MMA Fighter of the Year #3: Alexa Grasso

December 28, 2023
2 months

With 2023 drawing to a close, it’s time to review some of the top MMA fighters of the year. Starting our count at number three is the UFC’s Alexa Grasso. The Mexican fighter has lit up the flyweight division by winning the championship. 

Ending Shevchenko’s Dominant Reign

Valentina Shevchenko was the very definition of the women’s flyweight division between late 2018 and early 2023. Nobody could seemingly get the better of her as she retained the UFC’s division championship seven times after winning it from Joanna Jędrzejczyk. There was a very real thought that she could retire with the championship and leave it vacant.

Enter, Alexa Grasso at UFC 285. The Mexican had previously struggled to adapt to the UFC competition but entered March 2023 in great form with four consecutive wins against the likes of Viviane Araujo, Joanne Wood, and Maycee Barber, making MMAfighting latest news at the time.

During the fight, it didn’t always look like it was going Grasso’s way. Shevchenko was able to land the better and cleaner strikes throughout the contest. Grasso stayed in the fight, however, as she took the damage but continued to defend herself. The defining moment came late in the fourth round. The champion missed with a spinning kick, leaving her exposed to the challenger’s grappling efforts. Grasso would take her to the ground and lock in a face crank submission, which left Shevchenko with no choice but to tap out. The girl from Guadalajara had ended an era by becoming champion. The result caused shockwaves amongst the MMA news websites to spread out beyond the MMA world as there was a new champion in the UFC, in a division that had been dominated by one fighter for so long.

Backing Up the Win

After the wake of the fight at UFC 285, it was quickly announced that a re-match between Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko would take place six months after the original fight, in September 2023. Given that the former champion had held the belt for so long, a re-match was the minimum she deserved after the loss.

The second meeting between the pair was deemed big enough to main event its fight night. UFC Fight Night: Grasso vs. Shevchenko 2 was set up as a hallmark non-PPV card, given the surging popularity of both fighters.

While Grasso might have been outpowered by strikes in the first fight, she gave as good as she got in the second. These two rivals exchanged dominance in all five rounds, with both showcasing exceptional offense and defense in the ring.

Unfortunately, the re-match will be remembered for the controversy surrounding the result. One of the judges assigned to the fight called a round 10-8 in favor of Grasso. 10-8 rounds are typically reserved for instances where one fighter is completely dominating a round; there was no instance throughout the entire fight where Grasso was in control of a whole round. As such, Dana White blasted the judge as the fight subsequently resulted in a draw. The head of the UFC has since said that a third fight needs to take place shortly. Despite not winning the fight, she retained the championship and put on a performance that proved she was a championship-tier fighter in this division.

She Does Everything Right Outside the Cage

It’s one thing to be great in the cage, but being a reputable character outside of the fighting arena is more important than ever in a transparent world. Alexa Grasso uses social media with a good following, which expands just the normal MMA following. Her TikTok profile is updated regularly with new content, which makes it easier for her fans to connect with her.

She always speaks to media outlets with a humble tone and always appreciates the praise given to her, as she has been given many similar plaudits like this one, naming her one of the best fighters in MMA right now. She often speaks truthfully as her authentic natural self after or before fights, which has only increased her popularity.

She is also one of the few female fighters in the world today to not have an OnlyFans account. While there is nothing wrong with the decisions that other fighters take to make and sell lewd content to fans, there is a purity and self-respect aspect that is admired by hardcore MMA fans who appreciate when female fighters do not feel the need to operate on such platforms.

Driving the Popularity of MMA in Mexico

Dana White has made it one of his missions to tap into the Mexican market for MMA. Whether it is running more events in the country, pushing his Mexican fighters, or offering more Spanish-language content, it seems like this is becoming more and more important to the promotion’s business pursuits.

The poster girl for Noche UFC? Alexa Grasso. ESPN told White that this event (UFC Fight Night: Grasso vs. Shevchenko 2) broke many viewing figure records for its Mexican audiences, with millions and millions of new customers signing up to the service on the strength of Grasso’s billing as a main event champion. Of course, the country wants to cheer on its first-ever female UFC champion. Her popularity has led the UFC to commission a custom championship belt, which is a practice not normally executed by the promotion.

This fight took over the combat sport’s agenda on Mexican Independence Day (September 16th), which was usually reserved for Canelo Alvarez and his boxing activities. Grasso has shown that both MMA and women can take center stage in Mexican combat sports.

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