Alexa Grasso retains title following controversial split draw with Valentina Shevchenko in Noche UFC main event
It was a back-and-forth war for 25 minutes with the deciding factor coming down to the fifth round after Grasso secured a late rear-naked choke that Shevchenko defended to the final horn. When the scorecards were announced, judge Sal D’Amato gave the fight 48-47 to Shevchenko while judge Junichiro Kamijo had it 48-47 for Grasso.
The third official was Mike Bell, who scored it 47-47, which resulted in the split draw.
Afterwards it was revealed that Bell gave the fifth round to Grasso with a 10-8, which led to the 47-47 scorecard.
The usually stoic Shevchenko was obviously upset after the decision was read out loud while declaring that she should be celebrating her second reign as UFC champion.
“I think it really was 3-2 on my side,” Shevchenko said. “But the judges I think felt a little bit of pressure because it’s Mexican Independence Day, that’s why the give one more to the Mexican fighter. I fought to the end and I think I did enough. In a fair competition, the victory would be mine.”
As for Grasso, she essentially claimed the same with her performance in what was ultimately an incredible five-round fight seemingly marred by a puzzling scorecard from one judge.
“I did a lot of damage,” Grasso said. “All of my punches were hard and yes, I’m the winner. I think I did enough [to win].”
Both fighters gave everything in the cage with Shevchenko coming out for a quick start as she established some nasty body kicks and a slick jab that continued to find a home throughout the main event. Undaunted by the attacks, Grasso was switching stances to keep Shevchenko guessing while sticking a well-timed jab in the face.
With just over a minute remaining in the opening round, Shevchenko scored a slick takedown and immediately looked to take the back while searching for a rear-naked choke. Grasso scrambled out effectively to restart back on her feet.
Shevchenko continued to connect with good combinations but then Grasso cracked her with a nasty counter right hand that dropped the former champion to the canvas momentarily. Grasso rushed forward looking to capitalize on the opening but Shevchenko was able to survive before landing a takedown to slow the action as she recovered.
As the third round got started, Shevchenko turned to her grappling again, which led to her grabbing a nasty guillotine choke and then rolling to the mount. It looked for a moment like Grasso was done but she just refused to submit, which eventually forced Shevchenko to release the submission or risk burning out her arms holding onto the choke.
From there, Shevchenko transitioned to take the back with a body triangle with Grasso playing effective defense. Just before the horn sounded, Grasso started to escape, which led to a late armbar attempt from Shevchenko but time ran out before she could really latch onto the submission.
When the fight was on the feet, Shevchenko and Grasso were both connecting effectively at times. Shevchenko consistently found a home for her jab as well as an inside elbow that opened a cut over Grasso’s left eye.
Just when it looked like Shevchenko was cruising to victory, she made an ill-fated takedown attempt that Grasso reversed, which allowed her to take the back. The end of the first fight was almost repeated with Grasso searching for a rear-naked choke.
It looked for a moment like the result would be the same but this time Shevchenko was able to resist until the final horn sounded. It turns out that final grappling exchange made all the difference between Grasso keeping her belt or handing the title back to Shevchenko.
Now the question remains if the UFC will run it back again, especially with Grasso and Shevchenko putting on a fight to remember on Saturday night. For her part, Grasso wasn’t ready to commit to a trilogy just yet, especially after engaging in a five round war.
“It depends,” Grasso said when asked about a third fight against Shevchenko. “I have to talk to my coaches and my manager. Let’s see what’s next.”