Noche UFC 293 concluded with a break up resolution draw between Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko, thus permitting Grasso to retain the belt. Earlier than that, some standout performances on the cardboard put Jack Della Maddalena, Raul Rosas Jr. and Tracy Cortez on an attention-grabbing path. Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim react to the most important moments of the evening in Las Vegas.
It was a back-and-forth struggle from begin to end. Valentina Shevchenko had the early momentum. Alexa Grasso took over. Then Shevchenko once more. Then Grasso. Then … a draw?
What an unsatisfying technique to finish the festivities of Mexican Independence Day, a celebration of a dogged fight sports activities tradition identified for fighters battling it out till certainly one of them can’t struggle anymore. Then once more, a case may very well be made for both of those ladies to have her arm raised on Saturday evening, so it was poetic justice that they each had their arms raised on the conclusion of the Noche UFC primary occasion at T-Cellular Enviornment in Las Vegas.
In some respects, this rematch performed out very similar to the primary assembly in March, when Grasso dethroned the longtime UFC ladies’s flyweight champ. And whereas nobody might have anticipated a draw, how Grasso and Shevchenko competed was foreshadowed throughout a UFC media occasion through the week.
Now, prefight press conferences are sometimes plenty of sizzling air. I am in the perfect form of my life … It has been the smoothest coaching camp of my profession … I am higher than my opponent irrespective of the place the struggle goes … Blah blah blah. However if you happen to pay attention arduous sufficient, you may come away with an iota of perception.
Such may very well be discovered on this transient change between Shevchenko and Grasso throughout a fighter panel held through the week to advertise this rematch.
Shevchenko: “I wish to remind to everybody: 17-time world muay Thai champion, seven title defenses. You can not eliminate this.”
Grasso: “Being a muay Thai champion, I believed you needed to be hanging with me. However you determined to go to the bottom.”
That change outlined the primary struggle again in March — and signaled the place every lady believed she wanted to regulate for the rematch. Because it turned out, Shevchenko sharpened her standup and, with few exceptions, beat Grasso to the punch time and again. And Grasso, whereas she did get taken down 4 occasions (identical as within the first struggle), confirmed stout protection on the canvas and ended the struggle trying to find a submission.
Neither lady might be happy with the outcome, particularly Shevchenko, who walked out of the cage with out the shiny belt she’d come for. However guess who have to be happy: the UFC, which now can arrange one other assembly so these well-matched fighters can full a trilogy. — Jeff Wagenheim
Okamoto: What’s subsequent for Grasso, Shevchenko and high stars from Noche UFC
Alexa Grasso, flyweight champion
What Ought to be Subsequent: Erin Blanchfield
It was an odd ending to a hard-fought struggle, particularly with a lot at stake. Very unsatisfying, frankly. You do not wish to see this set of circumstances come to an inconclusive finish. The query turns into, do you rerun it a 3rd time? I say no. I do not suppose it is one thing the followers would need, and personally, I believed Grasso received. Regardless, the aura of Shevchenko is gone, and I do not imagine a 0-1-1 document in opposition to the champ begs for a direct third struggle, regardless of every part Shevchenko has accomplished. I feel Grasso strikes on for a minimum of one struggle, and for my part, her subsequent challenger ought to be Blanchfield.
I am not in favor of a 3rd struggle, but when the UFC feels it has to do it to legitimately transfer the division ahead, it might be justified.
Valentina Shevchenko, flyweight
What Ought to be Subsequent: Manon Fiorot
I by no means noticed this coming for Shevchenko. This sport is unfathomably unpredictable. The nice Valentina Shevchenko is now 1-1-1 in her final three fights, and loads of observers thought she misplaced to Talia Santos in 2022 and ought to be 0-2-1. Some changes should be made, some issues addressed. Or we’re witnessing the decline of a 35-year-old fighter with a protracted profession already behind her. To me, you make a four-woman event at 125. Shevchenko vs. Fiorot, the French dynamic striker. Grasso vs. Blanchfield, the submission specialist. These are the matchups to me, and you possibly can put them on the identical card and construct up the winner vs. winner.
The trilogy is in play. I do not suppose it will likely be subsequent.
Jack Della Maddalana, welterweight
What Ought to be Subsequent: Ian Garry
I have been saying this all 12 months after every of their fights. Della Maddalena and Garry are actually tied for the longest energetic win streak at welterweight with six. Most of these have been extremely spectacular. Garry had a couple of lackluster ones early, and Della Maddalena has had a few disappointing ones as of late. However on the finish of the day, these two have proven unimaginable promise and excellent outcomes. I like the concept of matching them collectively now and selling it because the division’s future. Stylistically, it is an ideal matchup between Garry’s long-range weapons and Della Maddalena’s boxing. It could be what we thought this struggle could be in opposition to Holland, stuffed with motion and harmful pictures.
