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UFC 258 – Maycee Barber vs Alexa Grasso Preview

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The lone UFC PPV event of February is one that is flying under the radars of many fight fans. While there may not be names like Conor McGregor, Jorge Masvidal, or Amanda Nunes, there are a plethora of ranked contenders competing at UFC 258. The night will be capped off by Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns competing for the welterweight championship.

The co-main event for UFC 258 will see Maycee Barber vs Alexa Grasso in a battle that showcases two top-15 women’s flyweights. Barber currently sits at #10 in the rankings, while Grasso ends the list at #15. While this fight may not jump off the page at you, this very well could be a matchup between two future title challengers in this division. So join us as we break it all down!

Maycee Barber

One of the biggest prospects to come from the infamous Dana White’s Contender Series is making her long-awaited return this weekend at UFC 258. That’s right, “The Future” as she has been dubbed, is back! After over a year away from the octagon due to an ACL tear, Maycee looks to come back better than we have ever seen her before. 

With a professional record of 8-1, including 3-1 in the UFC, Barber quickly made a name for herself after picking up a third-round TKO victory on DWCS back in July 2018. Her momentum from the show would grow rapidly as she made her official UFC debut just a few months later at the UFC’s 25th-anniversary show in Denver, Colorado.

At the time, Maycee was the youngest fighter on the UFC roster and fighting in front of her home state. Safe to say, the UFC saw the star power that Barber possessed right from the start. She backed up that hype too, by picking up a TKO victory in her debut against Hannah Cifers. From here, the sky truly seemed to be the limit.

Following her big debut win, Barber would make a swift return to the UFC octagon in March 2019 to become the first woman to finish JJ Aldrich. This win did not come without adversity, however. Up to this point, Barber looked untouchable. But Aldrich gave it her all and even won the first round of the bout with a solid standup strategy. However, Maycee and her corner made the proper adjustments and she wasted no time in the second round going in for the kill.

Maycee Barber celebrating her win. Maycee Barber vs Alexa Grasso
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – MARCH 23: Maycee Barber celebrates her TKO victory over JJ Aldrich in their women’s flyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Bridgestone Arena on March 23, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

After this win, Barber would pick up another TKO victory, this time over submission specialist Gillian Robertson. This was Maycee’s cleanest performance to date and got her opponent out of there just three minutes into the fight. After this win, fans and UFC matchmakers alike realized that the competition was about to get stiffer and we would truly get to see just how good Barber is.

This brings us to her most recent bout against one of the pioneers of women’s mixed martial arts, Roxanne Modafferi. A woman that has truly faced the who’s who of the fight game and been fighting professionally since Maycee was just four years old! Roxanne did, in fact, throw a lot of problems toward Barber, especially in the grappling world in round one. Immediately Barber knew she had to keep her distance to avoid being taken down again in the second round. Unfortunately, just fifteen or so seconds into the round, as Maycee attempted to back up to avoid a strike from Modafferi, her knee completely gave way, and her ACL tore.

From this point on, Barber was fighting on one leg and it was clear how serious the injury was. Maycee showed her toughness as she pushed hard for the remainder of the fight. At one point, she even had Roxanne in a guillotine submission, but it was not enough to put away the “Happy Warrior” before the fight was over. Roxanne picked up the unanimous decision victory at UFC 246 and handed Barber her first-ever taste of defeat in the process.

So the biggest question heading into Maycee Barber’s fight at UFC 258 is simple. How will she perform after such a devastating injury? Still labeled as one of the biggest female prospects in the UFC, many are expecting her to come back like she never missed a beat.

I, on the other hand, have my worries. However, I do not doubt the toughness of Barber and her drive to succeed. This is the same woman who once had a timer on her phone that showed how long she had to become the youngest UFC champion and beat Jon Jones’ record. While this may no longer be possible due to the long injury layoff, the champion part is still very much in play. This Saturday will go a long way in showing us how close Barber may be to a coveted title shot.

Alexa Grasso

The Mexican-born Alexa Grasso has had the prospect title paired with her ever since she made her UFC debut back in 2016, and for good reason. Grasso’s professional record of 12-3, including being 4-3 in the UFC, does not quite do justice to the resume she has built while in the promotion.

Grasso came into the UFC very highly praised after her great run in Invicta, where she went undefeated through four fights and won her four previous fights before that in other organizations. Any female who enters the UFC from Invicta is immediately looked at as a threat to any division and the UFC wasted no time throwing Alexa into the deep waters.

