighters landed punches until Esparza scored a short but crucial takedown. Esparza was aggressive as the two strawweights threw down to end a close fight.

When it went to the judges’ scorecards, Esparza scored a much-needed win a hard-fought unanimous decision.

Final Result: Carl Esparza def. Cynthia Calvillo via unanimous decision (29-29, 29-28, 29-28)