LAS VEGAS — The UFC has already crowned three Mexican-born champions in 2023 — and the loudest of the three came at UFC 285 on Saturday.
Alexa Grasso (16-3) shocked the world at UFC 286, as she submitted seven-time defending flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko (23-4) at the 4:34 mark of the fourth round. She did so as a 6-to-1 underdog and joined flyweight champion Brandon Moreno and interim featherweight champion Yair Rodriguez as new Mexican champions this year.
“Please punch me, I feel like I’m dreaming,” Grasso said. “I’ve been dreaming for this moment for so long.”
Grasso, of Guadalajara, Mexico, made her UFC flyweight debut just five fights ago in August 2020, after competing for years at strawweight. She was competitive with Shevchenko throughout, but it was her ability to capitalize on a single mistake by the longtime champion that made her a new titleholder.
With under a minute left in the fourth, Shevchenko threw a spinning back kick that exposed her back to Grasso. Grasso timed Shevchenko’s move and immediately jumped to her back. The two fell to the floor where Grasso applied a rear-naked choke. Shevchenko fought the submission for several moments, before eventually tapping to the choke.
“I trained for that, I trained it every single day,” Grasso said. “I knew she did spinning things.”
It is the sixth largest upset in a UFC title fight in the last 15 years.
For Kyrgyzstan’s Shevchenko, the loss snapped a nine-fight win streak dating back to 2017. She appeared to be in relative control of the fight at the time of the mistake, although Grasso did have a lot of success on the feet. Shevchenko varied her attack on the feet, picking at Grasso’s legs and body, and converted four of her six takedown attempts.
She called for an immediate rematch after the result was read.
“This is what happens in mixed martial arts,” Shevchenko said. “You’re winning the fight all around, no doubt and a single situation can change the whole thing. This is part of the game. Congratulations to Alexa.”
Grasso threw Shevchenko into adversity early, when she staggered her with a stinging left hand down the middle. Her boxing combinations continued to find a home throughout, although she struggled to stay on her feet in the second and third rounds. In the fourth, however, she started to defend the takedown better and maintain her desired range.
The UFC had waited a long time to crown its first Mexican-born champion. Moreno became the first ever in January, and now the company has crowned three in three months. This comes on the heels of an announcement earlier this year the company will open a Performance Institute in Mexico City in the fourth quarter of 2023.