The UFC crowned its first women’s flyweight last week. Jennifer Maia has staked a firm claim to being the best in the world in the division, though.
Maia defeated Agnieszka Niedwiedz by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46) to retain the Invicta flyweight title in the main event of Invicta FC 26 on Friday night in Kansas City. The fight was back and forth, but Maia was the fresher fighter in the later rounds, which has been a hallmark of her title reign.
The Brazilian striker had some trepidation in the first and third rounds, getting dropped in both. But Maia came back stronger after each of these situations, not allowing Niedwiedz to pour it on. Maia cemented the decision with a late combination that snapped Niedwiedz’s head back.
Maia (15-4-1) has won six straight and has held the Invicta belt, beginning as interim champion, since March 2016. The Chute Boxe product owns a victory over Roxanne Modafferi, who lost to Nicco Montaño in the UFC’s flyweight title fight last week in Las Vegas. Maia, 29, told MMA Fighting leading into this bout that she turned down the opportunity to be in the Ultimate Fighter 26 title tournament, because of her standing as champion in Invicta.
“I’m the Invicta champion, it doesn’t make sense to start from zero in the UFC,” Maia said.
Niedwiedz (10-1) took her first career loss Friday night. The Polish striker looked very strong in two previous Invicta wins and has seven finishes in 10 career wins. Niedwiedz is still just 22 years old and it’s likely we have not seen the last of her in the title picture.
Mackenzie Dern made weight and then she made good on the promises that she has improved as a fighter.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu sensation submitted Kaline Medeiros by armbar at 4:45 of the third round in the co-main event Friday night. The submission wasn't the most impressive thing about the performance, though. Dern actually dominated Medeiros in the striking for most of the bout, rocking her fellow Brazilian multiple times with overhand rights in the first.
Dern (5-0) is regarded as perhaps the best women’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu player in the world. Her transition to MMA has been criticized by some — her striking still doesn’t appear smooth — but she remains undefeated with three submission finishes. Dern, still just 24 years old, is definitely on the UFC’s radar, especially after she made weight at strawweight Thursday. That had been an issue for her in the past.
Medeiros (8-6) has lost two straight, but her previous loss came in an Invicta strawweight title fight against Angela Hill in November 2016. Medeiros, 38, had UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes in her corner.
It’s been an up-and-down early Invicta for Janaisa Morandin. But there’s no longer any doubt about her status as a prospect.
“Evil Princess” dominated Kinberly Novaes by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) in a bloody affair. Morandin landed multiple hard left hooks and seemed to break Novaes’ nose. It was a complete performance for the Brazilian strawweight.
Morandin (10-1) missed weight and had to withdraw from what would have been her Invicta debut back in March. Then, she fell former champion Livia Renata Souza by unanimous decision in August. Morandin, just 23 years old, got her first Invicta win in impressive fashion Friday. Novaes (9-4), who came in on short notice for the injured Mizuki Inoue, has lost two straight.
Virna Jandiroba made a huge splash in her United States debut. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace finished Amy Montenegro at 2:50 of the first round with a picture-perfect takedown and armbar submission. Jandiroba had travel issues coming from Brazil and had to cut weight at the Sao Paulo airport, but you would never know seeing her fight.
Jandiroba (12-0), who called herself the “female Demian Maia” in the post-fight speech, has won 10 of her 12 victories by submission. Montenegro (8-3), an Ultimate Fighter 23 veteran, is 2-2 in her last four official fights.
Amber Brown is back in the win column in emphatic fashion. “The Bully” scored a submission victory via armbar at just 50 seconds of the first round over Tessa Simpson. Brown seemed to dislocate Simpson’s arm with the vicious technique. Brown (7-4) was on a three-fight losing streak coming in. Simpson (5-3) has lost two straight.