Noche UFC: Grasso vs. Shevchenko 2 staff picks and predictions
This week is the first UFC Mexican Independence Day event, dubbed Noche UFC. The main event has Mexico’s Alexa Grasso defending the UFC flyweight title against Valentina Shevchenko; the long-time champ she dethroned in March.
The co-main event is a lot of fun, regardless if neither man fits the Noche UFC theme. Kevin Holland and Jack Della Maddalena are due to fight here and there’s no way this fails to deliver, right?
The rest of the card took a heck of a beating, but there are still some interesting match-ups build mostly around the Mexico vs. The World theme.
At BE we’ve looked over the fight card, watched some tape and analyzed some stats and have decided who we think is going to win every contest on Saturday night.
When it comes to the main event, there’s no landslide for either fighter. Based on our opinions, we’re in for a close fight. But most of us think Grasso will defend her title and make her country proud.
In the co-main, most of us expect the JDM hype train to continue chugging along (and go straight through the Trailblazer).
You can see the rest of our picks below. And please show us yours in the comments!
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Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko
Anton Tabuena: For all the talk about Rousey’s historic title reign, Valentina’s run (while admittedly not as appealing to the masses) had more title defenses and more years as champion. History shows just how hard it is to keep a title reign as long as Valentina had, and she’s also getting up there in age now, but I think it’s still hard to pick against her here. Grasso’s win definitely wasn’t a fluke, as she drilled and capitalized on a move Shevchenko haphazardly throws often. Seeing how the longtime champion also demonstrated how she’s more technical in several other aspects though, I still think she’s the smart pick here. If she stays just a little more disciplined, I think it’s still going to be Valentina Shevchenko by decision.
Chris: I rewatched their first fight and there’s this feeling that the sands of time are slowly starting to wash over Valentina Schevchenko. Jennifer Maia took a round from her, but was generally tossed around so we merely commended her performance. Then Taila Santos proved to be a superior grappler and somehow Bullet didn’t realize the striking disparity and clung to her “mixing it up” approach, perpetually endangering herself. Finally we saw Alexa Grasso step into the octagon, not necessarily looking like the better woman, but the better prepared woman. You spend enough time on the mountaintop beating contenders, every successive one has a better plan. Now Schevchenko is 35 years old an age when the ravages of time and mileage start to show. Look for Grasso to emulate Leon Edwards’ most recent title defense vs Kamaru Usman. Plus the coin flip said Grasso.
Dayne: Immediate title rematches off major upsets have been a mixed bag as of late. Kamaru Usman and Max Holloway were unable to regain their belts despite talks of them being the greatest fighters in their respective divisions prior to losing their belts. On the other side, Amanda Nunes and Israel Adesanya were able to regain their titles. So was Stipe Miocic. But Zhang Weili didn’t until it passed from the woman who took it from her. History isn’t offering a lot of help.
What I do know is Shevchenko is either out of her prime or leaving it. She’s now 35 and was never an elite athlete to begin with. She was an above average athlete, but the difference between elite and above average has been enough to separate contenders from pretenders. Now, the rest of the division is beginning to catch up to Shevchenko, losing her title to Grasso as proof of that.
However, prior to Grasso perfectly countering Shevchenko’s spinning kick, Shevchenko was winning. Grasso found a hole and exposed it to perfection. But she doesn’t have the physicality the proved problematic for Shevchenko against Taila Santos. And that hole she exposed… I would be doubly shocked if Shevchenko exposed herself again in that manner. Plus, Shevchenko may have grown complacent in defense after defense. She has something to prove now. If nothing else, I don’t think she’d be able to live with the fact Amanda Nunes was able to regain her belt if she couldn’t do so herself. Shevchenko via decision
Victor: Chris’ coin is one insightful motherfucker, man. It’s true, though. All of it. Valentina’s been facing opponents that are increasingly both better athletes and better prepared. I say it every time: it’s the kiss of death to be figured out. Will Valentina stay set in her ways? She’s had massive success thus far, she probably thinks she’s just got to make some minor shifts here and there. But if she thinks Alexa’s win was the result of pure luck, it’s gonna be a problem. We can’t ignore that Alexa was doing great in some of the standing exchanges. The finale was purely a result of Alexa and her camp realizing how Valentina’s knack for spinning keeps her exposed. And that’s what it all comes down to – how Valentina processes that loss as well as how much better prepared and comfortable Alexa will be this go-round. Alexa Grasso by decision.
