The main event of Noche UFC, a card held in conjunction with Mexican Independence Day, was fittingly headlined by the first Mexican woman to hold a UFC championship, Alexa Grasso.
Having upset Valentina Shevchenko to win the UFC women’s flyweight title back in March, Grasso was tasked with facing “Bullet” a second time in an immediate rematch.
It proved to be a close, competitive fight, though not one with a definitive winner.
Grasso opened the rematch firing her kicks, which Shevchenko answered with a left. Grasso had some snap to her punches, while Shevchenko connected with a left again. Shevchenko went back to two-punch combos several times, while Grasso switched stances to take away Shevchenko’s leg kicks.
Near the midway mark, Shevchenko changed levels for a takedown that was easily defended. A second attempt a short while later was successful, however, with Shevchenko clamping on a body lock and landing a throw. Very quickly, Shevchenko moved to mount, and took the back. She was too high up, however, and Grasso scrambled free, eating a knee on the way up. A strong opening round for the challenger.
Round two saw Grasso working her boxing early, leading to a clinch from Shevchenko. Grasso fought off that takedown attempt, avoiding the situation she had found herself in at the end of the first. Then, Grasso tagged Shevchenko with a right hand, a knockdown that saw Shevchenko roll over herself. When Grasso came in, Shevchenko went right into a takedown attempt, slick, but Grasso fought it off. Grasso then ripped blow after blow, lighting Shevchenko up! She landed a knee which clearly hurt the former champ, but couldn’t finish her. Shevchenko swung back, escaped up, then landed a takedown that bought her some key recovery time.
Grasso defended that with a guillotine, but didn’t have it. Shevchenko spent some time on top, but eventually backed off and ate an upkick for her troubles. The pair then had a stalemate, Shevchenko on the feet, Grasso on her back, until the ex-champ finally managed to get back on top. Grasso threw punches from the bottom, while Shevchenko ended the frame with an elbow.
With the fight likely even, round three opened with Grasso on the attack. Shevchenko fired her left hand, but appeared a little more tentative than she had early in the fight. She worked her jab, while Grasso walked forward, and at times looked to cut off the cage. 90 seconds or so in, Shevchenko changed levels for a takedown, then jumped on a mounted guillotine in a scramble! After a solid stretch working on the choke, Shevchenko let go of it, transitioning to the back.
With a body triangle in place, Shevchenko looked for the rear-naked choke, while Grasso fought hands and tried to turn in to reverse. No dice. Shevchenko landed some ground n’ pound while Grasso punched back towards her. Finally, Grasso, through sheer will and determination, reversed, but Shevchenko went after an arm-bar, with the horn sounding seconds later.
Round four saw Shevchenko fire a superman punch early. Grasso walked the ex-champ down, and the first half of the frame was pretty competitive. Then, at the midway mark, Grasso began lighting Shevchenko up with knees while Valentina had a hand on the mat. Knee after knee landed to the head with Shevchenko complaining to the ref, however the Nevada ruleset required more than one hand grazing the mat to make a fighter a grounded opponent. With Shevchenko hurt, Grasso landed a takedown, but Shevchenko reversed, and they wound up going back to the feet.
In the final minute, Shevchenko landed a takedown, only for Grasso to get right back up. Grasso was showing damage to the face, but was undeterred but locked up a kneebar just prior to the horn.
In a close fight, things very well could have come down to the final frame. Grasso’s jab found its mark early in round five. Shevchenko ripped a combo, and Grasso’s was again leaking blood from a cut by her left eye. Despite so much being on the line, or perhaps because of it, the final frame had the least action of any round in the fight through its opening three minutes. It looked like it would come down to the wire, and who wanted it more (and perhaps who was willing to take the risk). Then, a key mistake by Shevchenko. She gave up her back, and Grasso took it! She dropped ground n’ pound, then locked up a rear-naked choke! Shevchenko rode it out, but the sequence almost certainly won Alex Grasso the round, and quite possibly the fight!
That would all come down to the judges. There was an argument for either a 2-2 score heading into the fifth, or perhaps 3-1 Shevchenko. Both women raised their arms in victory after the buzzer, and Grasso was certainly showing more damage.
After a nail-biter waiting for the scores to be read, Grasso vs. Shevchenko was ruled a split draw. Alexa Grasso retains her title as a result, but there’s a feeling the pair’s rivalry is not over. There’s also a question as to how judge Mike Bell ruled the fifth round a 10-8 for Grasso, which played a large part in the outcome. Shevchenko, meanwhile, did herself no favors by suggesting the outcome was the result of favouritism being shown towards the Mexican fighter on Mexican Independence Day.
Official Result: Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko ruled a split draw (48-47, 47-48, 47-47)