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Noche UFC, The Morning After: An epic title fight ruined by garbage judging

Here’s what you may have missed!

As I sit in my living room, the only soul still awake in my home at precisely 1:11 in the morning, I’m surprised at just how angry Noche UFC’s main event has left me. It’s amazing how quickly one’s emotions can go from the rush of watching an unbelievable, back-and-forth title fight to the cold disappointment and bitter anger when faced with yet another judging controversy. The Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko rematch being such an incredible fight only makes the pill more bitter.

First, let’s talk about why it was such a great fight. Both Grasso and Shevchenko are very special athletes. That’s not a newly discovered fact about Shevchenko, widely regarded as the second-best female fighter of all-time. Still, I found myself fairly floored by her sheer will in this match up. Standing up to a hard-hitting, younger opponent who just beat her is akin to standing up to Father Time himself, and she really gave forth a considerable effort to deny the inevitable.

Older fighters don’t win rematches to younger fighters that beat them. It’s a fairly locked-in-place statistic, and it’s especially evident in title fights. Equally rare is 35-year-olds below 170 lbs. winning in title fights ... at all. Shevchenko grit her teeth and fought tremendously hard to become an anomaly. She stepped into the pocket with an aggression that earned respect from even longtime critics.

And Grasso answered every step of the way! She rose to the occasion as well. Grasso may be in her physical prime, but even so, she doesn’t have the raw physicality of her opponent nor the massive wealth of experience. On paper, her only real area of advantage is pocket boxing, yet Grasso manages to find success everywhere. She did damage with calf kicks, knocked her down with a punch, slammed her to the floor, and nearly choked her. Grasso has an innate gift, a talent for capitalizing on any small opening that Shevchenko offers her.

She capitalizes viciously, too.

This was very clearly a fight that should have been decided by the fourth round, which served as such a perfect little encapsulation of the fight as a whole. Shevchenko won most of it, jabbing Grasso up and scoring some control time in top position and along the fence. However, Grasso scored the biggest singular moments, a heavy series of knees and big ol’ slam midway through the round.

What counts more? It’s quite debatable. How many jabs equal one knee? Does a slam mean much if the other fights spins into top control seconds later? It’s all up for interpretation. I personally saw the round go to “Bullet,” but I genuinely have no issue at all with a fan, media member, or judge arguing the other direction. If Grasso won 48-47 on all three cards, this article would be another technique piece about how stupid headlock throws ruin everything. There wouldn’t be any anger.

Sadly, that’s not what happened.

Somehow, the fifth round has to get all the attention. It’s an easily summarized round: Shevchenko jabs the face off Grasso, attempts a sloppy takedown, and finishes the round with Grasso on her back, having nearly been strangled but clearly out of danger by the end. Keeping with the trend of the fight, Shevchenko won 3.5 minutes, but damn if Grasso’s 90 seconds were not convincing.

It’s a clear 10-9 Grasso.

Judge Mike Bell did not see it that way. He deemed the round an extended period of one-sided dominance and damage. He scored the round 10-8 in favor of the champion, ignoring Shevchenko’s prior success or the fact that Grasso didn’t do any serious damage with her dominant position. He put forth a scorecard that doesn’t make the least bit of sense according to the judging criteria. Consequently, he doomed an instant classic title fight to a split-draw rather than name a definitive victor, an outcome that neither moves the division forward nor sees either athlete receive the second half of their paycheck.

F—k you.

For complete Noche UFC: “Grasso vs. Shevchenko” results and play-by-play, click HERE!

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