UFC News: Latest Hype from Holly Holm, Dan Hooker and Cynthia Calvillo

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 18: (R-L) Holly Holm kicks Raquel Pennington in their bantamweight fight during the UFC 246 event at T-Mobile Arena on January 18, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

At this point, there’s a UFC card just about every weekend, and with it comes a bevy of fighters angling for the next title shot. 

The road to a championship belt is marked by two things: Fighting and talking. With bouts for plenty of potential contenders on the horizon, now is the time to do the talking. 

Holly Holm, Dan Hooker and Cynthia Calvillo are among those making their rounds with the media and promoting themselves.

Holm is set to take on Irene Aldana to kick off August, Hooker will be featured in a main event against Dustin Poirier, and Calvillo is coming off a main event win over Jessica Eye by unanimous decision. 

With all three sitting in the top five of their respective divisions, here’s what they had to say about what’s on the horizon for them. 

Holm Believes She’s in Position for (Yet) Another Title Shot

Since November 2015, Holm has fought nine times. Five of those fights have been for a UFC championship and she’s 1-4 in those fights with her shocking knockout of Ronda Rousey representing the only win. 

In that time span, she has not put together back-to-back wins. Still, the 38-year-old believes she’s in a good position to wind up challenging for the title again. She faces Aldana on August 1 and expects to be back in the title picture with a win. 

In an interview with MMA Junkie, the former champion told Mike Bohn she “could definitely be next in line for the belt.”

Holm went on to describe her drive to win another title despite the constant struggle to get back to the spot she was in five years ago:

“I’ve fallen short of getting that title back more than once, and it’s frustrating, but I know I keep fighting the very top-ranked girls, so I’m constantly right there. I’m still aching for it. I still want it. That’s a lot to say. Some people say, ‘Oh, I want the belt’ then they don’t really think about it. I know exactly how much work that takes to get there, and I know it took a big commitment.”

Holm is in an interesting spot as she has become a human asymptote: She gets as close to a title as possible without getting it. She hasn’t lost a non-championship fight since 2016 when she dropped a decision to Valentina Shevchenko. 

Of course, Bullet has shown she’s one of the top women in the sport and is the only one who has had appreciable success against Amanda Nunes in the past five years.

Ultimately, though, this matchup should tell us more about Aldana than it does Holm. 

Holm had her shot to beat Nunes in July 2019 but lost by first-round TKO. And unless she’s dominant against Aldana, it will be hard to justify another title fight as long as The Lioness remains champion. 

Hooker Looking to Make a Statement Against Poirier

It’s safe to say Hooker is taking a step up in competition when he faces Poirier in the main event of UFC on ESPN 12 on June 27. 

Poirier had a four-fight win streak snapped against Khabib Nurmagomedov in September last year and was forced to have hip surgery before making this return. Still, Hooker believes he will prove to be the better fighter despite having the less-accomplished resume. 

“The way I look at it, it’s a win-win situation. I’m No. 5, I’m fighting the No. 3 [ranked lightweight],” Hooker said of the matchup, per Damon Martin of MMA Fighting. “I plan on going out there, putting on one heck of a show and putting Dustin away and earning myself a title shot. That’s what my mind is set on.”

The 30-year-old is riding a three-fight win streak and proved himself against a strong striker in Paul Felder in February. He took a split decision to extend his current run and would join the loaded list of lightweight contenders waiting on the return of Nurmagomedov should he pick up the win. 

Hooker went on to say he doesn’t believe Poirier has the same chin as Felder. The Irish Dragon has only suffered one TKO in his career, while Poirier has only been knocked out twice: Once in 2016 by Michael Johnson and a 2014 loss to Conor McGregor. 

Given both fighters’ recent run of success and their fast-paced style, this should be a fun main event to close out the month. 

Calvillo Believe She Matches Up Well with Shevchenko

Calvillo put on a strong performance in her first main event against Eye and took advantage of the subsequent spotlight to hype up a future matchup with champion Shevchenko. 

Speaking to Ariel Helwani of ESPN she explained the advantages she thinks she would have over the current flyweight queen:

ESPN MMA @espnmma

Cynthia Calvillo believes her grappling will be the difference against Valentina Shevchenko 🤼‍♀️

(via @arielhelwani) https://t.co/4iggpK8Ye0

Calvillo’s wrestling carried her to the win over Eye on June 13 and played a major role in her draw with Marina Rodriguez at the end of 2019. She has seven takedowns combined in her last two fights.

The 32-year-old hasn’t lost since December 2017 when she suffered her only career defeat to Carla Esparza. Since then, she has shown a lot of growth in her game, but booking a fight with the champion could be a case of too much too soon even if she’s already ranked No. 2 in the weight class. 

Shevchenko is the unquestioned top fighter in the division. She has only lost to Nunes in the last decade and holds wins over Holm, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Eye.

Her grappling has not been exposed as a flaw to this point. She has taken down each of her last five opponents at least twice and hasn’t been taken down since her most recent loss to Nunes. 

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