Wildcard: Shavkat Rakhmanov
Della Maddalena has stated that is a struggle he needs, and he is the one one. No person needs to struggle Rakhmanov. He’s the darkish horse of 170 kilos. Plenty of threat however not as a lot reward as a result of informal followers aren’t conscious of his abilities. If Della Maddalena places his hand up for that struggle, by all means.
Kevin Holland, welterweight
What Ought to be Subsequent: Li Jingliang
If he is obtainable. There have been few updates on the spinal harm that compelled Jingliang out of his final scheduled struggle in opposition to Michael Chiesa in April. If he is obtainable within the first quarter of subsequent 12 months, it is a nice struggle for each. An motion struggle. Jingliang is understood for offense. Not that he will not struggle strategically, however his technique is often constructed round energy and aggression. Holland has proven a couple of variations of himself throughout an energetic UFC profession, however he is been entertaining as a rule. If this struggle is on the market, it is a good one.
Wildcard: Chris Curtis
I are likely to throw in a middleweight as my wildcard for Holland as a result of he continually needs to return to 185 kilos. Curtis is a gamer. One other a kind of names the UFC can throw on any card so as to add some motion. A enjoyable struggle on paper. He is not in title rivalry, however he is ranked within the Prime 15 at middleweight, which might attraction to Holland.
Raul Rosas Jr., bantamweight
What Ought to be Subsequent: Fernie Garcia
I’d greatest describe Rosas Jr.’s present struggle type as “frantic,” simply full napalm from the opening bell. Rising pains are anticipated. They’ve already occurred. He misplaced to Christian Rodriguez in his final bout, a struggle he was comfortably favored in. Odds are, he’ll lose once more. He is 18, preventing within the UFC. Traditionally, there are higher locations to develop than the Octagon. However his expertise is simple. It is apparent why the UFC needs him. He injects vitality and leisure into each card he is on. How do you matchmake him? You discover probably the most manageable challenges potential. It does not matter how good he seems to be. You retain him away from the perfect. Garcia is 0-3 within the UFC. He must defend his job at this level. He is an acceptable next-man-up for Rosas Jr.
Wildcard: Chad Anheliger
The UFC has been tactful in how they’ve booked Rosas Jr., however they’ve additionally proven a willingness to throw him in there with guys who’ve excellent data and way more expertise. Anheliger falls into the latter class greater than the primary. His document is not unimaginable at 12-6, however he is 36 (actually twice Rosas Jr.’s age) and has been preventing professionally for 13 years. He was a late bloomer and solely reached the UFC in 2021. This might be a giant alternative for him — a man who took the lengthy street in opposition to a man who took the shortest street ever. There is a story there, and a good matchup.
Raimondi: ‘You may’t break me’ — Cortez prepared to maneuver ahead to title gold
Tracy Cortez has had a tricky couple of years. She’s handled household tragedies, like her brother and mom’s demise. Extra not too long ago, she’s struggled with accidents and private points, which stored her out of the Octagon for 16 months.
In her postfight interview Saturday, Cortez stated she will’t be damaged. It could be tough to disagree together with her. After the unanimous resolution win over Jasmine Jasudavicius, Cortez is now 5-0 within the UFC and tied with Alexa Grasso, Maycee Barber and Raquel Pennington for the third-longest energetic successful streak amongst UFC feminine fighters. Solely Tatiana Suarez, Blanchfield and Fiorot have an extended streak.
Cortez additionally owns a win over Blanchfield, thought-about one of many world’s high ladies’s flyweight fighters. Cortez may very well be headed in that path, too. Her boxing seemed enormously improved. She’s been working arduous at Combat Prepared MMA underneath coaches Eddie Cha and Santino DeFranco and is a longtime coaching companion of her household good friend Henry Cejudo. Cortez not too long ago went to Brazil to coach with Bellator stars Patricio Freire and Patricky Freire, which definitely did not damage her hanging.
“I am right here to go up within the rankings,” Cortez stated throughout her post-fight interview. “Subsequent 12 months, you are gonna see a brand new champion. I am coming for that belt.”
She’s been labeled many occasions to this point in her younger MMA profession. Some followers have bordered on being obsessed together with her private life on social media. However Cortez is now standing tall on her preventing potential and the successes she’s stacking atop each other — which is all that issues to her in the long run.