Tim: I agree that Grasso beating Shevchenko was a big upset. But I don’t think it was a fluke. And having seen that fight now, I think Grasso has the verve and stamina to win another decision over Shevchenko. The former champion would take rounds off in the past and if she does that again here, I think Grasso will be able to take those and build momentum towards winning the ones Shevchenko is trying to win, too. Alexa Grasso by decision
Zane: This still feels like a very difficult fight for Alexa Grasso. Sure she had a ton of early success, but as Shevchenko started to get the timing on Grasso’s entries and put a jab in her face, much of that success evaporated by the later rounds, had she not gotten finished, she would have very likely won that fight. Given how porous Grasso’s takedown D was, as well, it seems very clear that a path to victory for the former champ is available.
That said, I also can’t get over the fact that the only fighter who seemed capable of doing any real damage in that bout was Alexa Grasso. Both with her grappling, and with her combination striking in the pocket. Shevchenko has never been a comfortable boxer inside, but Grasso is one of the very few fighters who could really make her pay for that fact.
Eventually, while I can’t help feeling Shevchenko has all the tools to beat Grasso on points, I’m picking the camp to retain. She’s spent so long honing her game just to beat Shevchenko and if someone’s gonna finish this fight, I think it’s gonna be her. Alexa Grasso by decision.
Staff picking Grasso: Chris, Ben, Victor, Kristen, Lucas, Stephie, Tim, Zane
Staff picking Shevchenko: Dayne, Anton, Eddie, Jack
Kevin Holland vs. Jack Della Maddalena
Anton: Can I just say that whenever I see “JDM” I still automatically think about Japanese cars? lol. Anyway, I think this will be a LOT closer than people think. Della Maddalena deserves his hype, but he still has some holes that Holland can cause serious problems with. I think it can go either way, but should Della Maddalena fight smart at range, he should be the sharper striker inside and with the physicality to grind out a win. Jack Della Maddalena by decision.
Dayne: I get it. Della Maddalena didn’t look like the world beater he was being hyped up to be when he barely squeaked by Bassil Hafez. If he can barely squeak by someone like Hafez – who was taking the fight on minimal notice – he can’t possibly be a future champion… right?
MMA is a weird sport. Styles make fights and Hafez proved to be a nightmare matchup for Della Maddalena. And Holland is nothing like Hafez.
That said, Holland is the biggest wild card in the division. He’s incredibly durable, has a freakish reach, and an improving understanding of his own power. That isn’t even mentioning his impressive BJJ. Of course, he can trust too much in that BJJ, but he can’t be taken for granted on the mat. Moving to 170 has also shored up his troublesome takedown defense. But Holland also tends to float through fights, letting the action come to him in whatever manner it will.
Say what you will about Della Maddalena, but he’s going to be the one forcing the action. He’s not going to be deterred by Holland’s punches unless he goes out cold. That’s a distinct possibility, but Della Maddalena is fearless. Plus, Della Maddalena is the better pocket boxer, stringing together combinations at a level that belies his lack of experience. Plus, Della Maddalena has come across as anything other than a stupid fighter. I get the feeling he learns a lot from his close contest with Hafez. Della Maddalena via decision
Chris: Kevin Holland and Jack Della Maddalena are just on two different paths that will momentarily intersect, badly for one of them. Holland has had one foot out the door for a minute now, and his last four fights spell out the ceiling available to him. He’s dangerous, and takes out guys just outside of elite status, and that’s exactly where people believe JDM exists.
Victor: In yet another mostly sentimental pick, I'm going with Jack. And I say this as someone that loves Holland. It seems like Holland will be able to use his reach, output and power to good use along with his vicious submission attacks. His inconsistency is what nags at me here. Jack’s got composure but has mostly faced and beaten less notable opposition. Jack also has that tenacity and ability to get inside, but can be backed up into bad situations sometimes. As ill-advised as it sounds, I’m sticking with him. Jack Della Maddalena by decision.
