Jéssica Delboni harried and hurt Alesha Zappitella for the duration of the main event of Invicta FC 45 last night to win the promotion’s atomweight belt. The win was sweet revenge for Delboni, who lost to Zappitella for title by split decision last May.
After that decision Delboni, who was adamant she won that fight, cleaved her way through a one night tournament at Invicta on AXS TV to earn a rematch with the champion. During their second fight Delboni looked as if she had a point to prove and beat Zappitella to the punch throughout the contest.
In the first round Zappitella got a takedown, but was met by the tricky guard of Delboni. The Brazilian was able to lock onto Zappitella and prevent the champion from landing any meaningful offense. Instead Zappitella was forced to fight off set-ups for potential subs. When they made it to their feet, Zappitella looked for a guilotine, but it was nowhere near. They separated and Delboni landed some nice strikes, including a hard leg kick, against the fence and then stuffed a takedown. Zappitella looked slowed from those strikes and Delboni was able to hunt her down and finish the round strong.
Zappitella came out for the second looking hobbled as a result of the hard leg kicks she ate in the first. She seemed focused on protecting the lead leg and, as a result, her striking and takedown attempts weren’t flowing as naturally as you’d expect from her. Delboni easily evaded them in the early portions of the round. After stuffing one takedown, Delboni dropped down and landed hard elbows against Zappitella’s cheek. The champion scrambled away from the strikes and tried to snag one of her opponent’s legs, but Delboni was too quick for her. Back on the feet, Delboni continued to punish Zappitella’s leg. Delboni tagged Zappitella a number of times with punches to the head, too, towards the end of the round leading to the champion looking dazed as she limped back to her corner.
Delboni looked very confident in the third, letting her hands drop down as she teed off with more leg kicks. After landing a couple of heavy ones to the thigh, Delboni ripped one to the body. Then she followed up with a combo to Zappitella’s head. The champion showed a good poker face throughout all that, but it was clear her mobility was seriously hampered by this point. Zappitella looked for respite in the clinch, but Delboni was took strong. The challenger held her against the fence and landed some hard knees to the head and body. With her left leg battered, Zappitella just wasn’t able to explode into her takedowns like she usually does. That made it easy work for Delboni to continually shuck them off and punish the shooter with strikes on the way out.
It was more of the same to start the fourth, with Delboni looking fresh as a daisy and Zappitella slowed by the damage to her leg. Zappitella continued to look for takedowns, but they didn’t have the pop needed to get Delboni off her feet. Delboni landed yet more leg kicks, but started to get a little casual in her takedown defence, pulling off some risky rolls to get out of Zappitella’s clutches. In the final minute of the round Zappitella got Delboni onto her butt against the cage, but she couldn’t advance from there and ate some elbows for her trouble.
Zappitella’s corner lit a fight under her before the final round and she came out swinging. One overhand caught Delboni, forcing the Brazilian to back up for the first time since the first round. Zappitella then shot for a takedown, but Delboni was able to mostly stuff it, leading to a stalemate in the center of the cage. Zappitella tried to grind the position into her favour, hoping to get Delboni on her back. Delboni tried to keep Zappitella where she was and hammered her with more elbows. Eventually Delboni was able to hop onto Zappitella’s back and look for a choke before quickly switching to an armbar attempt. Zappitella wriggled free, forcing Delboni to try her luck with a leg lock as time expired.
Everyone knew Delboni was the winner as soon as the final bell rang. The fight ended with lopsided scores of 50-45 x2 and 49-46 in favour of Invicta’s new atomweight champion. The win takes the Brazilian’s record to 12-3. Zappitella drops to 9-3 and sees her four fight win streak broken.
Despite the one-sided outcome of the fight, Delboni vs. Zappitella was an evenly matched bout on paper. The same can’t be said of four of the five fights that preceded the main event. Invicta usually does a good job at matching fighters with similar experience. However, on this night a number of fighters with considerably more fights under the belts overwhelmed counterparts with meagre 1-0 and 2-0 records.
The co-main event had Ramona Pascual step in on short notice to make her Invicta debut. She blasted through Shamir Peshewa and ended the fight by TKO in a minute flat. Pascual, a veteran of iKon and Road FC, improved to 6-2. Peshewa dropped to 2-1 in what was also her Invicta debut.
In her Invicta debut bantamweight Hailey Cowen impressed by overwhelming Monica Franco with her wrestling on route to securing a rear naked choke victory in the second round. Cowen, who saw a five-fight win streak snapped, in her last fight (a submission loss in LFA in 2020) got back in the win column and improved to 6-2 on her career. She took the opportunity on the mic to issue a ‘come and get me plea’ to the UFC and Dana White. Franco was only making her third pro appearance and she sees her record drop to 2-1.
Helen Peralta made a statement in the flyweight division, bullying the far less-experienced Elise Pone with her aggressive clinch fighting. Pone got a moral victory by making it to the final bell, but Peralta was absolutely dominant and came away with a unanimous decision that included two 30-25 scores. She’s 5-2 now with all five wins coming in Invicta. Pone’s record evens out to 1-1.
The other atomweight bout of the night saw Katie Saull out grapple Tamika Jones for a round before securing a deep armbar. Jones was unable to figure a way out and left her arm in there long enough for Saull to patiently find the right angle to elicit a tap. Saull moves to 4-5 and gets her first win in Invicta. For Jones, she drops down to 1-1, having won her pro debut in Combate around a month ago.
The night opened with a bantamweight bout that ended in a split decision win for Sarah Kleczka over Maria Jose Favela. Kleczka lost the first round on all the judges’ scorecards, but rallied back and relied on the strength of her jab to outpoint her opponent. The win gets Kleczka to 3-3 on her career and snaps a three-fight losing skid. Favela drops to 2-2 and is still looking for her first win in the Invicta cage.
The entire show aired for free on YouTube and can be watched, in its entirety, below:
Atomweight championship: Jéssica Delboni def. Alesha Zappitella by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46).
Catchweight: Ramona Pascual def. Shamir Peshewa by TKO (punches and knees), round 1 (1:00).
Bantamweight: Monica Franco vs. Hailey Cowan def. Monica Franco by submission (rear naked choke), round 2 (3:17).
Flyweight: Helen Peralta def. Elise Pone by unanimous decision (30-25, 30-25, 30-26).
Atomweight: Katie Saull def. Tamika Jones by submission (armbar), round 1 (4:30).
Bantamweight: Sarah Kleczka def. Maria Jose Favela by split decision by (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)