Written By Xavier Serrano
September 16, 2023, Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko go the distance in a controversial bout, resulting in a draw in the main event of Saturday’s UFC Noche.
Prior to their scheduled title rematch, Alexa Grasso etched out a victory over the former flyweight champion via rear naked choke in the fourth round of their first title match at UFC 285. Valentina Shevchenko was the reigning, defending champion of the 125 weight class, amassing an impressive eight-fight win streak during her title reign. As a result, the MMA community has considered Valentina ‘The Bullet’ Shevchenko to be the greatest women’s combat athlete in the 125 weight division.
Alexa Grasso was a promising prospect, climbing her way up the rankings of the flyweight division. Originally starting off as a strawweight competitor, Grasso found more success going up a weight class with an impressive six-fight win streak. UFC matchmakers Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard struck gold with the first announcement of the scheduled bout between Alexa Grasso and the former strawweight queen Valentina Shevchenko as the co-main event for UFC 285. Ultimately, Alexa Grasso was the victor, and thus, Valentina Shevchenko being the former champion exercised her rematch clause (If a champion has lost their belt, they are granted another title opportunity if the former title holder has signed a contract that protects their belt in the event that they lose. This means that the new champion must honor the rematch stipulation).
The rematch was slated for UFC Noche as the event was held to commemorate Mexican Independence Day. The fight card mainly consisted of fighters that proudly represented Mexico as well as Alexa Grasso sharing the main event with the previous foe, Valentina Shevchenko. UFC Fight Nights are free fight cards that are shown on ESPN+ with lesser-known talent. Hardcore MMA fans have taken a deep appreciation for these cards due to the quality of the fights. As a fighter from the regional circuit breaks through into the UFC, they are given an opportunity to showcase why they were signed as well as fight for their dream of one day becoming a world champion. Unrecognized talent from all over the world make their mark on the sport by debuting on Fight Nights or early preliminary bouts. This Fight Night in particular was special as this was the first fight night in UFC history to have a belt on the line in the main event.
UFC Noche took place in Las Vegas for the anticipated rematch for the flyweight belt. The rematch was met with controversy due to the ending of the fight resulting in a split-draw as two judges scored the fight as 48-47 for Grasso and Shevchenko while the third judge scored it as 47-47. Certain members of the MMA community voiced their displeasure with the result as some felt that ‘The Bullet’ had done enough to recapture her title, while Alexa Grasso did enough to cement her title reign. As the fight started, the former champion, Valentina Shevchenko mixed up her approach on the feet with a takedown attempt
but failed. As the rounds progressed Shevchenko utilized her educated hands to work behind a jab that battered the champion’s face. During the exchanges, Shevchenko seemed to be one step ahead but would be subjected to Grasso’s crisp boxing which earned the champion a knockdown in round three. The fight lasted 25 minutes as the two athletes kept a competitive back-and-forth going. In the end, the champion was able to keep her belt but there was no clear winner.
As of now, the UFC is considering whether or not a trilogy fight is needed to determine who the real queen of the 125 division is. Some may argue that a rematch is not needed, some argue that it is. It would undoubtedly be the biggest fight in women’s flyweight history due to the star power that both athletes have. Valentina Shevchenko has solidified her status as one of the greatest combat sports athletes of all time with an impressive resume as well as accolades. The new champion has been building a strong following from fans all over the world after defeating a high-class opponent such as Valentina Shevchenko. Both fighters possess outstanding striking as well as a respectable ground game, clearly separating themselves from the rest. With the UFC’s women’s flyweight division flourishing with talents such as Manon Fiorot and Erin Blanchfield, the possibilities for star-studded matchmaking are endless.