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UFC Fight Night 129 card: Alexa Grasso vs Tatiana Suarez full fight preview

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Norfolk-Suarez vs Pereira Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Strawweight up-and-comers Alexa Grasso and Tatiana Suarez will collide this Saturday (May 19, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 129 inside Movistar Arena in Santiago, Chile.

UFC ‘Chile’ has been flying under the radar quite a bit, largely because the card doesn’t have a ton of name value. Once I realized this fight was booked, however, my opinion of the event raised just a bit. Grasso and Suarez are a pair of women quickly climbing the ranks and showing great skills in the process, meaning the winner will receive a big push following her victory. Plus, it’s a classic striker vs. grappler match up, which brings along its own sort of intrigue as well.

These two athletes are likely to wind up as top contenders for years to come, so let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory ahead of their bout.

Alexa Grasso

Record: 10-1

Key Wins: Randa Markos (UFC Fight Night 114), Heather Jo Clark (TUF: Latin America 3 Finale), Mizuki Inoue (Invicta FC 11)

Key Losses: Felice Herrig (UFC Fight Night 104)

Keys to Victory: Grasso is one of her division’s sharpest boxers, a fighter who can work in combination and packs surprising power. Last time out, Randa Markos forced Grasso to show off her defensive wrestling and grappling, and the Mexican athlete proved up to the challenge.

Grasso has defeated four foes via KO, but none inside the Octagon.

In this match up, establishing the jab will be absolutely essential to Grasso’s success. Suarez is a giant 115 lbs. athlete who runs fighters down in pursuit of the takedown, and the best weapon for stopping that charge is the jab.

However, the exchange cannot simply end with a jab, otherwise Suarez will shoot underneath the punch. Grasso has to jab and pivot or jab-uppercut; something to stop the shot. Once Suarez has been popped on the nose a few times and reacts to feints, then Grasso can expand on her combinations.

Tatiana Suarez

Record: 5-0

Key Wins: Amanda Cooper (TUF 23 Finale), Viviane Perreira (UFC Fight Night 120)

Key Losses: None

Keys to Victory: Prior to a neck injury in 2012, Suarez was positioned to go to the Olympics to represent the USA in freestyle wrestling. Her dominant wrestling skill is on display whenever she fights, as Suarez chains takedowns together beautifully and controls opponents from top position very well. In addition, she’s added submissions to her attack pretty seamlessly.

Suarez is an aggressive fighter, and that will be very helpful opposite Grasso. To secure an easy entrance on the takedown, pressuring the boxer and firing lots of kicks in her direction will go a long way. Grasso is likely skilled enough to mostly avoid the fence — where a Suarez takedown would be a near guarantee — but forward movement and offense will still create openings to shoot.

Worst comes to worst, Grasso is not a one-shot knockout artist. Suarez will be the bigger woman and can afford to punch her way into the clinch, another area where her size and wrestling pedigree usually allow her to dominate.

Bottom Line: It’s an excellent match up of future — and possibly current — elite Strawweights.

Grasso received a big push early in his UFC career that saw her out-pointed by a veteran in Felice Herrig, but she’s otherwise proved to be a very legitimate prospect. Hand speed is still something of a rare quality in the Strawweight division, and it really makes Grasso stand out. A victory here makes it three of four inside the Octagon, likely pushing Grasso towards a top five opponent next.

Suarez has less experience than Grasso, but she’s been so dominant that it hardly matters. Still, this is by far the stiffest test of her young career. If Suarez continues her winning ways opposite a step up in competition, the clear answer is to give her another one and introduce the wrestler to the title mix.

For either athlete, a loss is a manageable setback. At 24 and 27 years of age respectively, both are quite early in their professional careers. Even if a loss stops them from receiving a top five opponent next, plenty of time to climb the ladder remains.

At UFC Fight Night 129, Alexa Grasso and Tatiana Suarez will duel in the co-main event. Which woman will have her hand raised?

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