Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is just one day away from the upcoming Noche UFC mixed martial arts (MMA) event, which is set to go down tomorrow night (Sat., Sept. 16, 2023) on ESPN+ from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, featuring a flyweight main event between newly-crowned champion Alexa Grasso and former 125-pound titleholder Valentina Shevchenko, a five-round rematch from their UFC 285 affair — which Grasso won by submission — to celebrate Mexican Independence Day.
Before we dive into the main and co-main events, which includes the welterweight scrap between Kevin Holland and Jack Della Maddalena, check out Patrick Stumberg’s breakdowns for the Noche UFC preliminary card — which he wrote after gobbling down Chile en Nogada — by clicking here and here. For the latest “Grasso vs. Shevchenko 2” odds and betting lines courtesy of our fiscal friends over at Draft Kings go here.
For the rest of the Noche UFC main card predictions click here.
125 lbs.: Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko
Record: 16-3 | Age: 30 | Betting line: +145
Wins: 4 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 10 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 5’5“ | Reach: 66” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.88 | Striking accuracy: 43%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.07 | Striking Defense: 59%
Takedown Average: 0.38 (44% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 61%
Current Ranking: Champion | Last fight: Submission win over Valentina Shevchenko
Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko
Record: 23-4 | Age: 35 | Betting line: -175
Wins: 8 KO/TKO, 7 SUB, 8 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 5’5“ | Reach: 66” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.29 | Striking accuracy: 53%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 1.99 | Striking Defense: 63%
Takedown Average: 2.57 (64% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 72%
Current Ranking: No. 1 | Last fight: Submission loss to Alexa Grasso
People are making a huge deal out of Israel Adesanya’s championship loss to Sean Strickland at UFC 293 — and rightly so — but it’s hardly a candidate for biggest upset in the history of MMA, especially when you consider that Alexa Grasso was a bigger underdog against Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 285, a title-winning performance that proved “Bullet” was indeed human, vulnerable to certain styles of combat, and not an indestructible killing machine with nothing left to prove.
We also have to consider that Shevchenko, who turned 35 back in March, barely escaped her previous title defense against the rough-and-tumble Taila Santos, and you can even make an argument in favor of the Brazilian. It’s hard to know if Shevchenko is done as champion or simply ill-equipped to handle Grasso. Max Holloway was unable to defeat Alexander Volkanovski but I think we can all agree he’s still as good as he’s ever been and the favorite against any other fighter at 145 pounds.
Right now, all we have to work with is their first go-round. After dropping the opening frame to Grasso, Shevchenko settled down and won rounds two and three, then faltered in the fourth. Remember, we’re talking about a flyweight who was able to hang with Amanda Nunes at bantamweight in two five-round title fights, while also finishing Julianna Peña and outstriking Joanna Jedrzejczyk. “Bullet” was and remains one of the most dangerous fighters in any division — across both genders — and has the tools to win wherever the fight goes.
“I’m not playing around,” Shevchenko said at the Noche UFC media day. “I’ll just go there, my goal — enter the Octagon, finish, destroy my opponent, take my belt back and continue what I have to continue. For me, there is no after. There is no Sunday. There is no Monday after that following Saturday. For me, I live only with this day. It’s kind of like I’m not having plans what’s going to be next. Everything for me, all of my concentration, all my determination, all my power, force, mentality, character, spirit, it all goes to Sept. 16. Slowly and surely, we’re going to approach Sept. 16, and I will be ready for that date. I will be ready to take what is mine.”
Grasso is a different type of striker but no less effective. My concern for Noche UFC is the stats from UFC 285, where Shevchenko landed nearly twice the significant strikes, percentage wise, while also scoring four of six takedown attempts, compared to the 0-2 mark by Grasso. Simply put, Shevchenko got caught in a submission and defended poorly, leading to her early demise. If that submission didn't land, I believe “Bullet” was on her way to a clear judges’ decision.
That said, it did land.
“I love striking fights, and it was going pretty well in the striking department, but I did a lot of adjustments just in case she doesn’t want to strike with me,” Grasso added. “But I’m excited too because she came back to Thailand to do Muay Thai again, so this excites me so much. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be an amazing fight. To be the champion is the first step, climbing the first mountain. But once I have it, I turn my head and realize there’s another big mountain to climb, because I want to defend it. I want to keep it. I want to show how much I’ve been evolving all these months.”
