Grasso-Shevchenko 2 ends in controversy as judge’s baffling scorecard mars title bout

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 16: Alexa Grasso of Mexico reacts after retaining her title with a draw against Valentina Shevchenko of Kyrgyzstan in the UFC flyweight championship fight during the Noche UFC event at T-Mobile Arena on September 16, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Alexa Grasso retained the UFC ladies’s flyweight title after a controversial draw Saturday at Noche UFC in Las Vegas. (Picture by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC by way of Getty Photos)

LAS VEGAS — Noche UFC was an excellent concept executed completely Saturday. Of their wildest goals, UFC officers couldn’t have hoped to script a greater present: The promotion’s first card on Mexican Independence Day weekend was sensational from begin to end, and the rematch for the ladies’s flyweight title between champion Alexa Grasso and former champion Valentina Shevchenko was one for the ages.

It was a detailed, aggressive struggle and one might make a case for both facet profitable, but it surely resulted in a cut up draw. Junichiro Kamijo had it 48-47 for Grasso, the identical as Yahoo Sports activities. Sal D’Amato scored it 48-47 for Shevchenko.

Each scores had been cheap, acceptable and defensible.

Then had been was the 47-47 rating turned in by Mike Bell. It left each fighters, in addition to the 18,766 followers at T-Cell Enviornment, sad and sucked lots of the life out of a really loud and energetic crowd.

Bell gave Shevchenko Rounds 1, 3 and 4, placing her up 39-37 heading to the ultimate spherical. Shevchenko got here out intent on taking the fifth to regain her title. And for the primary roughly three minutes of the final, she was in command.

She tried for a headlock takedown, however Grasso wound up on prime once they landed. She had Shevchenko’s again and put her in a physique triangle. Grasso was pummeling Shevchenko with hammer fists and threatened submissions.

Although Grasso was clearly trailing halfway by way of the fifth, almost everybody who watched, together with probably the most diehard Shevchenko fan, must admit that Grasso did sufficient to win the ultimate spherical.

Bell, although, inexplicably gave Grasso an additional level that made his fifth-round card 10-8, resulting in his closing 47-47 rating. Since Shevchenko was clearly forward within the fifth earlier than the takedown, that meant that Bell gave Grasso a three-point swing for her work within the waning moments. And there’s no manner she got here near a three-point swing within the closing seconds.

That rating, although, turned an excellent evening into an ugh evening. Because the champion, Grasso retained her title, however she didn’t win. She gave her blood within the pursuit of victory, however didn’t get it.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 16: (R-L) Valentina Shevchenko of Kyrgyzstan punches Alexa Grasso of Mexico in the UFC flyweight championship fight during the Noche UFC event at T-Mobile Arena on September 16, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko placed on a present in the primary occasion Saturday evening in Las Vegas. (Picture by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC by way of Getty Photos)

Shevchenko poured her coronary heart and soul into the rematch and gave all the things she had. She fought on after breaking her thumb within the first spherical. She didn’t complain after Grasso kneed her within the head a number of occasions within the third when her hand was touching the mat. Given Shevchenko’s hand was on the mat, the knees had been unlawful, however referee Herb Dean didn’t name it.

By the narrowest of margins, 8-7, Shevchenko received extra rounds however didn’t get both the win or the belt.

“I feel I did all the things to safe the victory however sadly, this occasion was Mexican Independence Day and it’s why it affected the choice of the decide to present 10-8 within the fifth spherical,” Shevchenko stated. “In my expertise, [the judge should give] a 10-8 when one fighter fully has nothing.”

That clearly wasn’t the case right here.

Bell is an effective decide and has been among the many higher ones regularly used within the UFC. However lacking that fifth spherical for an MMA decide in a championship struggle is like an umpire lacking a strike down the center on a 3-2 depend with two outs and the bases loaded within the backside of the ninth inning of Recreation 7 of the World Collection.

The bout could have been one of the best ladies’s struggle of the 12 months, and among the best ladies’s championship bouts in current reminiscence. There have been knockdowns, loads of submission makes an attempt, momentum shifts and drama all through.

Shevchenko added, “I left all the things, together with my coronary heart, within the Octagon.”

Grasso did the identical. However after the fourth, it was clear the struggle hung within the stability. Shevchenko led on two playing cards after 4, however she benefitted by questionable calls. Grasso appeared to win the spherical, however Bell and D’Amato gave the fourth to Shevchenko.

Neither facet knew the way it stood, however each knew it was shut.

“My coaches stated, ‘Hey, let’s do that,’” Grasso stated. “That is the fifth and exit and make an announcement. And that’s what I did.”

Shevchenko made the assertion within the early a part of the spherical, and Grasso did it within the closing 90 seconds or so.

However on the finish of the day, it wasn’t the fighters who dictated the consequence. It was a decide who made a questionable selection to attain the spherical a 10-8.

That’s why a probably celebratory evening left a bitter style in so many mouths.

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