Her debut in the organization was against another highly touted veteran at the time, Heather Jo Clark. Grasso succeeded in this bout and picked up the unanimous decision victory. Next, she was matched up with another seasoned veteran of the UFC in Felice Herrig in just her second bout with the promotion. Unfortunately for Grasso, this fight would not go her way as Felice would hand her first-ever professional loss via unanimous decision. For the first time in her career, Alexa had to go back to the drawing board.

Grasso would in fact bounce back, this time against Randa Markos, who is no easy fight for anyone. Following the win over Markos, Grasso would find herself fighting another incredibly tough opponent. This time she was up against the undefeated “Female Khabib”, as I like to say, Tatiana Suarez. Right from the opening bell, Tatiana swarmed Grasso, and with her immense pressure and ground game, she quickly cracked Grasso and was able to finish the fight via a rear-naked choke submission just under three minutes into the fight.

Now, all of the sudden, the once undefeated Grasso was 2-2 in the promotion and needed a big win to set her back up to move through the rankings. This would line her up with former strawweight title challenger and Polish striker, Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Alexa was able to pick up the biggest win of her young UFC career on this night and really showcased her well-rounded striking game. You may start seeing a trend here because following this victory, Alexa would once again fall short in her next bout.

Alexa Grasso raising her hands in victory. Maycee Barber vs Alexa Grasso
CHICAGO, IL – JUNE 08: (R-L) Alexa Grasso of Mexico celebrates her victory over Karolina Kowalkiewicz of Poland in their women’s strawweight bout during the UFC 238 event at the United Center on June 8, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

This next defeat would come at the hands of the inaugural UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion, Carla Esparza. While Grasso dominated in the standup and even locked up an armbar from the bottom at one point, the high-level wrestling of Carla garnered the judge’s scorecards in her direction and handed Alexa another loss, to another top-tier contender. This did not come without controversy, however, as it was a majority decision loss for Grasso, meaning one judge scored the fight a draw following a dominant third round from Alexa.

After this loss, Alexa would move up a weight class to the UFC women’s flyweight division. Her 125-pound debut would come against Ji Yeon Kim back at UFC Vegas 8 and my oh my did Grasso look great in this fight. This bout not only showed how good Alexa can perform on the feet but also how this weight class may be best suited for her success. With this win, Grasso cracked into the rankings, right at number fifteen. Now she is looking to climb even more with a victory this weekend over Maycee Barber at UFC 258. This will not come easy for her and she will have to show up ready to leave it all in the cage.

Maycee Barber vs Alexa Grasso Prediction

This fight at UFC 258 intrigues me for many reasons. The first being how important it is for each of these women as they look to make their way into the top ten of the UFC women’s flyweight division. The second is the mystery as to how this fight will actually play out. As previously mentioned, Grasso looked incredible in her first fight in this division, and her striking was on point. Barber, on the other hand, likes to turn her bouts into dogfights. She imposes her will on her opponents and eventually cracks them with her aggressive striking.

I do see this fight staying on the feet a majority of the time. For Maycee, I think it may be smart to implement a wrestling-first attack for this one. She has shown her well-roundedness in previous fights and that she is comfortable being in top position. As for Grasso, we have seen that when she gets taken down and on her back, she can become uncomfortable at times.  

If this fight stays on the feet, we are in for a very interesting bout. In distance striking, Grasso will have the advantage. In the clinch and dirty boxing range, it will benefit Barber. So which of these women will be able to keep the fight at their respective range? That is the question.

I think that with Maycee’s strength and aggressiveness, she will be able to pressure Grasso to the cage and will have the most success and biggest shots there. I do think Alexa will have her moments, as we have seen Maycee become vulnerable when the striking stays at longer ranges. However, I don’t see this playing a bigger role than what Barber’s aggressiveness will. One thing is certain, these women are deserving of the co-main event slot at UFC 258 and they are going to show the world why this Saturday.

Maycee Barber vs Alexa Grasso Fight Prediction: Maycee Barber via unanimous decision.

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Dominic Sallee is a Combat Sports writer. He focuses primarily on the UFC, with plans to venture out with pieces from other MMA organizations in the future. Along with writing, Dominic is also the Co-Host of the Below Average Joe's MMA Podcast, which produces 2-3 new episodes per week about all things in the MMA community!