A pair of up-and-coming flyweights were thrust into a co-main event spot Saturday and while one shined brighter than the other, Dana White is thrilled about both of their prospects.
Following the cancellation of Chris Weidman vs. Uriah Hall due to Weidman testing positive for COVID-19, Maycee Barber and Alexa Grasso were thrust into the penultimate fight of UFC 258, a change that placed the women squarely under the microscope. Grasso put on an outstanding all-around performance to win the decision, but Barber showed promise with a furious attempt to steal the fight in the third round.
Barber, 22, has been promoted well by the UFC since earning a contract on the Contender Series and subsequently declaring her plans to supplant Jon Jones as the youngest world champion in UFC history. She has now lost back-to-back fights to Grasso and veteran Roxanne Modafferi, a skid that may have some questioning where she stands as a future contender.
White is confident that Barber just needs time to grow.
“She’s a savage,” White said. “She’s one of the most ambitious and toughest young women that I’ve ever met, so I expect nothing but big things for her. She’s a baby still. She’s young, she’s got nothing but time.
“I know she put this unbelievable pressure on herself to be a champion before Jon Jones and it’s good to set goals for yourself, but she’s a baby. She’s got nothing but time and she’s only gonna get better.”
Prior to her recent losses, Barber was 7-0 to start her career with finishes in her first three UFC appearances.
Four years ago, it was Grasso who was in a similar position to what Barber is experiencing now. Now 27, the former Invicta standout had just turned 23 when she made a successful UFC debut with a decision win over Heather Jo Clark. However, Grasso struggled to find consistency, alternating wins and losses in her next five strawweight outings and struggling to make the 115-pound limit.
Grasso has since moved up to flyweight where she is now 2-0 and looking like the contender that she was expected to become. White was impressed at how she stole Barber’s thunder.
“[Grasso] looked incredible tonight,” White said. “Listen, Maycee Barber is a gangster. [Barber] believes that she’s gonna be the champ, she comes back from her injury and she is ready to go.
“Grasso is a girl that we were looking at a long time ago, we thought that she was gonna be the Ronda Rousey of Mexico. She had a couple of speed bumps in her career, but boy she’s on point now. Her punching is crisp and clean, the distance that she kept, she couldn’t look any more perfect tonight going against an absolute savage.”