It took Virna Jandiroba a little more than three months to reach the Invicta Fighting Championships summit. Mount Everest it was not.
The unbeaten Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt laid claim to the vacant strawweight title with a five-round split decision over Mizuki Inoue in the Invicta 28 main event on Saturday at the Union Event Center in Salt Lake City. Judges Dan Furse and Rich Montanez issued 49-46 scorecards for Jandiroba, while Rochelle Montanez saw it 49-46 for Inoue.
Most observers agreed it was not nearly competitive enough to warrant a split verdict. Jandiroba executed repeated takedowns, controlled position on the floor and lit up her Japanese counterpart with persistent ground-and-pound. By the end of the first round, Inoue had significant swelling around her left eye and no obvious path to recourse. Her situation did not improve as the fight drifted into the middle and championship rounds, as Jandiroba advanced to her back in the middle stanza, fished for the rear-naked choke and piled up points with an unending barrage of punches. The finish never materialized, but the fact that she was the superior fighter remained crystal clear.
In the aftermath of Invicta 28, here are four matches that ought to be made:
Virna Jandiroba vs. Janaisa Morandin: Jandiroba’s time in Invicta could be brief, as the Ultimate Fighting Championship undoubtedly has its eyes on her. The newly minted 29-year-old strawweight champion has secured 10 of her 13 career victories by submission, including an armbar finish on Amy Montenegro in her Invicta debut on Dec. 8. Jandiroba, who owns wins over Amanda Nunes and Claudia Gadelha in BJJ competitions, trains under Renato Velame at the Fight House academy in her native Brazil. Morandin, 10-1, last competed at Invicta 26 in December, when she took a unanimous decision from Kinberly Tanaka Novaes.
DeAnna Bennett vs. Sarah D’Alelio: The highly regarded Bennett snapped out of a lengthy slump -- she had gone 0-3-1 in her previous four appearances -- and registered her first win since September 2015 in the co-main event, outpointing Karina Rodriguez across three rounds. “Vitamin D” employed a suffocating clinch, pinning Rodriguez to the fence for extended stretches while building a lead with knees to the legs and body. The victory followed a draw with Melinda Fabian at “The Ultimate Fighter 26” Finale and losses to Jodie Esquibel, Roxanne Modafferi and Livia Renata Souza under the Invicta flag. D'Alelio, 37, has not fought since she succumbed to third-round elbows from Modafferi at Invicta 23 in May.
Milana Dudieva vs. Christine Stanley: Dudieva returned to the winner’s circle after a prolonged absence and threw the brakes on a four-fight losing streak, as she cut down Christina Marks with punches in the second round of their flyweight showcase. The 28-year-old interrupted what had been a stagnant encounter with a crushing overhand right in Round 2. A dazed and defenseless Marks hit the deck, where she was met with a burst of follow-up punches before referee Bobby Wombacher arrived on the scene to wave it off. The victory was Dudieva’s first since she eked out a split decision over Elizabeth Phillips at UFC Fight Night 48 in August 2014. Stanley owns a 2-1 record in Invicta, with wins over Shannon Sinn and Laura Salazar offset by a decision defeat to Aga Niedzwiedz.
Pearl Gonzalez vs. Amy Montenegro: After an unsuccessful two-fight stint in the UFC, Gonzalez announced her arrival in Invicta’s strawweight division with a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Kali Robbins. The 31-year-old rebounded from consecutive losses to Cynthia Calvillo and Poliana Botelho inside the Octagon, re-establishing herself as a person of intrigue at 115 pounds. An October 2013 submission of Cortney Casey-Sanchez still stands out on Gonzalez’s resume. Montenegro saw her modest two-fight winning streak come to an end at Invicta 26 in December, when she submitted to a first-round armbar from the aforementioned Jandiroba.