Alexa Grasso’s Career In Depth: History Of The UFC Strawweight Champion

Image for Alexa Grasso’s Career In Depth: History Of The UFC Strawweight Champion

Alexa Grasso is a Mexican mixed martial artist who competes in the strawweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). She has been competing professionally since 2012 and has a record of 14 wins and 4 losses. A former Invicta FC strawweight title challenger, Grasso is currently the UFC Women’s strawweight champion. This content brief will provide an in-depth look at her career and how she became the UFC strawweight champion. 

Alexa Grasso’s ascent to the UFC Strawweight Champion was preceded by her growing popularity as a prominent MMA fighter from Mexico. She has secured a sponsorship deal with the popular crypto sports betting platform Stake, alongside UFC fighters, such as Israel Adesanya, Glover Teixeira, and Jailton Almeida. Notably, former World Champion Francis Ngannou was also a previous brand ambassador for the platform.

Early career 

Alexa Grasso made her professional debut in 2012 as a 19-year-old, bursting into the local Mexican scene with three straight first-round finishes. In her first professional fight, she knocked out Sandra del Rincon. Five months later, she followed it up with another first-round finish against Lupita Hernandez before forcing the referee to stop her fight against Alejandra Alvarez.  

In 2014, Grasso jumped from local promotions to Invicta FC, beating Ashley Cummins via unanimous decision. Three months later, she stopped Alida Gray in the first round. Grasso took a year off following that fight but immediately returned to her winning ways, beating Mizuki Inoue via unanimous decision in February 2015.   

Big league jump 

After one more unanimous decision win in Invicta FC (against Jodie Esquibel), the UFC finally signed Alexa Grasso in November 2016. She won her UFC debut against Heather Clark, getting another unanimous decision win and extending her undefeated winning streak to nine.  

Grasso’s next UFC fight would come against Felice Herrig in February 2017, where she would come up short for the first time in her career, losing via unanimous decision. In the first round of her match against Herrig, she had to deal with her opponent’s kicks. She responded with punch combinations, but her moves were no match for Herrig’s strong fists. 

The second round was still dismal for her. Though she fought hard, Herrig seemed more powerful and confident, delivering solid strikes. The loss marked the beginning of a challenging stretch for the Mexican fighter, splitting her next four fights while struggling to make weight and dealing with various injuries.   

Weight-cutting and injury struggles 

Alexa Grasso looked to bounce back from the first loss of her professional career, facing Randa Markos in front of a raucous crowd in Mexico City. However, she was dealing with a urinary tract infection, causing her to weigh in at 119 pounds, 3 pounds over the strawweight limit. Despite the issues and being fined 20% of her purse, Grasso eked out a split decision win in an exciting back-and-forth affair.  

After losing her next fight via rear-naked choke in the first against Tatiana Suarez, Grasso suffered a knee injury, causing her to pull out of a scheduled fight vs. Angela Hill. Injuries would be the theme over the next year for Grasso. Her scheduled opponent, Marina Rodriguez, had to pull out of UFC Fight Night 144 due to a hand injury. And when the pair was rescheduled to fight a few months later, it was Grasso’s turn to drop out of the card due to injury.   

Evolution as a fighter 

While Grasso would split her next two fights, she showed excellent signs of evolving her game. In a unanimous decision win over Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 238, Grasso showcased her striking, as her movement and timing proved too much for the former title challenger. And even in a majority decision loss to former strawweight champion Carla Esparza, Grasso showed an aggressive ground game to complement her impressive striking.  

In hindsight, it was around this time that Grasso showed signs she could be a top contender. She had the striking advantage over most (if not all) of her opponents. And with her jiu-jitsu becoming increasingly threatening, fighters with a wrestling advantage would have to think twice before taking the fight to the ground.   

However, weight-cutting issues would finally force her to move up to flyweight, missing weight for her fight against Cláudia Gadelha by 5.5 pounds. The Nevada State Athletic Commission struck the matchup off the card, as fighters aren’t allowed to compete in the state if the weight difference is over 3 pounds.   

Move to flyweight 

In August 2020, Alexa Grasso moved up to flyweight against Ji Yeon Kim. Without cutting as much weight, the Mexican fighter displayed all the tools that made her a promising prospect. She showcased long combinations as she lit Kim up, maintaining her speed at 115 pounds and combining it with the increased power of a 125-pounder.  

After the unanimous decision win, Grasso said she felt amazing in the new weight class. And it undoubtedly showed in her performance as Grasso issued a stern warning to the rest of the division with her stellar flyweight debut.  

In her next fight at 125, Grasso continued to display her evolving all-around game against a game opponent in Maycee Barber. The Mexican fighter once again showed a distinct advantage on the feet, landing heavy shots in open space. And while it was more competitive in the clinch, Grasso’s quick transitions on the ground allowed her to threaten with submissions.  

The impressive performance resulted in a unanimous decision win signaling Grasso was ready to test herself against the best in the division.   

Climbing the flyweight ladder 

In March 2022, Alexa Grasso looked to make it three in a row in the flyweight division when she took on Joanne Wood. Grasso quickly displayed her evolving ground game, initiating a takedown early in the first and controlling Wood for half the round while landing short punches. The two had a back-and-forth exchange after Grasso let Wood back up.  

With under two minutes left in the first, Wood landed a spinning elbow. However, Grasso capitalized on the position to land a takedown, taking Wood’s back and quickly sinking a rear naked choke. Wood tapped a few seconds later, giving the rising flyweight contender her first career submission win and first finish in over seven years.  

