Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
“I’m happy with my performance,” Grasso said at the event’s post-fight press conference. “For me it was 3-2 — the second, fourth, and fifth were for me — but I’m not the judge.”
“I expected everything. She’s very competitive, I’m super competitive, and I was expecting a war,” Grasso added.
Grasso and Shevchenko ultimately fought to a controversial split draw in Saturday’s main event rematch. Judge Sal D’Amato scored the bout 48-47 Shevchenko, judge Junichiro Kamijo scored it 48-47 Grasso, and judge Mike Bell turned in a 47-47 scorecard, with the latter awarding Grasso a puzzling 10-8 in Round 5. The accumulated media scores on database website MMA Decisions were also close, sitting 12-11 in Grasso’s favor.
Regardless, the UFC belt remains in Grasso’s possession, and with top contenders Erin Blanchfield and Manon Fiorot already jockeying for the next title shot, UFC officials face a difficult dilemma between booking a Shevchenko trilogy bout next or moving on.
“It’s an interesting question,” Grasso said. “I don’t like to stop the division. There’s a lot of girls fighting to have this opportunity like I did, so I don’t like to stop it.
“It all depends on the UFC,” she added. “If they want a trilogy, let’s do this. If not, I would like to give an opportunity for another girl. I know how it is to be fighting all the time, to wait for your spot, and I wouldn’t like to stop this division. But whatever the UFC says.”
When pressed for her preference between doing a Shevchenko trilogy next or facing a new opponent, Grasso was noncommittal.
“I just fought, I don’t want to fight right now,” Grasso said. “But I don’t know, whatever the UFC says. I’m always up for whatever and any challenge they put in front of me.”
In many ways, the controversial outcome marred what was otherwise a spectacular display of heart and technique between two of the most talented fighters in the sport. Grasso and Shevchenko traded heavy blows and close submission attempts over the course of 25 minutes, with each woman nearly finishing the other. Grasso even knocked Shevchenko down in the second round — and from that point on, the champ couldn’t help but notice that Shevchenko leaned heavily on her wrestling to stay in the fight.
“I was expecting that,” Grasso said. “I know I always do damage with my hands and it’s something I was expecting from her, so I was prepared.
“When you have a good punch, of course you have to change your strategy, and I knew that she changed [her strategy after the knockdown].”
But Grasso saved her best dramatics for last. With the fight still up for grabs in the final round, the Mexico-born champion reversed a Shevchenko takedown attempt and spent the bout’s closing minutes hunting for a rear-naked choke off her rival’s back. It was a scene eerily reminiscent of Grasso’s shocking submission win over Shevchenko at UFC 285.
“I had flashbacks,” Grasso admitted. “But like I said, we are super competitive. She did her job and it was hard to repeat it again.”
“The plan was the finish the fight, but I showed my power,” Grasso added. “I’ve been showing, every single fight, my evolution, everything I’ve been working, and I’m just happy with everything I did in that fight.”
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