Grasso vs. Shevchenko 2 Breakdown

Twitter: @DadHallOfFamer


Any Given Saturday Night.

He rolled in with the Tom Selleck taco meat chest hair, seasoned, covered, and slow simmered for ten minutes, rocking a pair of shit-kickers with more miles than a 1980 LeBaron station wagon. In the end, the silence in the arena was as harmonious as a Beethoven symphony, the disbelief sketched on the faces in the crowd distorted, bisected and left askew, a modern-day Picasso. It was a fitting reaction to the masterpiece they had all witnessed. We all witnessed.

Sean Strickland’s performance last night was so sound it was almost eerie. Midway through the third round, I realized what I was watching was something special. It looked like Strickland had been outfitted with Elon’s Neuralink brain chip and gained access to Izzy’s every thought. Strickland saw everything coming. A step ahead? A Neil Armstrong moonwalk ahead. The defensive display was impenetrable, impregnable. Sean Strickland can dodge rain in a torrential downpour. Forty days and forty nights. He could parry traffic on the 405 freeway. Place him in the center of the asteroid belt, and Sean Strickland would shoulder-roll every one of those mf’s.

Most impressively, Strickland didn’t take the easy way out, the way that could easily be cast aside by haters and Izzy sycophants alike. Strickland didn’t land a lucky punch; he didn’t hit sevens across the board and cash in on a puncher’s chance. No, he punched the clock for twenty-five minutes, took the scenic route, and left no doubt who the better fighter was on September 9, 2023. He Philly Shell’d and 1-2'd his way to a 4-1/5-0 scorecard against one of the best strikers the sport has ever seen.

Is Izzy done? Nah, not yet. He could get his belt back in his next fight, but make no mistake, what you saw at the post-fight presser was Izzy himself, for the first time, questioning if he would ever wear the belt again. What you saw was Izzy coming face-to-face with his fight mortality, sitting in the front row, a coquettish grin on its face.

Up next: Dricus Du Plessis vs. Sean Strickland or the Paulo Costa vs. Khamzat winner. Either way, the man standing across from Strickland when he defends his belt for the first time shouldn’t be Izzy. Izzy has now lost two of his last three bouts, and Saturday’s loss wasn’t even close; the scorecards didn’t constitute an immediate rematch. But I'll still stream it if Izzy gets the shot at redemption.

Was it the greatest upset of all time? Not quite. Matt Serra, forcing GSP to tap due to strikes is still number one. "If you tap to strikes, you’re a b**ch!" – BJ Penn. But it was the greatest performance I have ever seen, and that’s not me speaking under duress, clad in pinstripes, with the moment pacing outside my locked cell.

Main Card

Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko 2

Speaking of colossal upsets. The first fight between Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko was certainly that. What stymied its shock value was the fact that Valentina had lost her previous bout against Taila Santos. But the Valero Three, three NSAC judges wearing the faces of dead presidents, confiscated the dub from Santos at gunpoint. And that’s coming from someone who tried to name his daughter Valentina.

Speaking of rematches. Valentina is getting an immediate one, not only because of her dominant reign before her loss but also because she was in control of the first bout and possibly up three rounds heading into the infamous fourth. Grasso came out playing chess, choosing to go southpaw against Shevchenko much like Amanda Nunes did against Julian Peña in the second bout. The tactic all but eliminated one of Shevchenko’s best weapons, the check right hook. The striking throughout was fairly even, but it was Grasso who landed the more impactful shots, visibly hurting Valentina in the first round. But the pivotal moment of the fight came in the second when Grasso escaped a position others in the past couldn’t. Like the guy who escaped Jeffrey Damer’s house, running ass-neked down the street, Grasso escaped the crucifix position and survived the round. That at least kept her hopes alive even though Shevchenko started to take over the fight with takedowns and top control.

