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NSAC rules Alexa Grasso’s knees in Noche UFC fight against Valentina Shevchenko were legal

Confusion over the grounded opponent rules in Nevada led Shevchenko to believe she was safe from knees to the head when she wasn’t.

The questionable knees Alexa Grasso landed on Valentina Shevchenko in the fourth round of their women’s Flyweight championship fight this past weekend (Sat., Sept. 16, 2023) inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, were ... legal!

Grasso and Shevchenko competed to a controversial split draw during their Noche UFC rematch over Mexican Independence Day. That was the result of a sketchy 10-8 round awarded to the Mexican champion in round five, a score so bad UFC CEO, Dana White, said the judge “should be f—ing investigated.”

Largely lost in the furor over the scores was some punishing knees landed by Grasso in round four. Team Shevchenko was very vocal about the knees being illegal as “Bullet” said she had one hand down on the mat when they landed, making her a grounded opponent. The MMA Hour host, Ariel Helwani, spoke with Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) officials after the event and got clarification on the reason(s) they were legitimate.

“We were trying to decide or determine if it was one hand on the mat or two hands,” Helwani said in a Twitter video. “It’s very confusing state-by-state with the evolution of the unified rules. I can’t imagine being a fighter and having to know all this stuff.

“After the show, I did speak to the Nevada State Athletic Commission and an official there told me that it is one hand, so [Shevchenko] is correct about that,” he continued. “The hand has to be flat on the mat or ‘weight bearing.’ And they also told me that between rounds they actually checked the replay, they said the yellow light was on and they were checking it.

“They checked it multiple times and they determined that all of the knees hit legally because the hand wasn’t flat, and / or weight bearing, and / or at times even on the mat when the knees were landing. So their determination was that those were not illegal knees.”

“[Valentina] was correct that it was one hand on the mat, not two,” he reiterated. “But: flat, weight bearing, and [the knees] actually have to land when these things are happening.”

Helwani is correct that it’s a stupid situation for the sport to be in: the Unified rules used to be more unified, but recent changes to the grounded opponent rule means different states have different standards for when knees and kicks are allowed.

In this case, Shevchenko thought she was grounded, but technically she wasn’t. She left her head open for strikes so she could touch the mat, thinking she was protected. That permitted Grasso to fire away with knees, winning the fourth and squeaking in a draw that allowed her to hold onto the women’s 125-pound title.

For now, at least.

White was so upset about the scoring for the fight that he declared an immediate rematch between the two flyweights was the right thing to do. So, prepare yourself for Grasso vs. Shevchenko 3, hopefully with a more conclusive result.

And definitely not in Kyrgyzstan.

For complete Noche UFC results, coverage and highlights click HERE.

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