Tim: I’m really high on Jack Della Maddalena, but I think the last few months have been a little unsettling for him. There have been lots of changes in his schedule and he looked beatable against a late replacement last time out. That’s not down to a lack of skill, but a lack of comfort (I think). I think Holland is about the worst person you could face when you’re not in your grove. I think he’ll pester JDM and outwork him to get a decision, messing with the Aussie’s upward trajectory (which I think he’ll restore soon enough… after this fight). Kevin Holland by decision
Zane: I’m a lot less sold on JDM’s path to victory here than I would have been before that Haifez fight. It could easily be the last minute opponent change and lack of prep, but JDM’s unwillingness to establish the pocket behind his own range tools meant that he got hit a hell of a lot. Add in terrible decision making on takedowns and grappling exchanges and, despite dominating most of the offense, it still felt terribly precarious. Against someone like Holland, who has plenty of reach and an incredible chin and can be a very capable wrestler and grappler when he wants (and a really good counter puncher when he wants to as well). But the question is always “when does he want to?” Holland loves to play things wild and let the fight come to him. If he does that, then JDM is probably going to bring him a hell of a war. I’ll take JDM by decision, but I could easily see Holland winning round 1, losing round 3, and making round 2 a tossup.
Staff picking Holland: Ben, Kristen, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Della Maddalena: Dayne, Anton, Eddie, Chris, Victor, Lucas, Jack, Zane
Raul Rosas Jr. vs. Terrence Mitchell
Anton: As I wrote before his last fight, Rosas has some potential, but he was never really an uber prospect or a decorated athlete in other combat sports that promoters were fighting over (like Bo Nickal), so I never understood the reason UFC had to rush and sign him as a minor. His loss showed an unrefined game that’s expected of his age and experience level. So will he get time to develop while already in the UFC or will he be rushed too early and washout like other unnecessarily hyped raw prospects (remember the Paige & Sage push)? We likely know what UFC matchmakers want, as Mitchell is also a pretty raw grappler that seems really undersized at bantamweight. Rosas has a lot of holes in his game, but I think he has the physicality to keep Mitchell winless in the UFC. Raul Rosas Jr. by Submission.
Dayne: There’s every chance Rosas could be the next Sage Northcutt as I still don’t like the idea of a teenager plying their trade in the UFC. However, even as Northcutt washed out of the UFC, he did so with a winning record. In other words, the UFC is looking to do everything within their power to supply Rosas with a win to get back on track. Mitchell might have been worth taking a flyer on a few years ago, but he’s in his mid-30’s at this point without any notable wins after beating up on cans in the Alaskan regional scene. Rosas via submission of RD1
Victor: I kinda get why Mitchell was brought back to the UFC, but it also doesn’t make that much sense. Dude made his bones on the very… not great Alaska scene. Gets on TUF, gets melted by Kai Kara-France. Goes back to Alaska, racks up wins, now he’s here. Raul’s not much of a striker yet, but grappling with him is like jumping into the wood-chipper from Fargo. Except this is a Mexican wood-chipper, that makes it stronger and it plays some dope tunes while you obliterate a branch. Not a squash match exactly, but clearly throwing Raul another bone in hopes he rouses the local audience in something of a homecoming fight for a guy that cut his teeth on the Mexican regionals. Raul Rosas by submission, round 1.
Tim: Chris’ lucky coin made us all look like fools last week. But there’s no way it sees the future here and knows Rosas is getting KO’d right? Right? Raul Rosas Jr. by submission.
Zane: Mitchell is not good enough to fight at this level. He’s fast, and has some dynamic wrestling, but his game is so shallow that Cameron Saaiman pretty easily out-grappled him off his own takedown entries. Without a comfortable striking game either, that seems like exactly what’s going to happen against Rosas. Mitchell will engage and find himself getting out hustled on the mat. Raul Rosas by sub, round 1.
