UFC on ESPN 7: A Clash of Strawweight Prospects

Virna Jandiroba
Virna Jandiroba vs Janaisa Morandin Credit: Dave Mandel/Invicta FC

The UFC heads to Washington, D.C. for UFC on ESPN 7. When it arrives in the American capital, it will bring with it a clash of strawweight prospects. Two in fact.

Since late 2017 the women’s strawweight division has been the most volatile division in the UFC. Following the dethroning of the great Joanna Champion, the division has seen three new champions, with the belt currently resting with the first ever Chinese UFC champion, Weili Zhang. One of the main reasons for this almost constant flux is the fact that the division is one of the deepest in MMA today.

At the present moment the list of top contenders includes Carla Esparza, Rose Namajunas, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Michelle Waterson, Claudia Gadelha, Tatiana Suarez, Nina Ansaroff and Jessica Andrade. All of these fighters have genuinely heavy resumes and have displayed amazing skillsets in the octagon. Four of them — Esparza, Namajunas, Jedrzejczyk, and Andrade — are former UFC champions themselves.

At UFC Washington things are about to become even more heated for the division. The ESPN card will see the possible arrival of two new contenders, in the form of winners in two separate fights. With four talented 115lb’ers locking horns to determine their place in the division, let’s take a closer look at who could join the top of the weight class.

1. Cynthia Calvillo vs. Marina Rodriguez

Originally, the fight that was supposed to take place in the co-main event slot at UFC on ESPN 7 was between Calvillo and Claudia Gadelha. However, due to a Gadelha injury, Marina Rodriguez took up this position.

Both the fighters enter the octagon with a lot of momentum behind them. Calvillo has recovered very well from her defeat to Carla Esparza back in 2017, by securing two huge wins, one over Poliana Botelho and the other over Cortney Casey. She’s a very popular figure amongst MMA fans thanks to both her talent and charisma.

Rodriguez had a lackluster start to her UFC run with a draw. The fight was amazing but as Rodriguez was a product of Dana White’s Contender Series, the so-called hype train lost a little steam. That said, she turned things around quickly, proceeding to secure two key wins against Jessica Aguilar and Tecia Torres, which set her right back on top.

The winner of this fight becomes an established contender in the strawweight division. Not only that, the winner also will have three big names to her record, which could be enough to demand a title eliminator match against someone like Tatiana or Andrade.

2. Virna Jandiroba vs. Mallory Martin

While the fight hasn’t been officially announced by the UFC, Mallory Martin has confirmed she’s stepping in on short notice to face Virna Jandiroba at UFC on ESPN 7 this weekend. The two enter the fight on different notes but each has a lot to prove in this affair.

Virna Jandiroba enters the fight after losing her perfect record in her last outing. She was placed against former champion Carla Esparza, and was expected to take the division by storm. The loss was a considerable setback for her.

Mallory Martin is making her UFC debut. She, like Jandiroba, is an Invicta FC product and is on a 4-fight winning streak. A win here determines where she’s going to stand in the division given there is little to no buzz around her.

The two are trying to find themselves, and this is the perfect match-up to do so. Both aren’t on the radar now and need to earn fans’ attention. A win determines where they go from here, but a big performance could see them jump the line a little. This could be especially true if Joanna Jedrzejczyk defeats Weili Zhang in their title fight, expected to go down in March.