Valentina scored four takedowns and recorded over a round of control time heading into the fourth round. By then, Shevchenko’s knees were bleeding from third-degree mat burns, looking like mine after twenty-seven years of praying for a Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl dub. It wasn’t until the fourth round that Grasso was finally able to defend some takedowns and forced Valentina to make a mistake on the feet, telegraphing and missing a spinning back-kick that led to Grasso taking her back. Grasso left a white bloodless stripe across Valentina's face from the pressure of the choke. Like a fookin’ tourniquet. Bill Withers couldn’t have held his breath long enough to escape that choke.

Other than a few sketchy moments on the feet, Valentina looked to be in control of the fight and on her way to another wrestling-heavy decision dub. Valentina had her moments on the feet and looked better at creating her own offense than in the Santos fight. But she still relies too much on counterstriking. As a right-handed southpaw, Grasso was able to get to Valentina consistently with the lead hand. You have to expect Valentina will have an answer for that this time. The trade-off for Grasso was she was left without a power hand from that stance; her left cross looked unnatural and didn’t have much pop in it.

The keys: For Grasso, the key will be defending takedowns; she has a sixty percent career takedown defense and has been taken down six times in her last two fights. Check out her three UFC losses: Felice Herrig, Tatiana Suarez, and Carla Esparza, all wrestlers. If she can stay on her feet and again find ways to extend her combinations, Grasso could outpoint Shevchenko in a kickboxing match. But a telling Grasso stat: In eleven UFC bouts, she has only two finishes, and both were submissions. She has yet to finish a fight on the feet, and stand-up is her sativa and Zig-Zag. The key for Valentina will be moving forward and engaging beyond a single strike. Valentina has Stealth Bomber, evading radar, hand and foot speed, but her major malfunction is that she rarely commits to more than one strike. If the takedown well runs dry and she falls behind in the striking numbers, it will be hard to close the gap one strike at a time.

Valentina will be the (-165) favorite, and Alexa Grasso will be the live (+135) dog. There’s no way not to be a live dog when you’ve already beaten and finished your opponent. It almost felt like Valentina hit a wall in that fourth round before she made the fateful mistake. Valentina suddenly started telegraphing level changes, and Grasso started stuffing them. This time, Grasso needs to get her takedown defense on point sooner rather than later. If she can keep it on the feet, Grasso can out-strike Valentina. I would be surprised if this one ends in a finish. It was kind of a flukey position and circumstance that led to the first finish. But Valentina finished three of her last five dubs, and Grasso finished two of her last three. So you’re saying there’s a chance. A Valentina TKO/KO will return (+350) and submission (+700). A Grasso TKO/KO will return (+1200) and sub (+400).

Seems like just a week ago, I was swimming in an Olympic-sized pool of main event dubs like Scrooge McDuck. But now I’m riding a two-fight losing streak with L’s on the horizon at every cardinal point and closing in fast. I don’t feel good about this one at all. But then again, I thought Izzy was an automatic dub last week. Valentina Shevchenko via decision. Put that shit on wax.

Jack Della Maddalena vs. Kevin Holland

I get strong Celebrity Death Match vibes when I think about this one. I see two Claymation caricatures with exaggerated physical characteristics bludgeoning and eviscerating each other until one lies in a defiled heap, with special guest referee, Dick Clark’s head, waving one of them off as if we couldn’t see the mf was dead. I see Jack "De La Soul" Della Maddalena with inflated Popeye arms with mace balls at the end of each. I see Kevin Holland with long praying mantis-like scythes for limbs, impaling and slicing through the air and leaving half the people in attendance as arm and leg and head amputees. The blood will spray like geysers, and those in attendance with all their faculties still in check will run through the eruption like open hydrants in the street during a one-hundred-degree day. Yes, I see all this because I’m high. But that aside, this is a main event-level scrap right here, homies.

