MMA Ratings Podcast

November 16, 2018

Cynthia Calvillo Is Fighting For Stardom At UFC Fight Night 140

By Raphael Garcia

Mixed martial arts is a tough sport in which a fighter’s momentum could be immediately halted and never pick back up. Cynthia Calvillo could find herself in such a position as she prepares to face Poliana Botelho at UFC Fight Night: Magny vs. Ponzinibbio. Calvillo was a surging prospect that had been eyed by many within the sport as someone who could be a true threat in the strawweight division. Unfortunately, she ran into a big hurdle that curtailed her momentum at a time when the UFC was looking for another face in the women’s ranks to build around. Will she recover that lost momentum, or will the promotion have to look elsewhere?

Before Calvillo faced Carla Esparza at UFC 219 in December 2017, she was riding a six-fight win streak that included wins in all three of her appearances in the Octagon. With five fights in 2017, she easily could have been considered the breakout fighter of the year had Esparza not exhibited the veteran savviness that brought Calvillo’s run to an end.

Now Calvillo is in a very different place. She’s facing Botelho, a name that many will not recognize, but she’s been on an impressive streak of her own. This Saturday will be her third appearance in the UFC, and she’s 2-0, bringing a 7-1 record into this fight that is comparable to the 6-1 record of Calvillo. This is the perfect opportunity for Botelho to get a big win that will take the attention away from Calvillo and direct it towards herself. But Calvillo, like she was in her earlier fights, is positioned to be leveraged by the UFC in its attempts to entice Mexican audiences into the world of MMA, and that makes this opportunity much more important for her come Saturday night.

The UFC has attempted to penetrate the Mexican market multiple times in recent memory. From Roger Huerta, Cain Velasquez, and Erik Perez in the past to Yair Rodriguez in the present, the promotion has had several unsuccessful attempts to break into the space. Even after Velasquez achieved the pinnacle of UFC success by becoming a multiple-time champion, his inability to connect with Mexican fans -- combined with his inability to stay healthy enough to consistently compete -- made it difficult for the UFC to build its effort around him. Calvillo, however, has a fighting style and personality that can appeal to a wide range of hardcore and mainstream fans. She trains out of the popular Team Alpha Male, speaks Spanish, and is a compelling enough character to garner a multitude of eyeballs, be they Mexican or otherwise.

However, all this opportunity can't be realized unless she delivers an impressive performance when she steps into the cage on Saturday night. Botelho is a violent striker that has shown the ability to crumple opponents to the mat. Calvillo is a grappler first, a fighter that is still coming along on the feet. We saw Esparza take advantage of this in their fight and secure victory in a bout that many saw Calvillo as the betting favorite in. But though Botelho is a dangerous challenge for Calvillo to overcome, it's one that comes with a major door waiting to be opened on the other side.

For some fighters, there’s more than just a fight purse on the line every time they step into the cage. Cynthia Calvillo is one of those fighters, and against Poliana Botelho on Saturday night, the stakes are higher than ever. Both women are pushing to put themselves in the division's Top 15 with a victory, but only Calvillo has the opportunity to establish herself as the breakout Mexican draw the promotion has long sought after with a star-making performance. And only Calvillo has the ability to further set back the promotion's efforts with a demoralizing loss. Those are heavy stakes indeed.

UFC Fight Night 140: Magny vs. Ponzinibbio takes place November 17, 2018 at Estadio Luna Park in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Click HERE for more UFC Fight Night 1408 Pre-Fight Analysis

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