UFC Fight Night: 159 | Squared Up: Grasso vs Esparza Predictions & Analysis

Jason Paglia

Wednesday, September 18, 2019 6:46 AM UTC

Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2019 6:46 AM UTC

This weekend the Mexico City Arena is the next stop for knockouts and submissions

<div><p>The Ultimate Fighting Championship has been all over the map the last 8 weeks and UFC Fight Night 159 is no different. This weekend the Mexico City Arena is the next stop for knockouts and submissions. It’s the first time in over two years (August 2017) that Mexico City, Mexico is the site for an event. The co-main event features a pair of top 10 female strawweights when Alexa Grasso squares up against Carla Esparza, in what should be the best female fight on the card. I could wax poetic for a few paragraphs, but I know why you’re here. Let’s get after it.</p><h2><strong>ALEXA GRASSO</strong><strong> (11-2)</strong><strong> vs CARLA ESPARZA (14-6)</strong></h2><div style="text-align:center"><strong><img alt src="https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/t8TGZxI1UPpekPRI3VcpsbyAAt8=/0x0:3872x2581/1200x800/filters:focal(0x0:3872x2581)/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/51742147/usa-today-9657135.0.jpg" style="width:700px;height:467px" /></strong></div><p style="text-align:center"><b>Alexa Grasso</b></p><p>Alexa Grasso made her professional MMA debut on the regional scene in Mexico in late 2012. On the Mexican regional circuit, she amassed a 4-0 record. After a great start to her MMA career she took some time away from the sport. When she returned, she signed a multi-fight contract with the biggest female MMA promotion in the world in Invicta FC. The time away from the sport paid off. Grasso’s first fight in Invicta FC was against Ashley Cummins at IFC 8. She would go on to win that fight and the next three that followed, and with an 8-0 record signed a deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship in August of 2016.</p><p>Since joining the UFC, Alexa Grasso has won 3 of 5 fights and walks into her fight on Saturday the #9 ranked strawweight fighter in the world. Will she take the next step and pass Carla Esparza on the way up the rankings? Below is a look at Alexa Grasso, by the numbers.</p><h2><strong><u>― STATS ―</u></strong></h2><p>•<strong>Method of Victory •Significant Strikes </strong>(per/min)<strong> •Takedowns </strong></p><p>▪4 wins by TKO ▪ 5.79 Landed ▪ 50% Accuracy</p><p>▪7 wins by Decision ▪ 3.78 Absorbed ▪ 63.64% Defended</p><p>▪0 wins by Submission</p><h2><strong><u>― PROS ―</u></strong></h2><p>• <strong>Striking</strong> (I can’t say enough on how impressed I was with the progression of Alexa Grasso’s striking in her last fight with Karolina Kowalkiewicz. I thought she was improving based on her last few fights, but she took a bigger step forward than I expected. The technique was phenomenal.)</p><p>• <strong>Range </strong>(Her ability to get in the pocket to land damaging strikes and immediately bouncing out to avoid the counter keeps getting better and better.)</p><p>• <strong>Speed </strong>(She will undoubtedly have a speed advantage in this fight against an aging gatekeeper. Her hand speed is great, the muscle twitch reaction is above average, and her footwork last fight was really improved. A big part of her range game is based on the angles she cuts to get out of the way of damage. Solid stuff.)</p><h2><strong><u>― CONS ―</u></strong></h2><p>• <strong>Ground Game </strong>(She is listed as a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu but I have never seen her be truly effective on the ground. That is in part because she has 11 wins in MMA and none of them have come by way of submission.)</p><p>• <b>Takedown Defense (</b>At 63% it’s above average I suppose, but she is still being taken down almost 4 of every 10 takedowns attempted. That needs to be better. Especially against a crafty veteran on Saturday.)</p><div style="text-align:center"><img alt src="https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/ZjI-m_4T3djjeIsuB6w3I-sB9zQ=/0x0:3424x2442/1200x800/filters:focal(1392x591:1938x1137)/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/61145013/usa_today_9939601.0.jpg" style="width:700px;height:467px" /></div><p style="text-align:center"><b>Carla Esparza</b></p><p>Carla Esparza’s MMA career came first by way of a wrestling background. She made the varsity wrestling team of her high school and fell in love with it. By the time she got to college she was a beast and was named a back to back All American wrestler in 2008 and 2009 seasons.