Jack Del La Soul wasn’t exposed in his last bout against the late replacement Bassil Hafez; he was tested. Much like Khamzat Chimaev wasn’t exposed against Gil Burns. "They’re saying boo-urns, boo-urns." Khamzat was tested that day, and important questions were answered. Granted, Bassil Hafez was nowhere near the opponent Gil Burns was, but Hafez did have a skillset that was diametrically opposed to De La’s. The biggest question answered: Does Jack have that dog in him? Yes, he has that zombie Resident Evil dog in him. He showed that he could get back to his feet late in fights against a wrestler hell-bent on taking him down at all costs for a full fifteen minutes. But some of the holes I’ve pointed out since his debut last year were on display.

Jack’s major malfunction is a lack of head movement, especially when he extends combinations. When he engages, he sticks his chin straight in the air like a smug, privileged elitist. He’s got that Kanye "Nuh-uh, you can’t tell me nuthin!" chin in the air. That blew up the public stall without offering a courtesy flush for the innocent bystanders who happened into the restroom and found themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time because Jack thinks his shit don’t stink chin in the air. It was telling that Bassil Hafez had as much success on the feet as he did, landing big power shots in between securing three takedowns, and recording nearly seven minutes of control time. But Jack was able to edge out close rounds by causing massive damage. Jack’s framed hooks and overhands are designed to maximize damage. He locks his arms at the elbows and slangs them without any whipping motion, causing blunt force trauma.

The key for De La against Kevin Holland will be De La’s bodywork. This dude is a body snatcher and one of the best at setting up head strikes. De La will be in the most danger while closing the distance. The best way to do that is to attack the body to get inside. Once inside the pocket, it will be De La’s time to shine. This will be a battle of range, and De La will have a massive advantage in the pocket where Holland’s strikes are too long to be as effective as his distance striking. But Jack has to be careful not to shoeshine the body, leaving his head exposed to over-the-top counters. For his career, Jack is 15-2 with eleven TKO/KOs and two subs, including 5-0 in the UFC with three TKO/KOs and one sub. Dude is a finisher and averages nearly seven and a half SLpM to Holland’s four.

Kevin Holland is a range schizo. Sometimes, he uses every centimeter of his eighty-one-inch reach, and other times, he leaps into the pocket, crowding his strikes or overshooting them past the target. I say it every Holland fight; this guy pole vaults into the pocket, does a Simone Biles Olympic floor routine into the pocket. This can be a gift and a curse. On the one hand, he can cover a lot of distance quickly and land when you think you are safe, as was the case against The Ponz. Holland KO’d Santiago Ponzinibio with a flying left hook that left The Ponz in a compromising position that the CIA now uses to blackmail him. The Ponz looked like he was auditioning for a Too Short video. On the other hand, Holland tends to leap into counters, as was repeatedly the case against Wonderboy. Whereas De La uses framed punches, Holland uses long, whipping punches that generate power from the cross-country distances they travel. He KO’d Jacare from his back with a hammerfist; very few can generate that kind of power on the mat from their back.

Eighty-one to seventy-three. Holland’s advantage will be in an eight-inch reach advantage, and the key will be avoiding prolonged exchanges in the pocket. Jab vs. Jab; that’s what this fight will come down to. Holland can employ his from a much greater distance than De La can, but De La has a damaging jab that can sit you down real quick. For his career, Holland is 25-9 with fourteen TKO/KOs and seven subs. I tried to tell you guys last time; Holland is handy with head and arm chokes, especially D’arce/Anacondas in transition. Holland will again be a big sub-threat in this one, not because he plans on grappling, but because he likes to attack the neck in the clinch from a standing position. Plus, he’s a club-and-sub First Team All-American. If he hurts you, Holland wastes no time snatching the D’arce, and I think a submission is just as likely a method of victory against De La as is a TKO/KO.

Bring ‘em out! Bring ‘em out! Holland is the early (+115) dog, but I think that number will be close to a negative number by fight time. Holland has not only faced some of the best fighters in the welterweight division but also in the middleweight division. De La Soul Maddalena is far from the most dangerous fighter he has faced, but Holland is the most dangerous fighter De La Soul has faced. Jack will be the (-140) favorite, and a classic De La Soul Shang Tsung soul snatch (TKO/KO) will return (+165). A Holland TKO/KO will return (+400), and a sub (+600). Kevin Holland at plus money against a barely tested opponent... Yea dat! Kevin Holland via D’arce choke, round three. Put that ish on wax if you can't shove it up ya...Hey!

