It’s all a prelude to UFC 251 at Fight Island next month. Those who took to Las Vegas’ Apex facility Saturday night for UFC Fight Night on ESPN had a lot to prove.
Losses here would doom the career of some fighters. Others were in need of making a statement in order for Dana White and Co. to feature them moving forward.
Jessica Eye’s match against Cynthia Calvillo in the women’s flyweight division was the headliner with Marvin Vettori’s match against Karl Roberson being the main co-event.
Here are the biggest winners and losers from a fun and busy Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Winner: Jordan Espinosa salvages career
At 30-years old, this Ohio native was pretty much fighting for his career against Mark De La Rosa. Ranked 13th in the flyweight division, Espinosa had lost each of his past two fights. He was facing the possibility of a pink slip.
The good news for Espinosa is that he had a major advantage over De La Rosa throughout Saturday night, landing more punches and nearly submitting his opponent. It led to a unanimous decision win after three rounds. Espinosa is now aiming for Fight Island in the Abu Dhabi next month.
Loser: Hannah Cifers blows golden opportunity
Making her first appearance in the flyweight division after losing his past two strawweight matches, Cifers was in need of a statement at Apex in Las Vegas. In no way did that come to fruition. Cifers was submitted in Round 1 after her opponent, Mariya Agapova, landed a violent kick.
The 27-year-old North Carolina native has now lost three consecutive fights. Forget about her taking part in Fight Island, Cifers’ needs to take time to return to form. She was simply humiliated Saturday night.
Winner: Andre Fili sets stage for potential Fight Island match
Fili needed to come out on top over a lesser-known Charles Jourdain if he wanted to have any chance of being featured during next month’s Fight Island extravaganza. He lost his most-recent fight back in UFC 246 and needed to make a statement on ESPN.
While the match against Jourdain did go the distance, Fili more than proved himself in the featherweight division. Even after nearly being submitted early on, he was able to come out with a split decision win due to multiple take downs throughout the bout. The confident young man now waits for his next opponent.
Loser: Kevin Aguilar’s angel of death
Aguilar was in need of a divisive win over Charles Rosa in their lightweight bout Saturday evening. He had lost two consecutive fights after winning his previous nine bouts. It was among the biggest preliminary bouts of the evening in Vegas.
Unfortunately for Aguilar, he was not able to end this losing streak. Rosa came out on top in a split decision. The fight itself was also among the dullest of the evening. It didn’t necessarily paint either Rosa or Aguilar in the best of lights. But it was a damning defeat for the latter.
Winner: Mariya Agapova‘s impressive debut
A native of Kazakhstan, Agapova was relatively unknown to the masses heading into UFC Fight Night Saturday. Though, die-hard MMA fans knew that she has the capability of ascending the flyweight division before even making her UFC debut.
This is exactly what we saw from Agapova against Hannah Cifers. She dominated from the get, submitting her opponent at 2:42 of Round 1. This represented Agapova’s fourth consecutive first round win. It now might earn her a spot on fight island.
Loser: Jessica Eye blows opportunity for championship rematch
Eye was looking to prove her worth in a potential rematch against Valentina Shevchenko for the flyweight title after losing to the latter in UFC 238 last year. It did not happen. After winning Round 1, she saw herself playing defense throughout the remainder of the bout.
Boasting an 8-1-1 record, Cynthia Calvillo nearly submitted Eye multiple times and had some major take downs in Rounds 2-4 before she walked to a unanimous victory. It really was a disastrous performance from Eye, and has people wondering whether she’ll be featured by Dana White and Co. a lot moving forward.
Winner: Marvin Vettori will now be ranked
The 26-year-old Italian has been waiting since last October to fight in the Octagon again. His match against Karl Roberson was postponed twice, once due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. There’s no love lost between these two middleweights. That was evidenced when the rivals refused to embrace one another ahead of the bout.
Vettori took out this frustration by submitting Roberson late in Round 1 with a rear-naked choke. It was something to behold.
Look for the middleweight to find himself within the top-15 in the latest rankings. The expectation here is that he will also likely take part in Fight Island.
Winner: Cynthia Calvillo makes major statement
This 32-year-old Northern California native made her flyweight debut Saturday night in Las Vegas. She did so as a slight underdog against the better-known Eye. She did not look anything like an underdog.
Calvillo nearly submitted Eye multiple times throughout the fight after struggling early on. Once the match headed to Round 5, it was obvious Calvillo would come out on top. She’ll now likely go up against Katlyn Chookagian.
That could be a lot of fun.