A spirited effort from Aga Niedzwiedz was not enough to wrest the Invicta Fighting Championships flyweight title from Jennifer Maia.
Simple but effective punching combinations and a second-half surge carried Maia to a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Niedzwiedz in the Invicta 26 headliner on Friday at the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Missouri. In her first appearance since September 2016, Maia (15-4-1) swept the scorecards with 49-46 nods from all three judges. The bout was much closer than the scores indicated.
Niedzwiedz (10-1) had the champion reeling with right hands in each of the first two rounds but could not close the deal. Maia steadied herself in the middle stanza, chipped away in the clinch and employed an effective sprawl in the latter stages of the fight. She did some of her best work in the fifth round, where she peppered Niedzwiedz with jab-cross combinations, shut down her takedowns and then ripped away with uppercuts.
Maia, 29, has won six fights in a row, cementing herself as the top flyweight in the sport.
In the strawweight co-main event, multiple-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Mackenzie Dern made a strong promotional debut and kept her perfect professional record intact, as she submitted Kaline Medeiros with a third-round armbar. Medeiros (8-6), who had not been finished in more than six years, conceded defeat 4:45 into Round 3.
Dern (5-0) did the majority of her damage on the feet, where she rattled the Team Sityodtong rep with overhand rights and assaulted her with knees to the body from the clinch. It took a cumulative toll on Medeiros. Dern struck for a takedown late in the third round and slid from side control to full mount with less than a minute to go. Punches fell before the 2015 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist transitioned to the armbar for the tapout.
Meanwhile, former Aspera Fighting Championship titleholder Janaisa Morandin once again asserted herself as a major player at 115 pounds, as she cruised to a one-sided unanimous decision over fellow Brazilian Kinberly Tanaka Novaes in a three-round strawweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it 30-27 for Morandin (10-1).
After a relatively competitive first round, Morandin turned up the heat. She lit up Novaes with left hooks from the outside, pressed forward and tore into her with knee strikes to the body and short elbows upstairs from the clinch. Bleeding heavily from the nose and faced with an opponent who showed no signs of slowing down, Novaes could do little else other than survive in the third round. Morandin marched down the CM System representative with punches and even mixed in a spinning back kick to the liver.
The 26-year-old Novaes (9-4) has suffered back-to-back defeats.
In other action, Amber Brown submitted Tessa Simpson with an armbar 50 seconds into the first round of their preliminary atomweight encounter; Vanessa Porto put away Milana Dudieva with punches 3:02 into the third round of their undercard pairing at 125 pounds; Virna Jandiroba submitted Amy Montenegro with an armbar 2:50 into the first round of their preliminary strawweight clash; Karina Rodriguez took a unanimous decision from Christine Ferea in a three-round undercard battle at 125 pounds, earning 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 marks from the judges; Kay Hansen submitted Emilee Prince with an armbar 1:23 into the first round of their preliminary strawweight affair.