Raul Rosas Jr. vs. Terrence Mitchell

One of my worst calls of the year so far was picking Raul Rosas Jr. to walk through the Roufus Sport veteran Christian Rodriguez. Was Rosas exposed? Yes! Indecent exposer. Somebody get this kid something to cover himself up with. My man Rosas was left assed-out in the fetal position like the Terminator when he transports back in time and is left in a naked heap in an alleyway. As it turns out, Rosas Jr is a classic Cinderella fighter; once the clock strikes five minutes, the glass slippers turn into well-thrown chanclas. His cardio ain’t it, chief. I ain’t your chief, pawtna. I ain’t your pawtna, guy. Rosas Jr. ain’t here for a long time; he’s here for a good time. Rosas hits the wall like Dale once the Octagon girl parades around the number two. The good news is, his opponent, Terrence Mitchell, is a counterfeit version of Rosas, all grappling and no striking. Fourteen of Mitchell’s seventeen career fights ended in the first round, meaning this one could be two Cinderellas break battling on the ballroom floor.

The biggest problem Rosas has, other than being only eighteen years old and lacking grown-man maturity, is his lack of technique. For his age, Rosas is strong as fook; he lacks grown-man maturity but possesses grown-man strength. But his strength writes checks his technique can’t cash. Rosas is too used to powering out of bad positions or muscling submission attempts and using all that power saps your energy quickly. Because of his confidence to be able to power his way out of bad scenarios, Rosas takes stupid risk after stupid risk. Oh, I know; life’s a risk, carnal. But here at the Weekly KO, we value calculated risks, not stupid ones. But I have to say, for all of one round, Rosas has nasty grappling, complete with Aljo back takes and explosive transitions.

Rosas's misuse of power also translates to his stand-up. Overall, Rosas’s striking is a Madden ten. He tends to just jump around the Octagon like my kids when they got their Ninja Turtle Halloween costumes. He’s out there looking like Peter Pan learning to fly, throwing nothing but flying and spinning this and thats all over the cage. But in addition to relying on only power on the feet, he relies too much on his Easter Island stone-head chin defensively. I know, it’s impossible to protect a chin that large, but you at least have to make an effort. His striking may not play a major role in this matchup, but it will eventually. And I don’t know anyone at bantamweight that he can outstrike.

Terrence Mitchell attended Cranbrook High School. That’s a private school. Terrence lives at home with both parents, and Terrence’s parents have a real good marriage. Bust out the stopwatch whenever this guy fights. This guy has wins and losses clocked at 0:00. Like the guy working the clock didn’t even have time to start that bish before the fight was over. I say that to say this: Terrence Mitchell wants to be Terrance McKinney sooo bad. Mitchell is like an unfinished tattoo of Terrance McKinney. Mitchell is built like middle-school Kevin Durant, but don’t let that fool you. Mitchell is 14-3 with eight TKO/KOs and six subs, and you have to go back to 2014 to find a fight that went into the second round. BUT (big but) not all records are created equal. Mitchell is from Alaska, and all but his UFC debut were within an Alaskan fight promotion. I can’t imagine the pool of fighters is very deep in Alaska.

Terrence Mitchell fights don’t stay on the feet long enough to get a real sense of his striking, but I would say it’s on par with Rosas Jr.’s. For the division, Mitchell has a Kevin Holland-like reach and long, flimsy punches. Them shits make squeaky dog chew toy sounds when they land. Like honking a clown’s nose. But his striking is only a means of creating chaos and closing the distance so he can get the fight to the mat, where he becomes an immediate choking hazard. Long limbs are the ultimate grappling weapon. People with long arms and legs can lock in chokes from nontraditional positions and create torque with little effort. Mitchell can do all that, and if his cardio is better than Rosas’s, he will be a big sub threat from the middle minutes onward.

