Phil and David break down everything you need to know about Markos vs. Grasso for UFN 114 in Mexico, and everything you don’t about synthetic sniffers.
Randa Markos vs. Alexa Grasso this 5 August 2017 at the Arena Ciudad de México in Mexico City, Mexico.
One sentence summary:
Phil: A natural bite-down-on-the-mouthpiece brawler takes on an instinctive technician at a strawweight crossroad.
David: Storm meets calm on the rawhide runaway.
Record: Randa Markos 7-4 Alexa Grasso 9-1
Odds: Randa Markos +135 Alexa Grasso -145
History / Introduction to the fighters
David: Grasso really had the wind at her sails. Undefeated, Mexican, and classical beauty made her a potential star if not quality sell to a Mexican market the UFC has been trying to break into since Joey Beltran was winging chingasos at heavyweights. Then the Felice Herrig fight happened. It was a frustrating experience even for people who don’t consider themselves fans of Grasso – it felt like such a clear cut case of a fighter losing to herself (and a corner/camp that was unable to adjust). Grasso’s only 23. She’ll improve, and get better. But the UFC isn’t offering her goulash here. Markos will be looking for the Lamotta special.
Phil: I believe we compared her to Jorge Masvidal before the fight, and it looked an awful lot like a vintage Jorge Masvidal performance, and not one in a good way. This is, I think, a common problem with a particular breed who are fighters, but not necessarily competitors. They grasp subtle technical nuance from a relatively young age, but this kind of deeply absorbing insight also means that they have a tendency to reject other structures as inferior. Like, well, those structures which judges pay attention to. I suspect that Grasso will have a long and successful career, but I also think that the weird hiccups are probably not over.
David: Markos had a promising start. Like Dennis Bermudez losing to Diego Brandao, there was nothing embarrassing about her performance, and the loss felt like the start of a successful career. That’s been half right. Markos has all of the characteristics of a durable UFC veteran. But there have been times when she appeared to be fighting below her talents, or wasn’t tactically sound (her fight against Jessica Penne was a good example of the latter). This is the perfect fight for her – a challenge to see if she passes the gatekeeper test.
Phil: Markos is not someone who “gets” fighting (or at least striking) on the same kind of technical level as Grasso, but I think a common factor is a kind of stylistic stubbornness, albeit one which has gone in somewhat the opposite direction. Where Grasso got hypnotized by the strictures of fighting a “technical” fight, Markos has deliberately embraced being as organic and aggressive as possible. Reference her stepping away from Tristar because she was worried that it would make her boring, for example. Her fights since haven’t been displays of raw fundamentals, but you can see her building out a style which she’s comfortable with, and that’s probably more important.
What’s at stake?
David: Quite a bit, actually. Even or a co-main. A Markos victory will tell us a lot about whether or not she’s molded that experience into active fight efficiency. Has she finally hit her peak? Has she finally begun to fight to her strengths? For Grasso, we’ll discover more about her progression. If she can beat Markos impressively, the Herrig fight will be a distant memory. If not, we’re probably talking about Grasso like we do David Carr.
Phil: As mentioned, I think Grasso might have quite a slow trajectory towards her eventual summit. Thus, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her drop this fight in much the same way she did the Herrig one, and nor would I consider it a huge indictment.
Where do they want it?
David: Markos is a hard charging, take-no-shit pugilist who runs on guts and glory. She’s kind of like a Ricardo Lamas clone with a busted AI chip. Where Lamas fights beyond his limitations, Markos can get too comfortable fighting alongside her limitations. She’s an earthy brawler, capable of all the requisite combinations and jabs to pressure almost any fighter, and she’s a good wrestler/scrambler. Better yet, she’s persistent and determined in every exchange, which amplifies what she’s good at in a vacuum. Her issues stem from the way her defense and ability to adjust interact with one another. She’s hittable on the feet, and slow to reset or get up from scrambles which amplifies her inability to dictate the pace midstream. Still, she’s a very good, and very tough opponent for a fighter who is the polar opposite.
