Alexa Grasso is still the UFC women’s flyweight champion, but the result was by no means decisive. Grasso retained her title in a rematch against Valentina Shevchenko via split draw at Noche UFC in Las Vegas on Saturday night. After five rounds, the scorecards read 48-47 Shevchenko, 48-47 Grasso and 47-47, leading to Grasso retaining her title.
The outcome of Saturday’s fight will be debated in the weeks to come but one thing is certain: what started this year as a shocking upset of an all-time great is now the most defining rivalry in women’s flyweight history. Grasso and Shevchenko fought tooth and nail on Saturday with each fighter exhibiting moments of brilliance. A decision for either woman was justified, but an unexpected 10-8 scorecard by judge Mike Bell in Round 5 resulted in only the sixth draw in UFC championship history.
“Yes, I am the winner,” Grasso told UFC commentator Daniel Cormier during their post-fight interview.
“I think it was really 3-2 on my side,” Shevchenko told Cormier inside the cage. “I think the judges felt a bit of pressure because it’s Mexican Independence Day… In a fair competition, victory would be mine.”
Shevchenko leaned offensively on a crisp jab and body kicks while using her excellent takedowns to stifle Grasso’s combinations and deter the champion from pressuring forward. Grasso was at her best landing combinations at range and landing shots in the clinch.
The title fight was rife with momentum swings. Grasso landed a knockdown in Round 2. Shevchenko nearly submitted the champ with a mounted guillotine in Round 3. Miraculously, Grasso slipped behind Shevchenko in Round 5 and hunted a rear-naked choke reminiscent of her upset victory in March.
Grasso was non-commital about running an immediate trilogy with Shevchenko.
“It depends,” Grasso said. “I have to talk with my coaches and my manager. We will see what’s next.”
Grasso scored a major upset against Shevchenko at UFC 285, submitting one of the greatest female fighters in history after ducking underneath a spinning back fist. It was the third consecutive month that fans witnessed a Mexican fighter ascend to UFC champion. Entering Noche UFC, which took place on Mexican Independence Day, Grasso carried the pressure of being Mexico’s only remaining UFC champion.
Grasso (16-3-1) is undefeated in six straight fights since moving up to women’s flyweight. Shevchenko (23-4-1) finds herself without a win in two consecutive fights for the first time in her illustrious career.