Valentina Shevchenko respects Alexa Grasso’s hands, but says ‘we’re fighting MMA, not boxing’

Valentina Shevchenko will never take lightly an opponent, and that includes Alexa Grasso.

The UFC women’s flyweight champion is scheduled to make her eighth consecutive title defense, as she takes on a streaking Grasso (15-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) in the co-main event of Saturday’s UFC 285 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Shevchenko (23-3 MMA, 12-2 UFC) sees a quality challenge in the Mexican fighter, but nothing beyond the level that she’s been used to competing against for so many years.

“Alexa is a good fighter, a strong fighter,” Shevchenko told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “If she’s fighting against me for this title, it’s for a reason.

“But it’s all the same. All are strong fighters at this level of competition. They’re the very best at this level, so it doesn’t matter how good she is, what matters is that I’m here to defend the belt. It’s not about her, it’s about my preparation. If I’m 100 percent in form, I know I can do well in the fight.”


Video: UFC 285 ‘Countdown’ for Valentina Shevchenko vs. Alexa Grasso

Grasso is unbeaten since moving up to 125 pounds. She’s racked up four consecutive wins, defeating notable names such as Viviane Araujo, Joanne Wood, Maycee Barber and Ji Yeon Kim. Although she’s shown a good ground game in her performances, both defensively and offensively speaking, Grasso has enamored fans and pundits with her technical boxing.

Shevchenko is aware of Grasso’s biggest weapon, but feels she’ll need a much more complete striking arsenal to threaten her status as champion.

“Yes, of course (her boxing is good), but there’s a difference here: We’re fighting MMA, not boxing,” Shevchenko explained. “I know that her background is boxing and striking, but that doesn’t mean she’s not going to use all the weapons she can use in MMA. The strategy is different for the fight.

“I’m ready to fight wherever the fight goes –striking, wrestling, ground game. I know what to do and how to dominate in each area. I will show that on Saturday.”

As far as where Grasso’s striking ranks in terms of Shevchenko’s previous opponents, some may she’s right up there with the very best. Shevchenko is hesitant to put her at No. 1 as she’s faced very strong candidates, including a Boxing Hall of Famer.

“She’s definitely good, but you have to keep in mind all the other opponents,” Shevchenko said. “For example, when I fought Holly Holm that was at another weight class, that was a different stature – longer arms, legs. It was all different.

“I wouldn’t say that she’s the best striker in MMA because the fight is MMA style. Mixed Martial Arts. If you only have one weapon, you don’t have many tools to win. You need to be more complete than just a boxer.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 285.

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Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie

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