Phil: Markos is an engine of janky violence. She’s lowered her base down and down when she fights, until against Esparza she was basically fighting out of a Jardine hunch, pawing a surprisingly decent jab and then surging out behind it into strike combinations. As with many organic fighters, she’s not lacking offense anywhere, whether it’s chaingun punches from the single collar, or attacking from top position. She’s a good wrestler, as well, with a clean reactive double leg and knee tap, and is very effective from top position, whether with strikes or subs.
Her problem is that for all her offensive weapons, her defense is straight-up bad. Her lowered posture leaves her head close to the opponent, and unlike a Burgos or a Silva who uses it as bait to pull back and land counters, Markos basically leaves it there to get hit.
David: What has always made Grasso such an attractive prospect is her mechanics. Grasso has a clean striking style that even male fighters can’t comprehend – she maintains strong angles to pressure or counter, and has a natural compass for understanding what type of movements logically follow from either her own attacks, or the attacks of her opponents. This cold approach as a student has led to a cold approach as a participant. She threads the needle with a jab and a slick right hand, punctuating her entries with an excellent arsenal of kicks. But this leaves her vulnerable to the profile of an MMA fight – neither cold nor technical, MMA fighting is a thresher of broken rhythms, unexpected volition, and raw violence. The best fighters are those that can either weather the storm, or bring one. Grasso profiles to reflect the former, but she has yet to show it.
Phil: Grasso is, as mentioned, an example of the natural technician. She uses small adjustment steps, pivots, and keeps her eyes on the opponent, while working behind a clean jab, hook and right straight. She’s defensively responsible, and is one of the few fighters who uses a high peek-a-boo guard while still using head movement (although to be fair, she does forget sometimes). She’s a good kicker, particularly when following up on combinations, and is hard to take down and keep down.
The two issues she has are that she doesn’t appear to be a “blow people out of the water” athlete at this level, and a lack of urgency. The two are likely related- I think she rarely gives it 100% unless she’s sure that her opponent isn’t going to show her anything interesting.
Insight from Past Fights
David: The Herrig fight was illuminating for a number of reasons. Grasso couldn’t stop Herrig’s work rate, couldn’t increase her own when it was clear what she had to do, and there are questions about whether or not she’s the type of fighter that instinctually understands what this means. Fighters like Tyson Griffin, and until recently, Gegard Mousasi, always seemed to succumb to the nebulous concept of urgency but it’s quite simple – is a fighter’s natural reaction to having the pace dictated to them, fight or flight?
Phil: When Grasso fought Herrig, there were a couple of notable reactions she had: the first was that she looked frankly just surprised at how fast Herrig was. Grasso used her prescribed defenses and sometimes Herrig just blasted through them. Basically, there’s another level of athlete in the UFC, and unless Grasso can “tune” her game to that kind of timing, she’s going to struggle. The second was that Grasso looked surprised by the decision. That shows that she’s not paying much attention to whether she wins rounds.
Phil: Grasso missed weight (119), and has reportedly been struggling with a urinary tract infection (as per BE mod Alejandro Castellanos-Jaramillo). That’s bad, and frankly is enough of an X-factor to switch my pick.
David: Did you know that one quick and easy way to know if you have a urinary tract infection is if your piss smells like a locker room? “Synthetic sniffers” can identify proteus parasites.
Phil: Markos’ sheer hittability is a concerning factor, but Grasso struggling with the weight cut tilts me the other way. It’s also notable that she tended to shell a bit against Herrig’s combinations, and Markos simply keeps blitzing straight into the clinch, in a way which Herrig did not. Markos’ aggressive, weird style can likely keep a slightly out-of-sorts Grasso off-balance for long enough to pick up a decision. Randa Markos by unanimous decision.
David: To me the difference in this fight is not just the difference between urinary tract infections, but styles – Markos is like the broad sword version of Herrig’s dull but effective scalpel. Grasso doesn’t have the power to keep Markos from coming forward, which is frankly the case with a lot of fighters. This is a tough fight for Grasso no matter what, so expect Markos to grind out a decision win. Randa Markos by Split Decision.