The third Mexican-born champion in the UFC this year, Alexa Grasso created history on Saturday by submitting flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 285 in Mexico City
The victory was not an accident, and Grasso revealed why she thought Shevchenko may commit a deadly error.
At the UFC 285 post-fight news conference, Grasso remarked, “When I realized that I was touching her with my hands, she changed her strategy. She was taking me to the ground, she was so fast I wasn’t able to defend. But when I was on the ground, I always told myself, ‘You have to go up again and again and again and you won’t stop until you get up,’ and that’s what I did.”
Shevchenko was defeated by Grasso via fourth-round submission on Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 285 in Las Vegas, ending Shevchenko’s run of seven consecutive title defenses. After a poorly timed spin kick, Grasso caught Shevchenko by the back and attacked with a rear-naked choke, forcing the submission with less than 30 seconds left in the third round.
“In the third round, my coaches told me, ‘Lower your level a little bit,’ and I was able to defend better. I was just hoping that she would do the spin. It happened like the [Joanne Calderwood fight]. I knew it would be easier to take the back in that moment, so I was just waiting for the perfect opportunity.” said Grasso.
On Saturday, Grasso won via submission for the second time; this was a method of triumph that wasn’t on her resume throughout the first ten years of her career. Grasso was largely recognised for her hitting prowess prior to Joanne Calderwood being tapped out in March 2022.
She had to demonstrate a wide range of abilities against Shevchenko, and she expressed her delight at seeing the results of her hard work on the practice mats come through on fight night.
The battle was close throughout, and Grasso proved to be a worthy opponent. At the 4:34 mark of the fourth round, Grasso took advantage of a single slip-up made by Shevchenko and used a rear-naked choke to finish out the champion.
The moment, according to 6-to-1 underdog Grasso, was a dream come true. “Please punch me; I think I’m dreaming,” Grasso said. “I’ve been waiting my entire life for this moment.”
The victory represented a significant upset and is currently tied for the sixth largest upset in a UFC title match during the previous 15 years.
The result couldn’t have come at a better moment because Grasso would have either trailed or been tied going into Round 5. Rounds 2 and 3 went to Shevchenko, while Rounds 1 and 2 went to Grasso.
Shevchenko was magnanimous in loss, admitting that one mistake may alter the course of the match. “You’re winning the fight all around, no doubt, and a single situation can change the whole thing. This is part of the game. Congratulations to Alexa.” said Shevchenko.
The victory is a crucial turning point in Mexican MMA history. Since then, the organization has crowned three champions, including interim featherweight champion Yair Rodriguez, making Brandon Moreno the first-ever Mexican-born champion. This comes after a declaration earlier this year that the UFC would establish a Performance Institute there in the third quarter of 2023.
She also won a $50,000 “Performance of the Night” bonus for her victory over Grasso at UFC 285, while Bo Nickal, making his Octagon debut, was given the same reward for his arm-triangle choke victory over Jamie Pickett.
$50,000 apiece was awarded for the “Fight of the Night” between Geoff Neal and Shavkat Rakhmonov in the welterweight division. With a standing rear-naked choke in the third round, Rakhmonov won. Neal missed weight on Friday, but UFC president Dana White said he will still get paid.
Grasso is already 5-0 in flyweight competition, but she still needs to win more victories to equal Shevchenko’s success. Shevchenko and Katlyn Chookagian both have nine victories in the UFC flyweight category, in addition to Shevchenko’s seven successful championship defenses. She is also tied for second place in the flyweight category in terms of stoppages and holds the record for the most knockouts in UFC history with four.
Shevchenko’s successes probably give her first dibs on an instant rematch, and Grasso is happy to have the chance to run it back with “Bullet.”
The ongoing tale of Mexican domination in MMA has a new chapter thanks to Grasso’s triumph in the UFC.