Former title challenger, Jessica Eye, will battle submission ace, Cynthia Calvillo, this Saturday (June 13, 2020) at on ESPN 10 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In a strange case, Eye’s Bantamweight career is still being held against her. As an undersized 135-pounder, Eye did not hold a positive record, but she routinely fought title contenders to split decisions. Since moving down to face opponents more her stature, Eye has won four of five bouts and established herself as the top-ranked contender. So what, she lost to Valentina Shevchenko (watch it) — what Flyweight doesn’t?
Regardless of perception, Eye is in the unenviable position of trying to earn a second title shot against a dominant champion. This weekend, she’ll attempt to take a big step forward by taking out one of the bigger names to join her division in her first main event slot.
Let’s take a closer look at her skill set:
Throughout this entire analysis, there’s a general theme to Jessica Eye. There is nothing overly flashy or extremely standout to her approach. However, fundamentals win fights, particularly when paired with consistency and volume.
That said, the most standout aspect about Eye as a whole is her jab. I wouldn’t describe Eye as a boxer necessarily — she kicks well and is occasionally sloppy with her right hand — but her sharp jab definitely muddies those waters. Part of her success with the strike is commitment, as Eye is always looking to establish her range with the jab.
Eye’s jab is a quick, snappy punch. She tends to carry her lead hand a bit lower, allowing her to sneak the punch under the guard. At times, Eye will double and triple the jab. Eye also throws in combination quite a bit. One of her favorite strategies is to target the mid-section with a right hand before coming up high with a left hook.
One of Eye’s better habits — particularly since moving down to Flyweight — is to respond with combinations on the counter. Eye has won several close decisions as a result of this habit, as firing back with numbers each time her foe advances is a good way to remain on the right side of the volume equation (GIF). Another of Eye’s trickier counter punches is to drop her level under a punch and target the ribs with a right hook.
Being busy is huge at a weight class where knockouts are uncommon.
At distance, Eye’s kicks have come a long way. Eye likes to kick with her lead leg, often targeting the inside of the thigh. Against Viviane Araujo, Eye pulled off a nice sequence where she twice dug into the inner thigh before going high with her switch kick, landing a solid connection.
In short, Eye is a scrapper, willing to fire volume in the pocket. That mentality wins her fights, but it’s also seen her get cracked by punches a few times. In addition, both Shevchenko and Kalindra Faria capitalized on the same Southpaw high kick setup. Eye’s hand position often sits just below the chin, so when the two women took a backwards side step and Eye stepped into range, the opening for the left kick was there.
At Bantamweight, most of Eye’s struggles came against bigger opponents holding her down to the mat. That balance has shifted at 125 pounds, as Eye is now one of the division’s more physical talents.
It cannot be overstated: strength matters in wrestling.
Offensively, Eye’s strategy is generally pretty straightforward. Thanks to her newfound strength advantage, Eye is better able to land clinch takedowns. Quite often, she accomplishes these takedowns by slipping a punch, wrapping up her opponents waist, and either folding them over or finishing with a trip. Cutting the corner to the back clinch is also an option from this setup.
On defense, Eye has proven much more difficult to drag down at 125 pounds. Really, only Valentina Shevchenko found consistent success at dragging her to the mat, and again ... it’s Valentina! Otherwise, Eye does a nice job of fighting her hips back in the clinch and spreading her base along the fence.
Despite wrestling decently often, Eye has only scored a single submission and been submitted once in her 10-year professional career.
That said, the single submission is a pretty special one. Against then-Bellator Strawweight champion Zoila Frausto, Eye was able to finish a standing arm triangle choke for the biggest win of her pre-UFC career. After scoring a quick knockdown, Eye grabbed onto the back clinch. When Frausto attempted to turn into Eye, “Evil” wrapped up the head and arm and allowed her to turn into the choke.
By that point, Frausto was trapped. Eye jammed her into the fence and squeeze, putting her foe to sleep.
Eye still has a long road to go to convince anyone a second match with Valentina Shevchenko is necessary. However, picking up her first main event victory would be notable, a solid step in confirming Eye as the biggest Flyweight name outside of the champion.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on ESPN 10 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN+ at 9 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC on ESPN 10: “Eye vs. Calvillo” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.