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One of the best things about MMA is when we get major stylistic clashes - striker vs grappler is a tale as old as time itself. And yet it remains fascinating and undeniably exciting. That rings true when we zero in on Alexa Grasso and Mizuki Inoue's explosive clash in 2015 under the Invicta FC banner.
Grasso entered the fight a perfect 6-0 with a lot of hype behind her hand speed and boxing fundamentals, tools that saw her win by knockout a couple of months prior. Inoue, though not undefeated and coming off a loss, was only 20 years of age and held in high regard for her submission skills. After all, seven of her eight wins were by submission - and six of them by armbar.
Both fighters were tasked with being the co-main event of a Cris Cyborg card and undeniably stole the show.
Grasso started the fight as if she had been shot out of a cannon, immediately targeting Inoue's lead leg with a couple of crushing kicks. At the end of every kick, Grasso was firing off a right hand with such precision and venom that you could hear the impact of it every time it landed on Inoue's chin. Unconcerned and untroubled by the strikes absorbed, Inoue denied Grasso's attempts to dictate the pace of the fight and started to take control of the octagon. Her forward pressure allowed her some strikes at Grasso who, despite fighting backwards, always had something to counter with. The biggest highlight of the opening round, in fact, was Grasso's spinning back kick which landed clean on the chin of Inoue and might have knocked out most other fighters. Not Inoue, though, she just kept walking plodding like a zombie.
Grasso's boxing was the highlight of her striking arsenal leading up to the fight but she fought Inoue with an entirely different approach, focusing more on her kicking game to disguise the hands. Behind every crush calf kick or roundhouse to the body, Grasso was chaining a jab or right cross that disrupted the pace and pressure of Inoue.
In the second round, Inoue found increased success by way of elbows in the clinch and takedowns. Despite her penchant for cranking on limbs, it was Inoue who found herself on the wrong end of submission attempts as Grasso alternated between a kimura and an inverted triangle to deny her any effective activity on the ground.
Back on the feet, Inoue's nose was busted open by Grasso's pawing jab while Grasso was beginning to swell up from Inoue's straight right. Both fighters traded shots until the bell brought a conclusion to the second round.
Likely a round apiece, Grasso and Inoue fought as such in the final stanza of the bout. Grasso's leg kicks started to debilitate Inoue's movement - her lead leg was turning purple. This didn't dissuade the Japanese ace who immediately shot for a takedown and passed into half guard to hunt for an arm triangle. Unsuccessful with the submission attempt, Inoue started to let her hands go on the ground as Grasso struggled to defend. Amidst the shots raining down on her, Grasso managed to bump Inoue and reverse the position. Landing her own blows, it was Grasso who now hunted her own submission attempt as she worked for the armbar. The grappling exchanges continued, with both fighters cancelling each other out and constantly scrambling for position. The most notable moment of the round arrived toward the end when Grasso rocked Inoue with a perfectly-placed upkick.
Inoue had proven she could stand with a sensational boxer in Grasso and Grasso had proven that she could succeed in the grappling department against a submission ace in Inoue. All while fighting at a ridiculously high pace and without a single moment of stalling.
Grasso and Inoue would make it to the UFC not long after but this war still remains the most exciting of their respective careers.
UFC Fight Pass subscribers can watch the fight here: https://ufcfightpass.com/video/45869/alexa-grasso-vs-mizuki-inoue-invicta-fc-11
The fight is otherwise available for free on Dailymotion: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2ipeqk