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UFC Mexico City: Is it finally Grasso’s time to start moving up the division rankings?

Alexa Grasso’s arrival into the UFC was yet another classic case of just not quite living up to the hype built up in other promotions.

At the end of the day, in mixed martial arts, the UFC is the ultimate indicator of how good you really are in a particular weight class on a global scale. There, the top ranked fighters are really the cream of the crop, and Grasso found that out shortly after making her debut.

As a promising striker coming into the UFC riding a four-fight win streak from Invicta, Grasso was dubbed as the next big thing in the strawweight division. And quite clearly, Dana White, who does love a good hype train, was on board too as he put the young Mexican up against the incredibly tough Felice Herrig in just her second promotional appearance.

Grasso suffered her first career loss in that fight. It was a tough, grueling unanimous decision defeat and a true reality check. The then 23-year-old learned that there are levels to this game, and it was time to get back to the drawing board.

And so, she did. And then returned with a bounce back victory over Randa Markos, another respectable contender. It was clear to see how highly the UFC had regarded Grasso. There was no gimme’s. She was being put up against some of the baddest women in the division from the get go.

And as devastating as it must have been when she followed that win up with another loss, this time to Tatiana Suarez, who is arguably a future champion in the making. It was probably for the best for Grasso to get those hard lessons under her belt early, and at a very young age in fighting terms, before putting together a real run in the division.

Grasso took just over a year off after the loss to Suarez. She battled with some niggles here and there, and then finally returned to face yet another top contender in Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Many may argue that Kowalkiewicz was already on the decline heading into that fight, but regardless of opinions, she still presented a formidable challenge.

A challenge that Grasso managed to pass with flying colors. Finally, it seemed like the Grasso that has been advertised since 2016 showed up. Slick and precise striking, good movement, control of the distance, and very effective in close exchanges. Grasso looked more complete than ever before in that fight.

It was a convincing unanimous decision victory against a former title challenger, and certainly a confidence booster. Now at 26, after receiving some knocks and managing to get back up every time, it could be Grasso’s time to shine under the UFC banner.

Up next, yet another big name to put on her resume in Carla Esparza. This time, a former champion. The inaugural UFC strawweight champion.

And despite perhaps not being at her best in recent years, particularly since losing the title to Joanna Jedrzejczyk back in 2015, Esparza is still a very good marker for how legit a contender is in the division.

Esparza has faced the likes of Cynthia Calvillo, Claudia Gadelha, and Tatiana Suarez in three of her last four fights, clearly showing a pattern of Dana White putting many of the top contenders through “The Cookie Monster” to establish whether they are in fact the real deal, or in Gadelha’s case, if they have still got it.

Coming back to Grasso, this fight is huge for her for many reasons. One, she gets to co-main event a big card in her home country. Pressure. Two, there is a lot at stake here in terms of divisional momentum. Having back-to-back wins over Kowalkiewicz and Esparza can do a fighter no harm, especially in the stacked strawweight division.

After three years in the UFC, Grasso is coming up to the point where she is going to have to start delivering inside the Octagon. The promise is there. She has shown it even in the fights that she has lost. But now it is time for Grasso to start showing off that boxing skillset on a consistent basis.

Putting together a UFC win streak would be a massive step in the right direction for Grasso, and there is no better way to start it off than with a dominant victory in front of the passionate Mexican fans in Mexico City.

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OpinionUFC

Sports journalist based in CA, USA. Twitter: @ArionArmeniakos

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