The Film Room: Alexa Grasso

By Kevin Wilson Sep 19, 2019
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The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s ninth-ranked strawweight will return to the Octagon when Alexa Grasso faces former 115-pound titleholder Carla Esparza in the UFC Fight Night 159 co-main event on Saturday in Mexico City. Despite a few missteps, Grasso remains one of the more intriguing young strawweights, and a win over Esparza would represent a significant move towards the top of the division. She owns a perfect 6-0 record in her native Mexico, with two of those fights having taken place under the UFC banner. Grasso made her professional debut at just 18 years of age, and six years later, she finds herself on the cusp of becoming a legitimate contender at the sport’s highest level. Since she joined the UFC in 2016, she has compiled a respectable 3-2 record. Despite limited experience, Grasso has shown herself to be a remarkably technical boxer who continues to round out her game with each fight. With lightning-quick hands and tactical aggressiveness, the Lobo Gym standout has emerged as one of the best strikers in the strawweight division.

Grasso provides the material for this installment of The Film Room.



In her most recent fight with Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Grasso looked better than ever after a yearlong layoff and finally showed the extent of her capabilities. Her striking was patient and precise, and her defense held up through all three rounds. She circled Kowalkiewicz, feinted her way into the pocket and picked her apart all night with simple 1-2s down the middle. As good as she looked, the most impressive part of the fight was her patience. Early in her career, she was never afraid of a firefight and would run forward to force exchanges in the pocket. Now, she tactically waits for openings and uses her timing and footwork to create a dominant angle for her right hand down the middle.



Something else that looked much improved against Kowalkiewicz was Grasso’s jab. Grasso is constantly circling her opponent, which helps her create dominant angles and stay off the fence. In this fight, she was throwing the jab while taking a V step to the left to set up the right hand. She also doubled up on the jab to get off the cage a few times and used it as a counter when Kowalkiewicz became desperate. This newfound jab serves as the base of her style, so it will be interesting to see what she does when someone can time it and take it away.



Grasso also showed some effective kicks in her encounter with Kowalkiewicz. She always liked to attack the legs, but this time, she ended her combos with a quick kick to keep the opponent guessing. Grasso could probably do without throwing some kicks in succession. She has been known to throw two quick leg or body kicks in a row. While they have the potential to land, this kind of predictability will catch up to her eventually. It would be nice to see her throw one kick at a time or mix up the kicks when she throws them in succession.



Although Grasso looked much more patient and tactical in her return, we know she still has some dog in her and can get caught trading in the pocket. Her high guard and ability to keep her stance during these chaotic moments allows her to get the better of the opponent in most of these exchanges. However, the right counterstriker will find a way to exploit this tendency. Esparza will not be that woman, but as Grasso gets closer to the Top 5, she would be wise to tone down these wild exchanges.



We have not seen Grasso work in the clinch much, but she had a couple of strong moments in the Kowalkiewicz fight. Kowalkiewicz looked to duck under Grasso’s 1-2 and grab double underhooks, but every time she attempted to do so, Grasso hammered in knees to the body or a couple of quick elbows. Esparza likes to grapple, so instead of shooting for takedowns from the center, she should look to exploit Grasso’s occasional aggressiveness and duck under her strikes for a counter takedown. There are not many examples of how Grasso deals with grapplers, so if Esparza fights smart, she will waste no time looking for a takedown.



Grasso is usually the leading attacker, but she landed some excellent counters against Kowalkiewicz. Her counter jab landed all night, and she connected with some clean counter overhand rights when Kowalkiewicz aimlessly walked forward. For someone who thrives as the aggressor, it was promising to see that Grasso can have moments of success on the counter when working on the outside. Advertisement

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