Alexa Grasso managed to retain her flyweight title in a rather peculiar manner – through a split draw – in her rematch against Valentina Shevchenko at Noche UFC. As is customary in such cases, fans are buzzing with opinions and questions. What just unfolded in the Octagon, was it fair, and what lies ahead? All these queries will be addressed in this week’s mailbag.
Let’s get this straight: In a draw, technically, nobody wins. That’s how draws operate. And here’s the kicker: that’s not necessarily a bad thing in this situation.
Before diving into the scoring controversy, let me confess that I’m absolutely fine with a draw, though that’s not how I personally scored the fight. I believed Grasso won three of the rounds, with Round 4 being incredibly close. More importantly, neither fighter’s performance was significantly better than the other’s. Unlike many American MMA fans, I appreciate the occasional nil-nil soccer match and, consequently, I’m more inclined to declare a fight a draw when it’s warranted. In the Grasso vs. Shevchenko 2 showdown, it’s genuinely hard to say that either woman proved herself definitively superior.
Upon rewatching the bout, it’s clear that these two fighters are remarkably evenly matched. Shevchenko possesses slightly more striking skill and a wider array of techniques, but Grasso possesses an indomitable spirit and is a shrewd opportunist. Throughout the fight, Shevchenko would dominate with her jab, but then she’d make a mistake or things wouldn’t go as planned, and Grasso would capitalize. In their first encounter, this led to Grasso’s submission victory. In this rematch, it meant Grasso lost many battles but won a few in a spectacular fashion.
By MMA scoring standards, I stand by my scorecard of 47-46 in favor of Grasso, with both fighters earning 10-8 rounds in Rounds 2 and 3. However, viewed holistically, a draw seems justified. Both fighters had their moments of success and moments of vulnerability. Ultimately, Grasso deserves to retain her title.
Here’s the twist: If fans couldn’t see the judges’ scorecards, there wouldn’t be much controversy surrounding this fight. Before the official decision, I suspected the possibility of a draw, with Shevchenko winning Rounds 1, 3, and 4, while Grasso secured a 10-8 in Round 2. I don’t necessarily agree with that scoring, but based on typical judging criteria, it looked like either a draw or a 48-46 win for Grasso. So, when the split draw was announced, it didn’t seem too off. Most fans appeared to agree. However, the problem arose when the scorecards were revealed, showing that Mike Bell had awarded Grasso a 10-8 in the fifth round.
Was this a reasonable score? No, by most interpretations of judging criteria, it wasn’t. Shevchenko had clearly dominated the first three minutes of that round before a takedown attempt, back-take, and a choke attempt by Grasso. While Grasso’s offense was impactful, it wasn’t enough to erase Shevchenko’s early dominance. And Mike Bell knows this. He has a history of being one of the more astute judges. In reality, it was a “make-up call.”
Mistakes happen in sports officiating, and officials often seek to rectify them, which is what Mike Bell attempted here. After the fifth round, he likely realized that Shevchenko should have won the fight, but the idea of her winning a fight where she was seriously compromised in the second round and nearly finished in the fifth didn’t sit right with him, so he opted for the make-up call. It might not have been artful or entirely justifiable, but I’m not overly perturbed by it.
What truly irks me, though, is that he didn’t award a 10-8 score for Round 2. In my humble opinion, that round demanded a 10-8. Judging criteria permits 10-8 scores in certain scenarios, and Round 2 felt like one of those situations, unless you consider Shevchenko’s stalling from top position for 90 seconds as offense. Grasso dominated that round and severely hurt the former champion. Had he scored it accurately, as he did in the first fight of the night between Josefine Knutsson and Marnic Mann, the need for the make-up call might have been avoided.
A Third Showdown?
It appears quite likely. Although Grasso didn’t commit to an immediate rematch, unless unforeseen circumstances arise, the UFC will likely arrange a third fight between these two warriors. From a business perspective, it makes sense. Trilogies are easier to promote, especially when the most recent encounter was a Fight of the Year candidate that ended in a draw. Additionally, there’s no Conor McGregor waiting to challenge for the women’s flyweight belt.
The only potential obstacle could be injuries. Shevchenko suffered a hand injury during the fight, so she’ll need some time to recover, although it likely won’t be an extended absence. Grasso, on the other hand, seemed to emerge relatively unscathed, but after a battle like that, everyone needs a break. If Shevchenko requires surgery and several months off, perhaps Grasso could have a title defense early next year. However, that’s not the UFC’s ideal scenario. The logical path forward is the trilogy, while Erin Blanchfield and Manon Fiorot could vie for a legitimate No. 1 Contender status.
As for UFC 300, it’s a possibility. Rumors suggest the UFC is heading to Mexico next year, so if that occurs in the first two quarters, saving this fight for that event makes perfect sense. If not, a co-main event or third title fight at UFC 300 in April could be a fitting stage.
Not just yet. While Shevchenko has had success at bantamweight, including a controversial loss in her rematch against Amanda Nunes for the title, and holds a victory over Julianna Peña, one of the contenders for the presumed vacant bantamweight title, her immediate focus should be on settling the score with Grasso. There’s unfinished business between them that demands resolution. If she prevails in a third showdown, perhaps then they could consider a fourth fight or Shevchenko may opt to cap off her career by moving up to bantamweight.
Thank you for reading, and a big shoutout to everyone who sent in tweets! If you have any burning questions about combat sports or anything even remotely related, feel free to send them my way at @JedKMeshew, and I’ll do my best to provide engaging answers. Whether your questions are topical or utterly eccentric, as long as they’re intriguing, I’m all ears. Thanks once again, and I look forward to connecting with you next week.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about MMA Controversy
Q: What was the result of the Grasso vs. Shevchenko fight, and why was it controversial?
A: The result was a split draw, with Grasso retaining her flyweight title. The controversy stemmed from the judges’ scoring, particularly a questionable 10-8 round for Grasso in the fifth, which many considered unjustified.
Q: Will there be a third fight between Grasso and Shevchenko?
A: It’s highly likely. Trilogies are marketable, and given the competitive nature of their previous bouts, a third showdown is a strong possibility.
Q: How did the judges’ “make-up call” impact the fight’s outcome?
A: The make-up call was controversial as it influenced the final verdict. Mike Bell, one of the judges, awarded Grasso a 10-8 in the fifth, possibly to rectify an earlier error. This decision altered the fight’s outcome, leading to a split draw.