</p><p>At the point that she knew she had mastered the art of wrestling, she turned her focus towards Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the Gracie Academy. In February 2010 she began her pro MMA career and with a 6-2 record caught they eye of the female MMA promotion Invicta FC. While at IFC she fought three times winning all three fights decisively. It was at that point that she was in front of the eyes of the big dog. She signed with the UFC and never looked back. Her first fight at an Ultimate Fighter Finale was a very impressive win against Rose Namajunas via submission. Since joining the UFC, she has amassed a (5-4) record and will walk into Saturday’s fight the #8 ranked strawweight in the world. Carla Esparza is now known as a gatekeeper, someone you have to beat if you want to fight someone in the top 3. Saturday, she walks to the Octagon to prove she is instead, a title contender. Can she take advantage of what could be one last attempt at greatness? Below is a look at Carla Esparza, by the numbers.</p><p><strong>― STATS ―</strong></p><p>•<strong>Method of Victory •Significant Strikes </strong>(per/min)<strong> •Takedowns </strong></p><p>▪3 wins by TKO ▪2.14 Landed ▪ 36.25% Accuracy</p><p>▪7 wins by Decision ▪2.84 Absorbed ▪ 47.06% Defended</p><p>▪4 win by Submission</p><h2><strong><u>― PROS ―</u></strong></h2><p>• <strong>Wrestling </strong>(In terms of what her biggest strength is, it begins and ends with wrestling for Carla Esparza. It was her first practice into the world of MMA, and it paid off. She was a two-time All-American wrestler. That is serious.)</p><p>• <strong>Takedowns </strong>(The percentage of the time she takes down fighters by the numbers doesn’t do her justice. It might say she only takes her opponent down 37% of the time, but it feels like a lot more. At the very least it is a pro.)</p><p>• <strong>Experience </strong>(Being a gatekeeper has its advantages. It means she has experience against a plethora of upcoming prospects and division staples for quite some time now. Nothing that Alexa Grasso will do on Saturday will surprise her. She has seen it and done it all. That is a plus in my book.)</p><h2><strong><u>― CONS ―</u></strong></h2><p>•<strong> Striking</strong> (While it has gotten better the last couple years, it is at the very least subpar. She is at a distinct disadvantage standing on the feet with Alexa Grasso.)</p><p>• <strong>Strength</strong> (One of the more perplexing things about Carla Esparza is she is at a huge strength disadvantage in almost every fight she has fought. She gets thrown around regularly, but it is her incredible low center of gravity that help her overcome it…. In most cases.)</p><p><a href="http://a.oddsmarket.com/record/v?c=168&amp;a=4417b7df-a48f-47f3-9b45-f79858bc083a&amp;f=3" target="_blank"><img alt src="https://images-production-euw2-753931602578.s3.amazonaws.com/5d582dcf927b95968483da5f/original-10-bet-new-customer-welcome-bonus" style="width:100%" /></a></p><h2><strong>THE VERDICT</strong></h2><p><strong>So, who wins this fight? Well… If you read these predictions often, you know that I will almost always side with the wrestler that can control the fight and has a clearer avenue to victory before I take a more technical striker. BUT about that… ‘Almost always’ does not mean ‘always’.</strong></p><p><strong>I like everything that Carla Esparza stands for. A grizzled veteran that has fought the best, the worst and all the prospects in between. You never hear her say what she is entitled too, she puts her head down and fights. In this industry, that my friends, is to be respected. The problem is, fighters are gatekeepers for a reason. They are no longer at the top of there game, the mountain top is no longer attainable. So with that in mind, a journeyman fighter that was never the best of the best to begin with, is most certainly beatable with the skills that they have remaining.</strong></p><p><strong>Every fight starts standing. That is the problem for wrestlers. I was always big on Alexa Grasso as a prospect. The question I always had was, when was she going to take the next step. In my opinion, against a fighter that has a much better striking game than Carla Esparza, THAT STEP WAS TAKEN.</strong></p><p><strong>Karolina Kowalkiewicz was outclassed on the feet in every way against Alexa Grasso. Grasso’s technique was impeccable. The hand speed was on point, and the combinations came in fast and accurate. The angles were cut in a way that counters were avoided easily and her movement in general was excellent.</strong></p><p><strong>Alexa Grasso showed me that her striking game took the next step in her evolution. If she can avoid being taken down by Esparza, I literally see no way possible that she loses this fight. She will be stronger in the cage on Saturday and I think her sprawl is good enough to keep away from Carla Esparza so she can go to work on the feet. At this price, I have to be on Alexa Grasso on Saturday night. Book It!</strong></p><p><strong>THE PICK</strong></p><p><a href="https://a.oddsmarket.com/record/v?c=150&amp;a=4fd3c129-b898-4816-9a61-9f7e8f34295a&amp;f=1" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="UFC Betting Odds"><strong><em>Alexa Grasso to win at 50/69 (1.73) with Unibet</em></strong></a></p></div>
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