Karina Rodriguez with a boost from the judges cleared the final hurdle standing between her and a shot at an Invicta Fighting Championships title.
The Lobo Gym representative avenged a March 2018 defeat to DeAnna Bennett with a contentious unanimous verdict in their flyweight tournament final atop Invicta 35 on Friday at Memorial Hall in Kanas City, Kansas. All three cageside judges struck 29-28 scorecards for Rodriguez (8-3, 4-1 Invicta), who will challenge Vanessa Porto for the organization's 125-pound championship later this year.
Bennett (10-5-1, 6-4 Invicta) leaned on takedowns and a stifling clinch, believing she had done enough to warrant the decision. Rodriguez, however, landed the more telling blows, from a calf kick in the first round to a liver kick in the third. After Bennett weathered a flurry of punches and knee strikes from her counterpart in Round 3, she pressed her advantages at close range and secured a pair of takedowns, only to see her efforts go for naught.
Precise jabs, damaging right hands and airtight takedown defense carried Viviane Pereira to a unanimous decision over Alesha Zappitella in the atomweight co-main event. All three cageside judges scored it for Pereira (14-3, 1-1 Invicta): 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26.
Zappitella (5-1, 2-1 Invicta) was out of her depth. Pereira spent the first 10 minutes setting the range, walking down the Scorpion Fighting System standout with right hands and bloodying her nose with lightning-quick jabs. Zappitella hit the deck on the end of an overhand right at the second-round bell and grew increasingly desperate as time slipped away. Pereira sprawled out of takedowns in Round 3 and continued to feed the American punches, sending her mouthpiece flying with a final right hand.
The win snapped a three-fight losing streak for Pereira, who was jettisoned by the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2018.
Meanwhile, Rizin Fighting Federation veteran Kanako Murata dazzled in her promotional debut, as she submitted Liana Ferreira Pirosin with a rear-naked choke in the first round of their strawweight showcase. Pirosin (7-3, 0-1 Invicta) conceded defeat 2:10 into Round 1.
Murata (10-1, 1-0 Invicta) struck for a quick takedown, survived being swept and scrambled to the Brazilian's back. A rising star at 115 pounds, she snaked her arms in place for the choke, tightened her squeeze and forced the tapout.
The 25-year-old Murata has won six fights in a row, four of them by submission.
Elsewhere, EliteXC alum Kaitlin Young continued her resurgence, as she cut down Faith McMah with punches in the third round of their featherweight feature. McMah (6-4, 1-3 Invicta) succumbed to blows 3:52 into Round 3, suffering her second defeat in as many appearances.
Young (10-9-1, 2-4-1 Invicta) broke down the Kiwi with knees to the body, standing elbows and repeated leg kicks. McMah spent much of her time ducking for cover along the fence and failed to capitalize on a slip from the Minnesota native in the second round. Young backed the Gym 101 rep to the cage late in the third and swarmed her with punches to prompt the stoppage.
Spawned by the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy, Young has rattled off four straight victories since she returned from a four-year layoff in August.
In other action, Lisa Spangler (3-0, 3-0 Invicta) pocketed a unanimous decision against Katharina Lehner (7-2, 1-2 Invicta) in a three-round bantamweight affair, eliciting 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 nods from the cageside judges; Chelsea Chandler (2-1, 2-1 Invicta) put away Brittney Victoria Grizzelle (3-1, 1-1 Invicta) with punches 3:58 into the second round of their bantamweight encounter; Kelly D'Angelo (4-1, 2-1 Invicta) laid claim to a unanimous verdict over Jillian DeCoursey (2-2, 2-2 Invicta) in a three-round atomweight tilt, sweeping the cards with 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 scores; Konklak Suphisara (3-1, 2-0 Invicta) took a unanimous decision from Monique Adriane (4-2, 0-1 Invicta) in a three-round confrontation at 105 pounds, drawing 30-27 marks from all three judges; and Genia Goodin (1-0, 1-0 Invicta) eked out a split decision — 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 — over Valerie Wong (0-1, 0-1 Invicta) in a three-round strawweight pairing.