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UFC 246 card: Claudia Gadelha vs Alexa Grasso full fight preview

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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Strawweight talents Claudia Gadelha and Alexa Grasso will battle this Saturday (Jan. 18, 2020) at UFC 246 from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Brazil’s Gadelha is not in a great position. The Strawweight veteran was an early favorite to capture the title, and she came reasonably close. Since a competitive pair of losses to Joanna Jedrzejczyk, however, Gadelha’s performances have been disappointing, as she’s struggled to put together consistent wins or even fight a full bout without slowing significantly. Conversely, Alexa Grasso really seems to be putting it all together. Admittedly, she’s alternated wins and losses recently too, but it all comes down to performance: Grasso is getting sharper, and the holes in her defensive grappling appear to be improving as well.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:

Claudia Gadelha

Record: 17-4
Key Wins: Carla Esparza (UFC 225), Karolina Kowalkiewicz (UFC 212), Randa Markos (UFC 239), Courtney Casey (UFC Fight Night 100)
Key Losses: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC TUF 23 Finale, UFC on FOX 13), Jessica Andrade (UFC Fight Night 117), Nina Ansaroff (UFC 231)
Keys to Victory: If she can fix her conditioning and general consistency issues, Gadelha could still be a top contender. There is no major issue with her skill set: she’s a jiu-jitsu black belt with athletic wrestling and has demonstrated sharp straight punches in the past.

Cardio can be a killer, though.

Against a definite striker in Grasso, Gadelha’s strategy here is pretty clear. The Brazilian should be looking to close distance, cut off the cage, and drive into her powerful double leg takedown. In general, Gadelha is able to do just that with great consistency against almost all of her opponents ... at least for the first round.

The best solution here takes place before the fight. If Gadelha has switched up her conditioning training -- or simply done more of it -- then this is a favorable match up for her. If not, she has perhaps seven minutes to score a submission or steal the first two rounds, after which she’s in for a rough time.


Alexa Grasso

Record: 11-3
Key Wins: Karolina Kowalkiewicz (UFC 238), Randa Markos (UFC Fight Night 114), Mizuki Inoue (Invicta FC 11)
Key Losses: Tatiana Suarez (UFC Fight Night 129), Carla Esparza (UFC Fight Night 159), Felice Herrig (UFC Fight Night 104)
Keys to Victory: At 26 years of age, Grasso is still a very solid prospect at 115 pounds. Given her boxing background, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Grasso throws in combination well and understands distance. Plus, while it hasn’t yet resulted in knockout wins in the Octagon, Grasso’s punches seem to land real hard.

So far, I’ve spent half the article talking about Gadelha’s conditioning woes, because it’s a major issue for her currently. Those issues also represent Grasso’s best path to victory, as Gadelha exhausted is a much less scary foe than the fresh equivalent.

To help exacerbate the fatigue process, it would be great to see Grasso target the body, particularly at close distance. Whenever Gadelha clinches or fails on a takedown, that’s a golden opportunity to rip a knee to the belly.

Otherwise, Grasso just needs to keep her foe working. Don’t give up the back too eagerly and fall into a submission, but if Grasso is constantly framing the head and looking to wall-walk, it will force Gadelha to work from top position rather than rest.

Bottom Line

It’s a pretty important bout for each woman.

Actually, important is probably an understatement -- this is a pivotal fight for Gadelha. If she loses a third time in five fights, it seems unlikely that she’ll be on another pay-per-view (PPV) main card in the future. More than that, it would likely end her Strawweight title aspirations. That said, Flyweight could be a potential answer, particularly if the weight cut is the issue regarding her cardio woes.

A win, particularly won fought across 15 full minutes, could really inspire hope that Gadelha is back in the mix.

As for Grasso, this is a risky fight. Gadelha may not be at her peak right now, but she’s still quite dangerous on the mat, an area where Grasso has struggled in the past. Still, Gadelha’s name does carry value, enough that it would likely be the biggest win of Grasso’s career if she’s able to pull off the win. In fact, victory would likely be enough to shed that prospect label and fully break into the realm of contender.

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 246 fight card this weekend RIGHT HERE, starting with the Fight Pass/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 246: “McGregor vs. Cerrone” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

At UFC 246, Claudia Gadelha and Alexa Grasso will square off. Which woman will earn the victory?