Grasso retains title after draw with Shevchenko

LAS VEGAS — The rivalry between Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko might need a trilogy.

Grasso and Shevchenko fought to a split draw (48-47, 47-48, 47-47) on Saturday night in the main event of Noche UFC at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Because of the result, Grasso retained the UFC women’s flyweight title.

Saturday’s bout was an immediate rematch after Grasso beat Shevchenko to win the belt six months ago.

The fight went back and forth. Grasso dropped Shevchenko in the second round. Shevchenko nearly finished Grasso in the third round with a mounted guillotine choke. The fight ended with Grasso on Shevchenko’s back landing punches.

The card was the UFC’s first celebration of Mexican Independence Day. The heavily Mexican and Mexican-American crowd booed Shevchenko and the result of the bout.

Grasso won the first fight via fourth-round submission (rear-naked choke) to win the title at UFC 285 in March. She was the first Mexican-born female fighter to win a UFC championship.

In her postfight interview, Grasso was noncommittal about doing a rematch.

“It depends,” she said. “I have to talk with my coaches and my manager and we’ll see what’s next.”

Shevchenko said she thought she was the rightful winner but that the judges “felt pressure” because it was Mexican Independence Day.

“I was expecting a battle,” Shevchenko said. “I fought until the end, and I think I did enough.”

Judge Mike Bell had Grasso winning the fifth round 10-8, which led to the draw. He had Shevchenko winning the first, third and fourth rounds and Grasso winning the second and fifth. Judge Junichiro Kamijo had Grasso winning, with victories in the second, fourth and fifth rounds. Judge Sal D’Amato had Shevchenko winning, with victories in the first, third and fourth rounds.

Coming in, ESPN had Shevchenko ranked No. 2 and Grasso at No. 3 in its women’s pound-for-pound rankings.

Grasso (16-3-1) is unbeaten in six straight fights, all since moving up to flyweight from strawweight. The 30-year-old Guadalajara native has an 8-3-1 record in the UFC. She was the first UFC champion ever who trained primarily in Mexico, doing her camps in her hometown at Lobo Gym, led by her coach and uncle Francisco “Pancho” Grasso.

Shevchenko (23-4-1) had a nine-fight winning streak snapped by Grasso in their last fight. The Kyrgyzstan native, who spent many years living and training in Peru, did most of her training camp in Thailand. Shevchenko, 35, had seven successful title defenses as women’s flyweight champion, the most consecutive title defenses by any woman in UFC history, as well as the most in one division by any woman in UFC history. “Bullet” has the most title wins in UFC women’s flyweight history (8).

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