A new year is here, and that means it’s time for Combat Press to take a look back at the best of MMA in 2023. In the coming days, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
Since nearly the division’s inception, the women’s flyweight division had been ruled by one woman, Valentina Shevchenko. That all changed in 2023, when Alexa Grasso pulled off a once-in-a-lifetime upset to claim the belt at UFC 285. Admittedly, Shevchenko had begun to look human in her last few fights, but she was on a nine-fight winning streak and is arguably the best female fighter in the sport.
With the new wave of contenders coming along, Grasso was one that most people thought wasn’t quite talented enough to dethrone Shevchenko. She has superb boxing, but, stylistically, a showdown with Shevchenko was an uphill battle. When push came to shove, Grasso’s boxing was her biggest physical advantage, but her game plan and mindset won her the title. She was able to sneakily take the back of Shevchenko from a clinch situation and secure a crushing face-crank that forced a tap in the fourth round. Not only did Grasso pull off a stunning upset, but she became the first Mexican women’s UFC champion, a huge accomplishment for a burgeoning market in mixed martial arts.
That fight alone might have been enough to earn the Fighter of the Year honors, but Grasso dug deep and pulled off a split draw in their rematch six months later, proving that her first victory certainly wasn’t a fluke. Whether the pair will meet again for the trilogy is yet to be seen, but that massive upset performance, and gritty showing in the rematch, earn Alexa Grasso the Combat Press 2023 MMA Award for Female Fighter of the Year.
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