Before the fight, Grasso expressed confidence, citing that her ground game now matches her striking proficiency perfectly, allowing her to finish fights wherever it goes.   

Five-round test 

In her next fight, Alexa Grasso would headline her first main event against the dangerous Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Viviane Araujo. The sixth-ranked Araujo came into the octagon with an 11-3 record, while Grasso rode a three-fight win streak since moving up to flyweight. Meanwhile, it was the first five-round fight for both fighters, which served as a good test before potentially challenging for the title.  

The two fighters were happy to trade on the feet for most of the fight. While Araujo established her jab early, Grasso landed the crisper combinations. It was a high-paced standup battle throughout five closely contested rounds. But in the end, the judges found Grasso to have landed the harder shots, giving her a unanimous decision win, 50-45 and 49-46 (twice).    

Enter the most dominant women’s UFC champion  

With seven straight title defenses in a title reign that stretches back to 2018, Valentina Shevchenko is the most dominant women’s champion in the history of the UFC. Apart from a split-decision win in her last fight against Taila Santos, she has knifed through every title challenger as she built one of the most impressive runs of dominance in the sport. As such, when the UFC announced her fight against Alexa Grasso, many felt it was merely part of a dominant champion going through the entire division.  

On the other side of the cage, Grasso has been clawing her way up the ladder across two divisions for a shot at a title. But even after stringing four impressive victories following her move to flyweight, the odds were stacked against the Mexican star. Even Grasso admitted to being in awe of Shevchenko’s dominant run when the fight was first announced. 

However, as the training camp progressed and she continued to build on the mix of skills that led her to a title fight against one of the greatest fighters of all time, her confidence progressively increased. According to Grasso, her training partners reinforced the belief that she could submit Shevchenko. Meanwhile, her strength and conditioning work made her ultra-confident that she could sustain her pace going into the championship rounds.   

Biting ‘The Bullet’ 

Alexa Grasso quickly displayed confidence in the opening round, matching Valentina Shevchenko’s speed and distance management while avoiding the champion’s deadly counters. The challenger threw beautiful combinations that had Shevchenko on her back foot. And after The Bullet ate a powerful left straight-right hook combo, it was evident on the champion’s face that she knew this was a real challenge in front of her.  

With her nose bloodied by Grasso’s boxing display, Shevchenko immediately looked for a double leg early in the second round. Grappling was the area many believed the champion had a distinct advantage. But despite being taken down twice in the round, Grasso fought back to her feet while escaping significant damage. She had previously mentioned how her ground game has progressively matched her striking level, and it was showing against the champion. 

However, as skillfully as Grasso scrambled whenever the fight hit the ground, Shevchenko’s ground control time gave her the advantage. And while the Mexican’s switching stance gave the champion problems on the feet, Shevchenko’s backup plan was working as she led 2-1 after three rounds. In an interview after the fight, Grasso noted that Valentina switched up her wrestling after the first round, utilizing deep double legs instead of her usual Greco—a tactic that surprised the challenger.   

Mexican shockwaves 

Valentina Shevchenko was increasingly landing counters and combinations in between wrestling exchanges. However, Alexa Grasso was willing to eat a couple of shots to land a few of her own. And whenever she did, the champion wanted to wrestle. Grasso was hurting Shevchenko, and she knew it.  

The fourth round opened much like the first, with Grasso pressuring while avoiding Shevchenko’s counters. Eventually, the forward pressure bothered Shevchenko enough that she felt the need to throw a spinning back kick to re-establish space. Unfortunately for her, that was the moment Grasso was waiting for.  

The challenger adeptly stepped to her right just as Shevchenko threw the kick, immediately taking the champion’s back with ninja speed after she spun. Just as quickly, Grasso sank a rear naked choke and proceeded to flatten Shevchenko on the ground. Around 20 seconds later, Grasso had squeezed the air out of the champion’s head enough to make her tap. 

And just like that, the UFC Women’s Flyweight division had a new champion for the first time in five years. “Please punch me. I feel like I’m dreaming,” the +600 underdog said in the post-fight octagon interview. While Grasso won the flyweight title after just five fights in the division, she had been battling the best of the women’s strawweight division for years.  

“I’ve been dreaming of this moment for so long,” the first Mexican-born women’s champion added.  

The UFC’s Mexican wave 

Alexa Grasso joined UFC Men’s Flyweight champion Brandon Moreno and interim featherweight champion Yair Rodriguez as current Mexicans holding UFC belts. This Mexican wave perfectly coincides with the UFC’s expansion plans, as it’s set to open the UFC Performance Institute in Mexico City in late 2023.  

According to Grasso, September is the ideal date for her rematch with Valentina Shevchenko, and she hopes the UFC can make it happen in Mexico. But before now and the rematch, Grasso can enjoy the mixed martial arts success she has worked so long and hard to achieve.   

Final words 

Alexa Grasso’s career in MMA has been impressive, from her early days in the sport to becoming the UFC strawweight champion. Her striking skills, footwork, and improved ground game have made her a force to be reckoned with in the division. Her victory over Valentina Shevchenko is a testament to her hard work and dedication to the sport. Grasso will undoubtedly continue to be a top fighter in the UFC and defend her title against other top contenders.

Share this article

Includes collaborations of the MMASucka Team, guest posts from non-LWOS and MMASucka writers, and sponsored posts.

Leave a comment