Alexa Grasso and Viviane Araujo are out to prove they have what it takes to fight UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko. Grasso and Araujo headline UFC Fight Night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday night.
Grasso (14-3) has finally found consistency in the UFC after an impressive run on the regional scene. The Mexican fighter bounced between wins and losses over her first seven Octagon appearances following an 8-0 start to her career outside of the promotion. Grasso has clearly turned the corner, building a three-fight winning streak punctuated by a first-round submission over Joanne Wood in March – her first UFC stoppage win. Grasso is optimistic that a title shot is on the horizon.
“There’s another important fight next weekend with [Manon] Fiorot vs. [Katlyn] Chookagian,” Grasso told reporters at the UFC Fight Night media day on Wednesday. “I think we’re kind of in the semifinals. We’re the four, and the one who makes the best performance I think the champion is going to look at the one who does the best.
“She’s the toughest opponent I’ve trained for. She moves a lot, she has strong hands and her strongest weapon is her jiu-jitsu. She’s a black belt and I think this is a great challenge for me. I’ve been improving a lot my jiu-jitsu game.”
Araujo (11-3) is a pressure-heavy grappler that is always in your face. The division’s sixth-ranked women’s flyweight has generally performed to expectations in the UFC, piecing together a 5-2 run. Absurdly tough, Araujo absorbs damage to get in close and score the takedown. Grasso is confident that a title shot is within reach, but Araujo sees a longer queue between her and Shevchenko.
“I’m pretty sure that whoever wins this fight is going to be in a really good position and a really good spot to be in the top of the division,” Araujo said through an interpreter. “But to be honest, I see other opponents in a better spot, better situation than me. Like Taila Santos, Lauren Murphy, Jessica Andrade and Katlyn Chookagian. Maybe a rematch with her. So yeah, I don’t think my next fight will be a title shot.
“I know her boxing is very good and she moves pretty well. But I’m ready. I’ve been training a lot in boxing and wrestling as well. My wrestling is sharp and I’m ready to take her down and keep her on the ground.”
Veteran fan-favorite Cub Swanson fights streaking prospect Jonathan Martinez in the co-main event. Swanson, who holds a 10-year experience edge over his opponent, has managed to remain relevant after 40 professional fights and enters UFC Fight Night on a 3-1 run. Martinez is also on a 3-1 stretch after surpassing fellow prospects Vince Morales, Alejandro Perez and Zviad Lazishvili. Notably, Swanson makes his bantamweight debut after a 16-year run at featherweight.
The two other main card fights are Dusko Todorovic vs. Jordan Wright in a middleweight contest and a clash between light heavyweights Alonzo Menifield and Misha Cirkunov. An anticipated flyweight fight pitting Askar Askarov vs. Brandon Royval was scrapped on fight week due to Askarov’s weight-cutting issues, according to Royval. Raphael Assuncao vs. Victor Henry was elevated to the main card opener as a consequence.