Virna Jandiroba is the real deal at 115 pounds.
The Brazilian fighter beat Mizuki Inoue by split decision (49-46, 46-49, 49-46) to win the Invicta strawweight title Saturday night in the main event of Invicta FC 28 in Salt Lake City. Jandiroba’s superior — and oppressive — grappling was the difference throughout.
Jandiroba dominated the bout, so the split decision came as a surprise. The jiu-jitsu expert became the first Invicta strawweight champion since Angela Hill vacated the belt in February 2017 to move to the UFC.
“I think my stock has been raised a lot, not just by winning the belt, but by beating Mizuki,” Jandiroba said through a translator afterward.
“I know I made my name here.”
Jandiroba landed hard ground and pound in the first, swelling up the area around Inoue’s left eye. Inoue finished the fight with a flourish, grabbing onto an armbar with less than one minute remaining, but Jandiroba slipped free. The last-minute submission might have been enough to win the final round, but not the fight.
“I was not expecting to have such a hard time on the ground,” Jandiroba said.
Jandiroba (13-0), a BJJ black belt, has now won both of her Invicta fights and looks like a force to be reckoned with atop the division. Her original opponent, Janaisa Morandin, had to pull out earlier this month due to injury, but will likely be her first challenge. Jandiroba, 29, has finished 10 of her fights via submission.
Inoue (12-5) was making her return from knee surgery after being out for more than a year. The Japanese fighter was on a three-fight winning streak coming in. Inoue, still just 23 years old, seemed unable to match Jandiroba’s physicality on the ground, but her future is still very bright.
DeAnna Bennett is back doing what she does — winning fights in Invicta.
In the co-main event, Bennett slipped by Karina Rodriguez via split decision (30-27, 27-30, 30-27) in a tactical affair. Bennett negated Rodriguez’s aggressive style, making her backpedal rather than push forward, and did just enough to get by with a win on the scorecards.
Bennett (9-3-1) was coming off a draw against Melina Fabian at the TUF 26 Finale back in December. The Utah native was in Invicta from 2014 to 2017 before getting a shot on The Ultimate Fighter. Bennett, 33, went 1-1 on the show.
Rodriguez (6-3) was on a three-fight winning streak coming in. The Mexico native and teammate of Alexa Grasso and Irene Aldana looked very good in Invicta heading into this bout. Rodriguez, 32, remains someone to watch in the women’s flyweight division.
Milana Dudieva is off the schneid. The Ossetian fighter snapped a four-fight losing streak with a TKO (strikes) of Christina Marks at 3:57 of the second round. Dudieva landed a right cross that floored Marks and then finished on the ground.
Dudieva (12-7) had not won since 2014 at UFC Macao. The 28-year-old came in on a two-fight losing streak in Invicta. Marks (8-10), an Ultimate Fighter 26 alum, has lost three straight.
Pearl Gonzalez is back in the win column. The former UFC fighter, who was released after an 0-2 run in the promotion, defeated Kali Robbins by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-27) in a complete performance.
Gonzalez (7-3) fell to Poliana Botelho at UFC 216 back in October in what admittedly was the worst performance of her career. The Chicago native, who trains out of 10th Planet San Diego, shook that off and out-grappled Robbins throughout. Gonzalez, 31, went into the UFC on a six-fight winning streak and this was her Invicta debut. Robbins (5-1) came into the night undefeated.
Kal Schwartz had the highlight-reel of the night against Kay Hansen. Schwartz opened up a huge cut on Hansen, then landed a German suplex before finishing on the ground with punches to win by TKO. Hansen lost a ton of blood in the sequence.
Schwartz (2-1) has now won two of three in Invicta, while Hansen (1-1) fell in her second career bout.
Minna Grusander looks like someone to be reckoned with at atomweight. The Finnish fighter defeated Fernanda Priscila by second-round TKO with a barrage of ground and pound with Priscila in the turtle position. Grusander (5-1) has won four in a row. Priscila (2-2) has lost two of three.
In the opening bouts, Tracy Cortez defeated Kaytlin Neil by unanimous decision, Jillian DeCoursey beat Rebekah Levine via unanimous decision and Kerri Kenneson beat Chelsea Chandler by unanimous decision.