Women’s StrawweightsAlexa Grasso (9-0) vs. Felice Herrig (11-6)
THE MATCHUP: Grasso is a valuable asset to the UFC. She is an exciting striker with a satisfying blend of cerebral technique and fight-changing power. She is an attractive, marketable woman and represents the Mexican audience the promotion has coveted for so long. To that end, I am happy to see the UFC is matching her quite well. You could call it “protecting an investment,” but I call it building a prospect the right way.
To be clear, Grasso is not being given easy fights. The combined record of her last three opponents is a credible 24-12, and Herrig makes it 35-18. These numbers suggest a series of reasonable challenges, none too stiff for a young and inexperienced prospect but enough to test her. Basically, the UFC wants fights in which Grasso is expected to adapt and work before securing a predictable win.
Such will probably the case with this fight, as well. Herrig is a competent kickboxer, and she could use her kicking game to poke holes in Grasso’s defense. Up to this point, kicks have been Grasso’s opponents’ most successful strikes. Herrig is also strong in the clinch, which should allow her to control Grasso and rack up points. This is especially important because Grasso has a worrisome habit of backing herself into the fence and attempting to punch her way free. Then there is Herrig’s ground game, with which she has secured four submissions over the course of her career.
With that said, Herrig tends to shoot herself in the foot. She has openly discussed the mental barriers she believes have held her back throughout her career. The main result of these insecurities has been poor stamina: Herrig tenses and flinches and empties her gas tank early, only to be outworked down the stretch. In 17 pro fights, Herrig has gone the distance 12 times. Six of those fights resulted in a loss; in fact, Herrig has only ever been defeated by decision. Of the remaining six decisions, two were indecisive splits. Grasso suffers from no such problems. Indeed, she possesses remarkable poise for such a green fighter and consistently maintains a steady work rate for 15 minutes with no signs of slowing down.
THE ODDS: Grasso (-285), Herrig (+235)
THE PICK: The parameters of this matchup are predictable and clear. Herrig will likely get some work done in the clinch and force Grasso into an ugly sort of fight. In the end, however, Grasso is the cleaner striker and the better decision-winner. Her takedown defense and scrambling have been pretty solid throughout her career, too, so Herrig will ultimately find the clinch to be a dead end. Expect Grasso to take over as the fight carries on. Grasso by unanimous decision is the pick.
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