Back in 2014, the UFC sought to replicate the success it had realized with the Ronda Rousey helmed women’s bantamweight division by introducing a women’s strawweight division. A little over two years later, that division is firmly established among the UFC’s older weight classes. It’s now the home of some of the UFC’s most compelling young talent, and has played host to some of the most exciting fights in recent memory.
This weekend, this ever-evolving division will grow by one red-hot talent, as Mexico’s Alexa Grasso is scheduled to make her UFC debut on the main card of UFC Fight Night 98 in Mexico City. In this debut bout, she’ll look to improve her record to a flawless 9-0 against a game veteran in Heather Jo Clark.
As any fan of the strawweight division knows, Grasso’s UFC debut has been a long-time coming. The Guadalajara native began her career about as impressively as one can, winning both of her first two bouts by first-round knockout, each in 15 seconds or less. After this incredible start, she improved her record to 4-0 with two more wins on the regional circuit, which would wind up earning her an invitation to Invicta Fighting Championship, one of the most prestigious promotions on earth for female mixed martial artists.
Grasso’s run in Invicta was no less successful than her early career. Though her time in the Invicta cage would see her face far sterner competition, she made each of her four wins with the promotion look relatively easy.
First up was a dominant decision over Ashley Cummins. Next up was a first-round mauling of Alida Gray. Grasso’s third fight in the Invicta cage, meanwhile, saw her outhustle Mizuki Inoue to a unanimous decision in a fight that would earn both women Fight of the Night honors. With this win over Inoue, she was briefly pencilled for a shot at former Invicta strawweight queen Livia Renata Souza. And while this plan was unfortunately nixed when she sustained a knee injury that kept her sidelined for longer than anyone liked, Grasso was able to bounce back in July of this year when she handed Jodie Esquibel a unanimous decision defeat. This would be the win that earned the Mexican prospect her long-awaited invitation to the Octagon, the spotlight-soaked stage where prospects with the right stuff can transform into champions, millionaires and mainstream superstars.
In the perilous world of mixed martial arts, no fighter’s continued success is guaranteed. A decade-long unbeaten streak can be stopped in its tracks by well-placed left hand or checked kick. Auras of invincibility can be strangled into nothingness by rear-naked chokes and shattered by high kicks. So, for all Grasso’s potential, her success in the UFC is far from a foregone conclusion. The fact remains, however, that she is a fighter with the kind of skills that could make her a force to be reckoned with in the burgeoning strawweight division. Really, it seems feasible that she could one day be challenging for the divisional talent, perhaps even against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who will attempt her fourth consecutive defense against Karolina Kowalkiewicz on the main card of UFC 205 this November 12.
Jedrzejczyk is, after all, the fighter that inspires Grasso the most as she draws ever-closer to her long-awaited UFC debut.
“I want to be like her,” Grasso recently told MMAFighting.com. “I love the way she fights. I truly love and think her striking is super cool, and I admire her a lot. I would love to one day be like her.”
Whether the Mexican prospect realizes these lofty goals will depend greatly on how she performs under the bright lights of the UFC this Saturday. Whatever the outcome of her looming debut, however, it’ll be interesting to watch the 23-year-old prospect continue to grow as a mixed martial artist in the UFC’s dynamic and dangerous strawweight division.
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