Rosas is a massive (-500) favorite, and Mitchell is the (+400) back-alley dog begging for scraps. I didn’t think the spread would be this large, but here we are. This is a Cal Ripken All-Star game-grooved fastball for Rosas. This is a developmental scrap meant to build him back up after the tea bag rude awakening he received his last time out. But I won’t completely rule out Mitchell as a late sub-threat if he can survive the wild grappling exchanges in the first round. If this fight stays on the feet... I don’t even want to contemplate such an occurrence. The play for Rosas is an early submission (-225). Five of his seven career dubs came via sub. A Mitchell TKO/KO will return (+1100), and a sub (+2000). Anything can happen after the first five minutes. Raul Rosas Jr. via rear-naked choke, round one. On wax.

Daniel Zellhuber vs. Christos Giagos

A classic striker vs. grappler matchup. Daniel Zellhuber is the Dale Doback to Ignacio Bahamondes’s Brennan Huff. If Bahamondes is the Night Stalker, Zellhuber is the copycat killer. Zellhuber has a nearly identical stand-up style as Bahamondes, garnished with a pinch of Brandon Moreno. And Christos Giagos is a guy who pops up ever so often when you least expect it like a pesky Kneehigh puppet, f**king up your parlay. If you expect nothing from Giagos, he will deliver the world. And if you expect a sleeper performance, he shows up on your doorstep talkin’ about, "I got these cheeseburgers." This should be a crunchy little-style matchup and an overall sleeper scrap.

Now that I think about it, Daniel Zellhuber is like a king-size Brandon Moreno. Moreno uses some odd hand movements, turning his hands over like he’s playing pattycake, and overall using his hands to distract. Zellhuber mimics those movements like when you used to play whiffle ball in the street and mimic famous batting stances like the over-the-head Julio Franco, and upright, wagging Ken Griffey Jr stances. His strikes are tight and crispy with some nifty slips and rolls, but he lacks defensive instincts. Zellhuber is hittable at the end of his combinations because he often watches his work and exits the pocket passively, straight back with his head up, instead of stepping off at angles or rolling off his strikes.

Zellhuber is 13-1, including a dub on the Contender Series against Lucas Almeida and a win in his last bout against "Daddy’s" Lando Vannata. Seven of his thirteen career dubs came via TKO/KO and two by sub. Fantasy-wise, Zellhuber averages nearly five and a half SLpM to Giagos’s just under three. Giagos shared the Octagon with the very best in the world, so a finish will be tough for Zellhuber. I expect him to outwork Giagos on the feet after some shaky moments in the first round. Giagos throws nothing but bombs and instigates wild scrambles on the mat. That style should make this a high-volume type of fight where Zellhuber will have to protect himself with punches and keep his output high for the duration.

Gilbert Burns, Josh Emmett, Charles Oliveira, Arman Tsarukyan, and Thiago Moises are all guys Christos Giagos has fought since his debut in 2014. He debuted against Gil Burns at Aldo vs. Mendez 2. Did he beat any of those guys? No, but they don’t just toss TLC scrubs to those guys, either. Giagos is a dangerous fighter. I think of him as a pure grappler, but he has twice as many TKO/KOs, eight, as he does subs, four. On the feet, he slangs overhands and hooks with power that sneaks up on you like the bubble guts. But Giagos' specialty is wrestling; he averages over three takedowns per fifteen minutes and usually wins fights by controlling the clinch and top position. Giagos is also handy with D’arce/Brabo chokes in transition on the mat, much like Kevin Holland.

Zellhuber will be the (-250), and Giagos will be the (+195) dog. I think Giagos is a live dog; he’s a Derry, Maine, Fire Starter on the feet and has slick subs on the mat. Zellhuber is the far more technical striker, but Giagos has an unpredictable element to his game. He just goes for it, and Zellhuber can be bullied with pressure and volume. There is also the chance that Giagos could control this fight with takedowns and top control. Zellhuber has a noinety-one percent career takedown defense, but that is only a sample rate of three fights, and two were strikers. I think Giagos’s value will be in an early stoppage, though. I think he has to catch Zellhuber slippin’ early. But I have to take the long play on this one and technique over chaos. Daniel Zellhuber via decision. On wax.

