Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Flyweight elites Valentina Shevchenko and Alexa Grasso will collide this weekend (Sat., March 4, 2023) at UFC 285 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
It’s going to be very interesting to see how Shevchenko responds from her title defense against Taila Santos. All of her previous title defense were easy, smooth affairs that saw “Bullet” utterly dominate her competition, then she nearly lost a split-decision. Was it an off night, bad style match up, evidence that Santos is great? Until we see how she rebounds, it’s hard to say. Grasso, on the other hand, is clearly coming into her own. Undefeated since moving to 125 pounds, the 29-year-old talent has really pulled away from the pack in the last couple years.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Key Wins: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC 231), Jessica Andrade (UFC 261), Taila Santos (UFC 275), Holly Holm (UFC on FOX 20), Katlyn Chookagian (UFC 247), Liz Carmouche (UFC Fight Night 157), Julianna Pena (UFC on FOX 23)
Key Losses: Amanda Nunes (UFC 215, UFC 196)
Keys to Victory: Shevchenko is the best counter striker in women’s MMA history. She’s very efficient with her distance management, forcing opponents to reach for her with their strikes then making them pay. Often, the clinch is her defense too, as Shevchenko is really good at tripping and throwing opponents to the floor.
It really feels like Grasso’s style plays into Shevchenko’s hands here, as Grasso likes to strike at distance then close forward with combinations. If Grasso hangs back, Shevchenko is happy to kick at distance and win the points battle there. When she does push forward, that’s Shevchenko’s opportunity to stand her ground, clinch, and wrestle.
Basically, the usual Shevchenko strategy lines up really well. Unless Grasso brings something drastically different than normal to the table, Shevchenko should be well-prepared for this challenge.
Key Wins: Viviane Araujo (UFC Vegas 62), Joanne Wood (UFC Columbus), Maycee barber (UFC 258), 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: Grasso is a talented boxer with above-average pop in her hands. Her wrestling skill has developed consistently over the years, and it’s held up very well even with the move up in weight class.
Shevchenko is a unique challenge, but there are strategies proven to work well against counter strikers. At the top of the list is FEINTING! Grasso has to be showing false starts and giving Shevchenko fake looks, which helps dull even the sharpest reactions. If Grasso can feint, draw a reaction from Shevchenko, then fire a combination, that’s an ideal scenario.
Otherwise, it’s important to strike the targets that are available. Trying to hit Shevchenko’s face from the edge of her range probably isn’t going to happen that often, so attacking easier targets like the body and legs is a better move. Body shots will also help prevent the clinch, and once she’s connected downstairs, Grasso should have a better idea of how to follow up to the jawline.
The champion has a quality challenger.
The Flyweight division is changing. Unlike many past challengers, Grasso is not a Bantamweight in the latter stages of her career trying to make a run. She’s young, experienced, and skilled — just the type of athlete that can potentially live up to the occasion and dethrone a dominant champion. Finally, women’s Flyweight is heating up a bit, which has remained a significant step behind Strawweight in terms of divisional depth.
For Shevchenko, it’s all about extending her reign into the next generation for as long as possible. At some point, she’s going to start falling off. That’s the reality of being a lifelong combat sports athlete entering her mid-30s, and it may be happening already. Beyond building her legacy further, Shevchenko also has the opportunity to become the first athlete to fill the new UFC belt with eight title defense signifying rubies, which is neat.
Grasso, meanwhile, has a chance to shock the world. Victory would be one of the largest title upsets in UFC history, and being the woman to dethrone Shevchenko arguably means more than winning the belt anyway. It would surely stand out as a changing of the guard moment, one that reworks the whole divisional landscape.
At UFC 285, Valentina Shevchenko and Alexa Grasso will throw down in the co-main event. Which woman leaves with the title?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 285 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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