Matches to Make After Bellator 190, Invicta 26

By Brian Knapp Dec 11, 2017
Rafael Carvalho does not get paid by the hour.

One of the sport’s most underappreciated competitors and unheralded champions, Carvalho retained the Bellator MMA middleweight title with an eye-popping first-round finish on American Top Team’s Alessio Sakara in the Bellator 190 main event on Saturday at the Nelson Mandela Forum in Florence, Italy. Sakara bit the dust on the receiving end of a savage elbow strike 44 seconds into Round 1, his three-fight winning streak having run its course.

Carvalho rang the Italian’s bell with a right cross, charged at him with a flying knee and then closed the show with a slashing elbow strike along the fence. Sakara hit the deck unconscious and absorbed a few punches before referee Dan Miragliotta could arrive on the scene to shield him from further punishment.

More than 5,000 miles away, Invicta Fighting Championships flyweight titleholder Jennifer Maia did some heavy lifting of her own. The Chute Boxe standout returned from a yearlong layoff to capture a contentious unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Aga Niedzwiedz in the Invicta 26 headliner on Friday at the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Missouri. All three cageside judges scored it 49-46 for Maia, though many observers believed it was closer than the scorecards indicated.

In the aftermath of Bellator 190 “Carvalho vs. Sakara” and Invicta 26 “Maia vs. Niedzwiedz,” here are four matches that ought to be made:

Rafael Carvalho vs. Gegard Mousasi: Carvalho has rattled off 15 consecutive victories and now owns a perfect 6-0 record under the Bellator banner. The 31-year-old Brazilian’s TKO of Sakara was the third sub-minute finish of his career and the first since March 2013. Carvalho has begun to tighten his grip on the middleweight throne, as he has defeated Sakara and Melvin Manhoef (twice) in three appearances since becoming champion. His degree of difficulty could soon increase dramatically. Mousasi made his promotional debut at Bellator 185 in October and withstood a harrowing encounter with Alexander Shlemenko before walking away with a unanimous decision. The former Dream, Strikeforce and Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder has won six fights in a row.

Brandon Girtz vs. Saad Awad: Something of an enigma in Bellator’s lightweight division, Girtz put a three-fight losing streak to bed when he knocked out Luka Jelcic in the first round of their co-main event. Jelcic succumbed to punches 1:57 into Round 1, a pair of uppercuts and some follow-up hammerfists sealing his fate. Girtz’s uneven resume includes a 7-5 mark in Bellator, with wins over Derek Campos, Melvin Guillard and Michel Quinones. His confrontation with Jelcic followed back-to-back-to-back losses to Campos in their rematch, Fernando Gonzalez and Adam Piccolotti. Awad last competed at Bellator 186, where the Millennia MMA export needed a little more than a minute to dispose of Zach Freeman.

Jennifer Maia vs. Vanessa Porto: In her first appearance since Sept. 23, 2016, Maia made up for lost time and outpointed Niedzwiedz across five tightly contested rounds. The close nature of their battle makes a rematch in Invicta all but inevitable, provided they do not first jump ship to the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Maia in her rise to the top of the 125-pound weight class has pieced together a six-fight winning streak that includes a championship-clinching victory over Porto in March 2016 and successful title defenses against Niedzwiedz and Roxanne Modafferi. Meanwhile, Porto took care of business further down the card despite missing weight by nearly two pounds, as she shut down Milana Dudieva with punches to the body in the third round and threw the brakes on a two-fight losing streak.

Mackenzie Dern vs. Janaisa Morandin: Dern did not disappoint in her first outing under Invicta employ, as the blue-chip MMA Lab prospect submitted Kaline Medeiros with a third-round armbar and improved to 5-0. The 2015 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist and multiple-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion showed off surprising standup skills against Medeiros before drawing the Brazilian to the ground and executing her third submission in four appearances. Not long before Dern hit the cage, Morandin rebounded from her first career defeat to Livia Renata Souza with a unanimous decision over Kinberly Tanaka Novaes, sweeping the scorecards with 30-27 marks across the board.
<h2>Fight Finder</h2>