UFC 285: Alexa Grasso Defies the Odds, Submits Valentina Shevchenko to Capture Flyweight Gold

Valentina Shevchenko and Alexa Grasso, UFC 285
Valentina Shevchenko and Alexa Grasso, UFC 285 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

Valentina Shevchenko was looking to secure the eighth straight defense of her women’s flyweight title at UFC 285. Challenger Alexa Grasso, meanwhile, was hoping to become the third Mexican UFC champion in as many months with an upset of “Bullet.”

Those were the storylines heading into the Pay-Per-View card’s co-main event. Grasso had worked her way up through Invicta, and started her UFC run at strawweight, before moving to 125lbs and finding considerable success.

Shevchenko? She had looked mortal in her last outing, against Taila Santos, but had still come away with the win.

Early on, Shevchenko looked loose, throwing a spinning back kick that sailed over Grasso. The crowd was behind the long-serving women’s flyweight champ, with a “Valentina” chant breaking out at the T-Mobile Arena. Grasso worked short combos and leg kicks, catching the champ with her right hand in the first half of the round. The right hand would hit home again moments later, but Shevchenko wasn’t phased.

It was a different story a moment later, when a left hand hit the mark, trailed by a right. Shevchenko ate it, and answered by attacking Grasso’s lead leg.  In the final minute, the champ fired a spinning back fist, followed by a kick. Grasso then landed a brief takedown, but couldn’t keep the champ down. Shevchenko also did the same, but Grasso came close to taking the back.

Round two opened with an early takedown by the champ. Grasso essentially spun around on her back in a circle, but was unable to buck “Bullet” off her. Shevchenko would move to side control, briefly flirt with a crucifix, but Grasso scrambled back to the fence and wall walked up. They’d go to work back at range, with Shevchenko landing a final takedown in the last minute of the frame to secure the round.

After a dicey opening round, Shevchenko had wisely slowed things down in the second. In the third, the champion turned up the heat a little, as she stung Grasso with a left hand. Grasso looked for her own takedown, but was not successful. Shevchenko, meanwhile, timed a level change perfectly and powered into a double-leg takedown.

Shevchenko had plenty of time to work on top and did just that — but in the final minute of the round, despite staying busy, the ref stood them up. Shevchenko then took Grasso right back down, and ate an illegal kick for her efforts that was luckily just glancing. She would then take the back, and transition to top, though Grasso would close out the round with a weak guillotine attempt.

A shot early in the fourth round was stuffed by Alexa Grasso. What played out from there was a bit of a chess match, with single strikes. Not a lot of action. Shevchenko had a badly-timed level change stuffed, and nearly paid for it. What she did pay for was a weak spinning attack that allowed Alexa Grasso to take the back. Grasso, known for her boxing, got hooks in, and got under the chin. Well under! The choke was deep, and while Shevchenko fought as long as she could, there was too much time left in the round. Shevchenko tapped! Dethroned after seven title defenses, and submitted — a shock upset by Alexa Grasso, better known for her boxing.

With the win, Grasso is the third Mexican fighter to win gold in the UFC this year, following Brandon Moreno and Yair Rodriguez. Shevchenko, a dominant force since arriving at 125lbs, may take some time off — but will be looking to reclaim her title soon enough.

Official Result: Alexa Grasso def. Valentina Shevchenko by submission (rear-naked choke), Round 4, 4:34