Fernando Padilla vs. Kyle Nelson

"Dammit!" Kyle Nelson is a wilding and fights like he’s on a patch of frozen lake surrounded by white walkers. For Fernando Padilla, stepping inside the Octagon with Kyle Nelson will be like swimming ashore on an island inhabited by uncontacted people. This will be like the missionary who made contact with the Sentinelese tribe and stayed around as dinner. As... Don’t let the 2-4-1 UFC record fool you; Kyle Nelson is an undercover savage with blood stains around his mouf like fat kids drinking Kool-Aid. But Fernando Padilla is a Tenth Planet disciple with slick submissions and some experience stumbling upon savages in their natural habitat.

Don’t look now, but Kyle Nelson is starting to get the ball rolling. After losing four of his first five—that’s a nice way of saying he went 1-4—Nelson fought Doo Ho Choi to a draw after nearly finishing Choi in the first round and beating Blake Bilder in his last bout. Don’t call it a comeback. Okay, I won’t. But I’ll say this about Kyle Nelson: He always shows flashes of a scary mf who throws elbow combinations like traditional hand combos and has an overall sneaky stand-up game. Nelson is rotten in the clinch and generally makes things ugly. A guy who usually likes to test an opponent’s wrestling intermittently between violent exchanges on the feet, Nelson may have to avoid taking the fight to the mat against Padilla. This kid, Padilla, has eight career subs, and all came from his back, including four triangles. Nelson will have to find a way to create damage in the clinch while being careful not to end up on his back, or in the top position, for that matter.

I think you can expect a moderate fifty to seventy strikes landed from Nelson with a shot at a late finish. Nelson flows along the Chito spectrum, damage over volume, and relies on knockdowns to win rounds. Padilla is 15-4 and has never been finished, but he’s only spent two minutes under the bright lights, and Nelson tends to get stronger as the fight progresses.

Fernando Padilla is one of those guys who has had a full career outside the Octagon before finally getting the call-up to the big leagues. He’s like a guy who fought his way up from single to triple-A, having fought for LFA, Fury FC, and King of the Cage. Padilla has losses to Dan Ige and former UFC heathen Spike Carlyle. He made his UFC debut against Julian Erosa and TKO’d Erosa in under two minutes. But I think Padilla’s striking is overrated. Like Stevey, I don’t see it. I see stiff. I see straight lines with no head movement. I see dead people if he keeps his chin defiantly in the air against Kyle Nelson, as he has a habit of doing in all his fights. Even against Erosa, Padilla was playing with a lit M-80 when exchanging back and forth. I want to see this kid’s ground game. His path to victory will be tying up Nelson and attacking subs on the mat. He can stand and bang with Nelson, but Padialla, you better check yo’ self before you wreck yo’ self. 'Cause standing with Kyle Nelson is bad for your health.

Fernando Padilla will be the (-260) favorite, and Kyle Nelson will be the live (+210) dog. Padilla is a finisher, and his value will be in a TKO/KO () or a sub (). Nelson is a savage, but when savages die, they tend to Die Hard. Nelson isn’t the most defensive fighter on the feet and has a habit of absorbing as much damage as he dishes out. But I think Nelson could be a valuable low-tier Fantasy pick and straight-up dog. He’s definitely a risk, but he has a high upside, and fighters often overlook this guy until Nelson cracks them with some shit, and you see the look in their eyes change. In fact, fook it! I’m riding with the dog. Give me Kyle Nelson via TKO, round three. I can give it to ya, but whatcha ‘gone do with it? Put it on wax.

Twenty Twen-Twen Underdog Sleepers this week: Grasso, Holland, and Giagos.

As always, much love, homies. Put 'em on wax!

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