Noche UFC 293 concluded with a cut up determination 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 fascinating path. Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim react to the most important moments of the night time in Las Vegas.
It was a back-and-forth combat 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 recognized for fighters battling it out till considered one of them can’t combat anymore. Then once more, a case may very well be made for both of those ladies to have her arm raised on Saturday night time, so it was poetic justice that they each had their arms raised on the conclusion of the Noche UFC predominant occasion at T-Cell Area in Las Vegas.
In some respects, this rematch performed out very like the primary assembly in March, when Grasso dethroned the longtime UFC ladies’s flyweight champ. And whereas nobody may have anticipated a draw, how Grasso and Shevchenko competed was foreshadowed throughout a UFC media occasion throughout the week.
Now, prefight press conferences are sometimes numerous sizzling air. I am in the most effective 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 combat goes … Blah blah blah. However in the event you hear onerous sufficient, you would possibly come away with an iota of perception.
Such may very well be discovered on this temporary change between Shevchenko and Grasso throughout a fighter panel held throughout 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 wished to be placing with me. However you determined to go to the bottom.”
That change outlined the primary combat again in March — and signaled the place every girl 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 repeatedly. And Grasso, whereas she did get taken down 4 occasions (similar as within the first combat), confirmed stout protection on the canvas and ended the combat looking for a submission.
Neither girl may 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 should 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 Needs to be Subsequent: Erin Blanchfield
It was an odd ending to a hard-fought combat, 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 assume 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 file in opposition to the champ begs for a right away third combat, regardless of every little thing Shevchenko has finished. I believe Grasso strikes on for no less than one combat, and for my part, her subsequent challenger ought to be Blanchfield.
I am not in favor of a 3rd combat, but when the UFC feels it has to do it to legitimately transfer the division ahead, it could be justified.
Valentina Shevchenko, flyweight
What Needs 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 have to 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 match at 125. Shevchenko vs. Fiorot, the French dynamic striker. Grasso vs. Blanchfield, the submission specialist. These are the matchups to me, and you would put them on the identical card and construct up the winner vs. winner.
The trilogy is in play. I do not assume it is going to be subsequent.
Jack Della Maddalana, welterweight
What Needs to be Subsequent: Ian Garry
I have been saying this all yr 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 thought of matching them collectively now and selling it because the division’s future. Stylistically, it is an incredible matchup between Garry’s long-range weapons and Della Maddalena’s boxing. It will be what we thought this combat can be in opposition to Holland, filled with motion and harmful photographs.
Wildcard: Shavkat Rakhmanov
Della Maddalena has stated that is a combat he needs, and he is the one one. No one needs to combat Rakhmanov. He’s the darkish horse of 170 kilos. A number of danger however not as a lot reward as a result of informal followers aren’t conscious of his expertise. If Della Maddalena places his hand up for that combat, by all means.
Kevin Holland, welterweight
What Needs to be Subsequent: Li Jingliang
If he is out there. There have been few updates on the spinal harm that compelled Jingliang out of his final scheduled combat in opposition to Michael Chiesa in April. If he is out there within the first quarter of subsequent yr, this can be a nice combat for each. An motion combat. Jingliang is understood for offense. Not that he will not combat 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 most of the time. If this combat is on the market, it is a good one.
Wildcard: Chris Curtis
I are inclined 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 type of names the UFC can throw on any card so as to add some motion. A enjoyable combat on paper. He isn’t in title competition, however he is ranked within the High 15 at middleweight, which might enchantment to Holland.
Raul Rosas Jr. stops the combat rapidly in Spherical 1
Raul Rosas Jr. celebrates emphatically with the Vegas crowd after his win over Terrence Mitchell at Noche UFC.
Raul Rosas Jr., bantamweight
What Needs to be Subsequent: Fernie Garcia
I’d greatest describe Rosas Jr.’s present combat model 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 combat he was comfortably favored in. Odds are, he’ll lose once more. He is 18, combating 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 power and leisure into each card he is on. How do you matchmake him? You discover essentially the most manageable challenges attainable. It would not matter how good he appears. You retain him away from the most effective. Garcia is 0-3 within the UFC. He must defend his job at this level. He is an applicable 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 information and way more expertise. Anheliger falls into the latter class greater than the primary. His file is not unimaginable at 12-6, however he is 36 (actually twice Rosas Jr.’s age) and has been combating professionally for 13 years. He was a late bloomer and solely reached the UFC in 2021. This is able to be an enormous 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 troublesome couple of years. She’s handled household tragedies, like her brother and mom’s dying. Extra just lately, she’s struggled with accidents and private points, which saved her out of the Octagon for 16 months.
In her postfight interview Saturday, Cortez stated she will be able to’t be damaged. It will be troublesome to disagree along with her. After the unanimous determination 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 profitable streak amongst UFC feminine fighters. Solely Tatiana Suarez, Blanchfield and Fiorot have an extended streak.
Cortez additionally owns a win over Blanchfield, thought of one of many world’s high ladies’s flyweight fighters. Cortez may very well be headed in that route, too. Her boxing regarded significantly improved. She’s been working onerous at Struggle Prepared MMA underneath coaches Eddie Cha and Santino DeFranco and is a longtime coaching companion of her household pal Henry Cejudo. Cortez just lately went to Brazil to coach with Bellator stars Patricio Freire and Patricky Freire, which actually did not damage her placing.
“I am right here to go up within the rankings,” Cortez stated throughout her post-fight interview. “Subsequent yr, you are gonna see a brand new champion. I am coming for that belt.”
She’s been labeled many occasions to date in her younger MMA profession. Some followers have bordered on being obsessed along with her private life on social media. However Cortez is now standing tall on her combating skill and the successes she’s stacking atop each other — which is all that issues to her in the long run.