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Viviane Araujo ready for the big stage ahead of UFC Fight Night 212

Flyweight confident, excited for first UFC main event vs. Alexa Grasso on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Viviane Araujo hit Andrea Lee with a smooth one-one-two combination 10 seconds into their meeting in May that got the ascending flyweight hopeful's attention and seemed to make her angry.

Seventeen seconds later, Lee sent Araujo's mouthpiece hurtling across the octagon with a left hook that landed flush, following it up two seconds later with a right high kick that had the Brazilian searching for a desperation takedown. Lee sprawled and wrestled well, but Araujo was relentless, clearing the cobwebs more with each passing second before eventually working to her feet, scooping Lee into the air, and slamming her to the canvas.

All of this happened in the opening 75 seconds on the contest, one Araujo would go on to win by unanimous decision.

"Andrea is a very strong fighter – she's big for the division, so I got a little caught off guard in the beginning, so there were two flash knockdowns," said the Brazilian, who returns to action on Saturday night, taking on Alexa Grasso (14-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) in the main event of this weekend's return to the UFC Apex. "I was surprised, but I kept my focus on getting the win, and I got it.

"It was a very crazy fight."

The opening moments of the contest were certainly chaotic, and the first round remained competitive, but after that, Araujo (11-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) really settled in and took the fight to Lee, earning an important victory and making a statement in the process.

Not only had she been bested by divisional silver medalist Katlyn Chookagian in her previous outing, but Lee entered with a head of steam, having earned a pair of second-round stoppage wins that had her looking primed to push towards the top of the division.

Instead, it was Araujo that navigated the dicey start, found her groove, and controlled the remainder of the contest on the way to getting back into the win column.

"It's important to go through those difficult moments, those frustrating moments," she said of the early struggles with Lee. "With fights like that, you don't know what is going to happen, but I was really well prepared mentally, and visualized every difficult moment I could go through.

"I felt those challenges, but I was patient and kept focused on the win."

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The victory pushed Araujo's record to 11-3 overall and 5-2 since joining the UFC, while giving her some much needed stability in the ever-shifting flyweight rankings.

Losing to Chookagian isn't the type of setback that would traditionally send a fighter tumbling down the divisional ladder, but the top 15 in the flyweight division has seen a great deal of change over the last year, and halting Lee's ascent allowed the 35-year-old Brazilian to cement her standing as a contender in the 125-pound weight class.

It also set up this weekend's pairing with Grasso, one of the fighters that has made a great deal of headway in the hierarchy since touching down in the flyweight division at the end of August 2020.

The talented Mexican fighter was forecasted to be a strawweight contender after arriving from Invicta FC, but struggled with injuries, weight and visa issues, and inconsistent results. After missing the mark on the scales ahead of a scheduled meeting with Claudia Gadelha at the start of 2020, Grasso opted to change divisions.

Wins over Ji Yeon Kim and Maycee Barber elevated Grasso into the top 15 and her first pairing with Araujo at UFC 270, which was scrapped when the Brazilian was forced to withdraw. A quick first-round submission win over Joanne Wood kept Grasso moving forward, and coupled with Araujo's win over Lee, made the fight an obvious matchup to re-book.

Initially slated to take place on August 13 in San Diego, the fight was again delayed, meaning Araujo has had plenty of time to prepare for the woman she'll face this weekend.

"I had a full camp – we were a week away from the first fight," she said when asked about the impact of having the bout rescheduled. "I'm not sure what happened to her, but I was already in the process of cutting weight.

"It was definitely challenging – I've had two full camps for this fight – but I just tried to stay positive and focused on the fight. I kept my focus, I intensified my psychological preparation for the fight, but I'm really excited and really confident."

While putting in two full camps is difficult, the silver lining of the bout being rescheduled from the end of the summer is that the top-10 flyweight tandem now gets five rounds to work, as the duo was installed as the new main event when the middleweight clash between Jared Cannonier and Sean Strickland was postponed.

It's a moment Araujo doesn't take for granted and wants to make sure she makes the most of this weekend.

"Now we get a five-round main event, so I'm happy about that," she said. "It means a lot – it's a big moment in my life, my career, and I'm ready.

"I know that a win will get me closer to a title fight. It's five rounds, so I'll try to control the fight, and I feel like I'm ready and prepared, both mentally and physically.

"I had a great camp, I feel stronger than ever, and healthy."

Although nothing has been publicly stated, there is a feeling that the winner of Saturday's main event could establish herself as the clubhouse leader in the chase to challenge current champion Valentina Shevchenko for the flyweight title in the first half of 2023.

It's unclear what the champion's next step will be, and there is a critical matchup between Chookagian and ascending French standout Manon Fiorot on tap next weekend in Abu Dhabi, but a dynamic effort from Araujo against Grasso should at least put her on the short list of potential challengers heading into the final two months of the year.

"I think so, but I don't know," she said when asked if a victory on Saturday would punch her ticket to a title shot. "The top 5 is pretty closed, and you have really good girls that I could still face like Taila (Santos), Jessica (Andrade), Lauren (Murphy), so I believe two more wins and I will get a title shot."

And she expects to earn the first of those two victories this weekend when she puts her twin training camps preparing for Grasso to good use.

"Alexa is a great athlete. We studied her game a lot and I know she's very dangerous and aggressive with her striking, and she also has a good ground game, so I'm prepared for that.

"It's five rounds, so I need to dominate and put the pressure on her," she added. "I'm coming in with my wrestling on point, and I'm focused and ready to beat her."

This story first published at UFC.com.