The Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Missouri, on Saturday played host to Invicta Fighting Championships 31. Here are three takeaways:
1. Real Deal
Virna Jandiroba is doing what seems to be normal for her at this point. The Brazilian was dominant in her first defense of the Invicta Fighting Championships strawweight title, as she forced Janaisa Morandin to tap to an arm-triangle choke in the second round of their main event. Jandiroba showed no weaknesses in improving to 14-0.
Jandiroba quickly took the challenger to the mat and controlled positioning in the first round. Halfway through the second, her ground skills were on display again -- until she opted for the fight-ending choke. Within seconds, Morandin had tapped and given the judges the rest of the night off.
Not only did Jandiroba remain undefeated, but she improved her already incredible finishing rate to 79 percent, with all of her stoppages coming by way of submission. Save for a few lone moments against Mizuki Inoue, we have seen nothing but complete authority during her Invicta tenure. Even in that win, Jandiroba did everything to keep it from going the distance. Her showcase against the “Evil Princess” cemented her as the latest in the long line of dangerous strawweights to come through the doors of the promotion. Do not be surprised to see Jandiroba added to the minefield of talent in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s 115-pound division.
2. Pearl of Wisdom
Pearl Gonzalez continues on the path to redemption following a winless stint in the UFC. Since joining the House That Shannon Knapp built, Gonzalez has seen nothing but victory and has looked increasingly impressive. Adding to the career turnaround, Gonzalez seems quite comfortable after moving up to the flyweight division, potentially earning herself a shot at the title vacated by Jennifer Maia when she signed with the UFC in July.
Gonzalez showed herself to be incredibly effective at negating the size advantage of Daiane Firmino. Electing to clinch and control positions on the ground, she offered up a relentless assault of strikes and submission attempts for every position imaginable. When Firmino went for broke in the final frame, Gonzalez maintained composure and stayed the course while adapting to the adjustments of her opponent. She has come a long way since her losses to Poliana Botelho and Cynthia Calvillo inside the Octagon.
Not only did the Chicago native do great work in the cage, but she made the most of her time on the mic. Gonzalez’s post-fight speech memorializing her father -- who passed just weeks after her previous appearance -- was an honest and endearing moment that will be hard to forget as we watch her continued growth as a mixed martial artist. The sincerity only added strength to her case for a chance to capture a title in her new home at 125 pounds.
3. The Cost of Crossing the Line
Stop me if you’ve heard this story before. Fighter A and Fighter B are engaged in real nail-biter. As an audience, we’re all confused as to who is winning. It’s going back and forth. Strikes are exchanged, clinch positions are evolving and the momentum is swinging. Fighter A violates one of the sacred Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. The official in the cage breaks the action and warns Fighter A. Fighter B is given a short amount of time to recover but waives it off, to the delight of the fans in the arena. The action continues and Fighter A commits another foul. The referee means business this time, so another warning is given. This warning is far sterner than the first. That ought to teach Fighter A a lesson: Don’t break the rules in this cage. Rinse and repeat. Fighter A gets his or her hand raised, and the result in the Sherdog Fight Finder just doesn’t give proper context to Fighter A’s victory. Think Germaine de Randamie-Holly Holm.
That could have been the story of Invicta 31’s opening bout between Audrey Wolfe and Holli Salazar. The two ladies began the card with non-stop action, as each fighter had her moments leading into the third and final round. After two very close rounds, another hotly contested stanza was nearing its halfway point when Wolfe managed to drag Salazar to the ground. Wolfe, who trains under Guy Mezger, took an old-school approach to her opponent’s guard by unleashing a deliberate headbutt. Fortunately for Salazar, she received the justice that her adversary’s coach did not against Wanderlei Silva at Pride Fighting Championships 10. Referee Greg Franklin swiftly moved in, separated the fighters, admonished Wolfe and immediately deducted a point. In a fight as close as this one, that single point made all the difference in the world. When the decision was read as a unanimous draw, with all three judges in agreement on a score of 28-28, it was painfully clear to Wolfe that the mistake she made in her Invicta debut and her disregard for the rules cost her a win.
While the ultimate karma was not served in the form of Wolfe getting her first loss and handing Salazar the win, we’ll take what we can get. As of now, it still pays to cheat in MMA. Chances are, a seriously worded warning will be the only punishment. However, if Franklin’s decisiveness was the norm, fighters would think twice about trying to game the system.