Calderwood was originally scheduled to fight for the women's flyweight belt last summer, but the fight was cancelled when division champion Valentina Shevchenko pulled out with a knee injury. A win on Saturday would keep Calderwood in title contention in 2021.
On an already stacked card, UFC 257 from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi will see a women’s flyweight bout between Jessica Eye and Joanne Calderwood, with title implications on the line.
Calderwood comes into this fight as a true title contender and also as the favourite to win on the MMA odds at -130, with Eye at +100.
Jessica Eye UFC 257 Odds
Eye (15-8) returned to the women’s flyweight division in 2018 with three straight wins before the year was out. Since then, she hasn’t been nearly as consistent. Her big year in 2018 earned her a shot at the title against champion Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 238 in June 2019. Unfortunately for Eye, Shevchenko KO’d her with a brutal kick to the head early in the second round. After rebounding from the Shevchenko fight with a unanimous decision win over Viviane Araujo to close out 2019, Eye lost a five round unanimous decision to Cynthia Calvillo, last June. Eye is probably more of a bantamweight fighter and has struggled to cut weight in the lighter flyweight division. She has had to fight five times at catchweight, including her last two fights after missing weight in both.
As the more well-rounded fighter, Eye comes into this fight with multiple weapons in her arsenal. She doesn’t mind grinding out the type of gritty fight her opponent is known for and her quick footwork helps her when she’s exiting the pocket after throwing a flurry of punches. She lands 3.79 significant strikes per minute and has a 57.6 per cent significant strike defence, but she’s also not afraid to bring the fight to the ground. If Eye isn’t wearing her opponents out along the cage, her high level cardio helps her strong-arm other fighters to the ground, where she averages 1.0 submissions per 15 minutes.
Joanne Calderwood UFC 257 Odds
Calderwood (14-5) is also coming off losses in two of her last three fights, including a disastrous bout with Jennifer Maia, last August. She was originally scheduled to fight for the flyweight belt, but after division champion Shevchenko pulled out with a knee injury, Calderwood opted to take a gamble and fight Maia, who submitted her with an armbar just over 30 seconds into the fight. At 34-years-old Calderwood’s window for a chance at the belt will start to close soon, so there is a lot at stake for her on Saturday. This is a fighter who went from a scheduled title fight, to potentially dropping out of title contention all together if she loses. With a win keeping her in the championship race in 2021, there is a lot on the line for Calderwood on Saturday.
Looking to put her loss to Maia in the rearview mirror, Calderwood’s game plan likely involves relying on her striking background. She’s a high tempo fighter with the ability to string together varied combinations in the pocket before finishing an opponent with a strong kick, knee, or even elbow. Calderwood averages an astounding 6.61 significant strikes per minute and a +2.01 striking differential, both best in the division. Her grappling has improved and she has a 55 per cent takedown defence, but her strength is still her striking ability. Her opponent likes to slow things down against strikers of Calderwood’s ability, so the key to this fight for Calderwood should be using her cardio to keep a high tempo and wear her opponent out.
Eye vs. Calderwood UFC 257 Prediction
Although Eye is very capable of performing well in a high tempo fight, she can also work her opponents against the fence and take them down to the ground. Calderwood is the better striker, but Eye is the more complete fighter. Look for Eye to wear out Calderwood along the fence and on the ground. Eye should win this by unanimous decision.