Staff picking Rosas Jr.: Dayne, Ben, Anton, Eddie, Kristen, Victor, Lucas, Stephie, Tim, Jack, Zane
Staff picking Mitchell: Chris
Daniel Zellhuber vs. Christos Giagos
Dayne: For someone who has been around the UFC as much as Giagos, he’s still a tough one to figure out. He’s fallen short in every contest against a proven veteran in their prime, but he has also successfully turned away the fading veterans he has been pit against. Zellhuber is a rising youngster, something Giagos hasn’t seen too much of. I don’t think he’ll turn Zellhuber away. Zellhuber has an ideal frame, superior athleticism, and appears to have shrugged off the effects of his porous UFC debut. He learned a valuable lesson there and the UFC doesn’t appear ready to have him suffer his second loss quite yet. Zellhuber via decision
Victor: Can Giagos be trusted? He’s got the veteran advantage, tougher than a two-dollar steak and has his wrestleboxing base. Zellhuber is still dynamic with his striking and has lovely mixups with a competent defensive ground game. Gonna go with the more consistent fighter here. Daniel Zellhuber by decision.
Tim: Now that the Octagon jitters are out the way, I think we can restore our faith in Zellhuber as very good prospect. This is a great test for him at this stage, but I think he has enough about him on the feet to cruise by the crafty bet. Daniel Zellhuber via decision
Zane: Giagos tends to need one of a couple of things if he’s going to win in the Octagon: A pronounced wrestling advantage, or a pronounced physical advantage. He might be able to cause Zellhuber some trouble on the first front, but given just how big Zellhuber is, that seems pretty dubious. It doesn’t help either that Giagos tends to leap into the pocket looking for heavy single strikes. It wouldn’t take much for Zellhuber to stick him out at range behind the jab and keep him there. Daniel Zellhuber by decision.
Staff picking Zellhuber: Dayne, Anton, Eddie, Chris, Kristen, Victor, Lucas, Stephie, Tim, Zane
Staff picking Giagos: Jack
Fernando Padilla vs. Kyle Nelson
Dayne: I don’t have a lot of trust in either fighter. I will acknowledge that Nelson looked like a new man in his victory over Blake Bilder. He fought a complete fight, proving effective from bell to bell as opposed to a strong start and fading, his previous modus operandi. However, Padilla is a step up from Bilder. He’s a better athlete, younger, exhibits a greater finishing instinct, and has established himself as someone who can go a hard 15 minutes. Given Padilla is the larger fighter eliminates another advantage Nelson held over Bilder. I won’t be shocked if Nelson emerges victorious as I would have been had this fight taken place a year ago, but I still have to favor the up-and-comer. Padilla via TKO of RD3
Victor: Not gonna look too deep into this. Padilla’s got a better knack for finishes. Taking a flyer on him. Padilla by TKO, round 2.
Tim: Sure, I’ll be a homer here and pick the guy from cottage country. Kyle Nelson by TKO
Zane: I loved what Kyle Nelson had to offer Blake Bilder last time out. But I’m not convinced that part of what happened there wasn’t an indictment on Bilder, who has been heading for that kind of loss for a while, with his insistence that opponents will just be too cowed by his physicality and potential to press him and push the pace. It’s still impressive that Nelson did it, considering how often he’s had a complete meltdown after round 1 of his fights, but I think Bilder helped make that possible. On the flip side, Padilla’s size and reach and more deft striking skill seem more like the kind of thing that will give Nelson prolonged fits. Maybe can push him around and ride out the win, but I expect this will feel more like the Herbert fight, where Nelson just gets stuck on the outside too often. Fernando Padilla via TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Padilla: Dayne, Anton, Eddie, Chris, Kristen, Victor, Lucas, Stephie, Jack, Zane
Staff picking Nelson: Tim
Lupita Godinez vs. Elise Reed
Dayne: This should be an easy fight for Godinez. Reed’s takedown defense has been miserable and Godinez is one of the better wrestlers in the division. Plus, while Godinez’s size will always be an obstacle for her, Reed is one of the few in the division who won’t cause issues with her size. But Godinez has fallen in love with her striking, which would give Reed an avenue to victory. If it remains a striking battle, I favor Reed. But if Godinez can even offer a threat of a takedown, the odds swing strongly in favor of Godinez. Even though Godinez often avoids the clearest route to victory, I still feel obligated to pick her in this contest. Godinez via decision
Victor: Godinez has a solid wrestling background, yet I can’t shake the feeling that Reed has better control and a strength advantage.