Shevchenko is a far better counter-striker and excels when she’s repelling a blitzkrieg. If Grasso can remain patient and force the ex-champion to engage first, she has a better chance of creating another opening. Or we could be faced with another stinker, like we saw when “Bullet” battled Liz Carmouche. I’m expecting an angry (but focused) Shevchenko to show up this weekend in “Sin City” and shut down the Mexican standout. Grasso will have her moments, but not enough of them to turn the tide when all is said and done.
Prediction: Shevchenko def. Grasso by technical knockout
170 lbs.: Kevin Holland vs. Jack Della Maddalena
Kevin “Trailblazer” Holland
Record: 25-9, 1 NC | Age: 30 | Betting line: +125
Wins: 14 KO/TKO, 7 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 5 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 81” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.11 | Striking accuracy: 52%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.96 | Striking Defense: 52%
Takedown Average: 0.83 (41% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 53%
Current Ranking: No. 13 | Last fight: Submission win over Michael Chiesa
Jack Della Maddalena
Record: 15-2 | Age: 27 | Betting line: -150
Wins: 11 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 73” | Stance: Switch
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 7.27 | Striking accuracy: 52%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.50 | Striking Defense: 69%
Takedown Average: 0.36 (20% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 81%
Current Ranking: No. 14 | Last fight: Split decision win over Bassil Hafez
Kevin Holland would probably be a Top 10 fighter if he focused more on his talents and less on being a “personality” and I get it, personalities make money, but so do champions. One thing that often gets overlooked when we talk about “Trailblazer” is his insane finishing ability, scoring 21 stoppages in 25 wins. That includes his back-to-back endings over Santiago Ponzinibbio (UFC 287) and Michael Chiesa (UFC 291). His spotty takedown defense leaves something to be desired but as “Maverick” (and a few others) found out, going to the ground with Holland is a risky proposition.
I was disappointed in his fight against Stephen Thompson but it’s hard to blame Holland for that, who fractured his hand in the opening round and had to have surgery in the days that followed. I’m also not going crazy over his loss to Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 279, since the scale-failing “Borz” probably weighed 300 pounds by the time he got to the cage. I am, however, concerned with how serious Holland is taking this fight.
He certainly sounded fired-up at the Noche UFC media day.
“Old boy keeps crying about not being able to fight in Australia,” Holland said. “Motherf*cker, if you were worth somebody coming out to Australia to fight you, they would’ve made sure somebody came to Australia to fight you. You’ve got a Timex sponsorship. Be happy with that and shut the f*ck up. Bam. My bad. See, y’all are getting me in that zone. I’m trying not to go there.”
Maddalena scored a UFC contract by knocking around Ange Loosa on Dana White’s “Contender Series” back in late 2021 then followed that up with four straight wins — and four straight first-round finishes — over increasingly tougher competition. So what did the 27 year-old Perth product do for an encore? He nearly lost a close decision to regional bruiser Bassil Hafez, who took the fight on eight minutes notice and cut 72 pounds to make the welterweight mark for UFC Vegas 77. That took some of the bloom off the Australian rose, so to speak, but let’s not leave him by the 170-pound wayside just yet.
It could have simply been an off night, or a bad matchup, stylistically speaking.
“I think it’s fair play,” Maddalena added. “This is sport for the fans. I think they have the right to their opinion. It didn’t really bother me. I felt like it wasn’t a good performance, so fair play. … It’s hard to shut them up. I feel like they’re always going to be talking. I don’t really mind. It doesn’t really bother me. I think it’s just the way the sport is. I’m coming to fight. Whatever happens leading up to it happens. I think a good win over Kevin Holland will get me in a nice spot to fight one of the top contenders.”
Maddalena is an aggressive striker but he did not adjust well to the reach of Brown, a problem I except to resurface against Holland — who sports a a division-best 81-inch reach. Holland is also an unorthodox, creative striker who won’t paint-by-numbers like some of the Aussie’s previous foes. Yes, Maddalena will come in guns blazing, but Holland’s power will be there to greet him. Unless an impromptu spurt of panic wrestling takes “Trailblazer” off his feet, Maddalena is going to find himself getting busted up. I think Holland baits his opponent, stuns him on the feet, then finishes him off with a sneaky choke.
Prediction: Holland def. Maddalena by submission
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Noche UFC main card predictions RIGHT HERE.
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