Boxing specialist, Alexa Grasso, will square off opposite Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Viviane Araujo, this Saturday (Oct. 15, 2022) at UFC Vegas 62 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Since joining UFC’s roster as an undefeated prospect from Invicta FC, it’s always felt like Grasso would become a contender. After a six-year journey between two divisions, we’re finally reaching that point, as Grasso is now ranked in the Top 5 and undefeated at Flyweight ahead of her first main event opportunity. Araujo, meanwhile, has also bounced between weight classes, settling at 125 pounds and finding her best success there. Winner of three of her last four bouts, Araujo has proven herself a Top 10 talent, but she has yet to really score a signature win that breaks her into the title mix.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Grasso has a reputation as a boxer, which is certainly a strength of both her and her Lobo Gym team. However, she does not at all solely rely on her hands to win fights, pretty smoothly operating at distance with her kickboxing much of the time.
Typically, Grasso likes to give ground. Even as the woman who commonly has the shorter reach, Grasso is more than willing to work at long range. She’s able to do so on the strength of her footwork, as Grasso doesn’t just hang out and wait to get jabbed up. She’s switching directions and showing feints, forcing her opponent to play along or fall behind.
Most MMA fighters tend to reach when they punch at distance. They’ll march or lean forward, even switching stances while throwing in the hopes of connecting. As a result, whoever attacks Grasso is often falling into her range, even if she was the smaller fighter. When this happens, Grasso tends to answer really well, most often by slipping her head inside and firing an overhand.
Grasso doesn’t just apply the cross counter, however. Usually, that’s just the start of her combination, as Grasso tends to counter in three and four strike combinations. The right hand and left hook are her main weapons (GIF), and she does well to continually get her head off the centerline while in the pocket.
As mentioned, kicks are a significant part of Grasso’s offense. She does well at interrupting her opponents advance with a quick step quick with the lead leg or more of a side kick from either side. In addition, those pocket combos that make up so much of Grasso’s attack are very often punctuated by a low kick.
Araujo, meanwhile, is a hugely physical fighter. She may technically have one fewer knockout win than Grasso, but she definitely hits harder. Her stand up game is comparably less refined, but that doesn’t mean its ineffective.
The Brazilian is a pretty straightforward slugger. She understands her physical gifts and applies them quite violently. Even when Araujo took an absolute baseball bat to the face via Andrea Lee’s perfect high kick in the opening exchange, “Vivi” lost no confidence that she could bully her opponent.
Araujo is mostly a puncher. As she pressures her opponent, she actually has a sharp, punishing jab. It’s not used to build combinations so much as stick opponents hard and make them step back. Araujo is very accustomed to stepping in hard with her cross, often as a lead. Again, the left hook is a natural follow up, and she’ll also switch Southpaw and come in cross-hook from the opposite stance.
Araujo does enter on a straight line and typically with little head movement, so she’s not hard to touch. Typically, Araujo is willing to trade shot-for-shot, however, so it will be interesting to see if Grasso’s counter punching can deter her.
Araujo wrestles well and is very strong — a nasty combination.
Much of the time, Araujo is wrestling along the fence. She does solid work in transitioning between the upper body clinch and double leg position. Strength obviously helps her, but there’s definitely solid technique in how Araujo is able to change her level properly rather than bend at the waist. It’s also apparent just how wearing these transitions can be for her opponent, as defending clinch throws and double leg attempts seems to just leave them too fatigued to deal with the next attempt.
Another common technique for Araujo is the outside leg trip double leg shot. This can be a shot of desperation or precision, and to her credit, Araujo sets it up well. It helps that she’s already commonly crashing forward with her right hand, which makes it a bit easier to instead fall into the double leg shot/trip behind that same weapon.
Grasso has three losses in her UFC career, and getting outwrestled played a role in each defeat. Earlier, it seemed like physicality and inexperience were holding her back. Grasso would attempt to defend properly, but she would get out-hustled or fall into a trap. Both of those issues seem to have improved over the years as Grasso has settled into the Flyweight division and accrued Octagon time, but Araujo is definitely a more serious wrestling threat than Maycee Barber.
Offensively, Grasso actually had the finest performance of her career last time out against Joanne Wood, scoring two takedowns. The first came as Wood tried to crash into the clinch and immediately fire a knee. Grasso countered perfectly, catching the knee and framing with her other hand to topple Wood over. Later, Wood overextending with an overhook throw, allowing Grasso to circle towards the back and take her the other direction.
Wood’s aggression allowed those openings, but it was promising to see Grasso land them.
Araujo is the grappler in this match up, a black belt in both jiu-jitsu and Luta Livre.
Araujo hasn’t scored a submission inside the Octagon, but she has still demonstrated an excellent top game. In particular, Araujo flowed all over Andrea Lee’s defenses, smoothly transitioning from great position to great position. Time and time again, she would quickly hop passed the guard, apply heavy shoulder pressure/threaten the arm triangle, and then advance to the back when Lee turned to defend.
Araujo actually gave some interesting looks from back mount as well. At one point, she nearly finished the fight by flattening her opponent all the way out with hip pressure. When Lee later scrambled and tried to shake her off, Araujo used both the Suloev Stretch and kimura grip at various points simply to retain position and break Lee back down.
Grasso’s sole submission win opposite Wood also came from the back mount. It happened quickly, so there isn’t a ton to talk about, but Grasso did very well to immediately switch choke arms. She first threatened with one side, then as soon as Wood started to push that arm off her face, Grasso cut across with her other arm, sacrificing a bit of control to immediately attack the neck a second time.
It paid off.
The Flyweight division is in a weird spot, as Valentina Shevchenko’s next move is uncertain. Will she seek the Amanda Nunes trilogy or another title defense, and if it’s the latter, against whom? The winner of this fight might just be the answer.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.
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