This past Saturday, the UFC returned to Brazil for UFC Fight Night 144. While most eyes were on the main event and co-feature, two interesting matchups took place in the promotion’s women’s divisions. Taila Santos met Mara Romero-Borella at 125 pounds. Former Invicta FC titleholder Livinha Souza met Sarah Frota. The bout between Frota and Souza originally was a strawweight affair. Yet the weight changed into a catchweight bout when Frota missed by seven pounds. Now that the dust settled, let’s take a look at what’s next for the women of UFC Fortaleza.
Livinha Souza (13-1-0)
Since dropping her Invicta FC strawweight crown to Angela Hill, Livinha Souza has been on a roll. ‘The Brazilian Gangster’ has gone on a 4-fight run that includes two first-round finishes. At UFC Fight Night 144, Souza faced one of her toughest fights to date. She used an aggressive grapple-heavy approach to squeak out a win over the highly-touted prospect, Sarah Frota. The win pushes Souza further up the ladder at 115-pounds.
Considering the caliber of Frota, Souza should get a notable name in her next appearance. It would make the most sense to match her up with another recently victorious strawweight. The winner of the strawweight bout between Cynthia Calvillo and Cortney Casey-Sanchez is a potential fit. Both women are coming off of big wins in their most recent appearances. Both women also pose interesting stylistic matchups for the former Invicta champion.
Sarah Frota (9-1-0)
After capturing titles in both the bantamweight and strawweight divisions on the regional circuit in Brazil, Sarah Frota was invited to compete for the largest organization in India, Super Fight League. Frota picked up two first-round stoppages before getting a chance to earn a UFC contract. She proved that she belonged in her first official fight for the UFC. She threatened with submissions on the ground and rocked former Invicta champ Souza on more than one occasion. Frota barely dropped the split decision to the streaking Souza.
Although she found herself on the wrong side of a judges’ decision, her level of competition should not drop off too far. Frota proved that she can hang, but the question is her weight. If she stays at strawweight, Poliana Botelho would be an interesting opponent. Botelho likes to bang as well. If she is forced back up to flyweight, however, the winner between former LFA titlist Sabina Mazo and Maryna Moroz would be a good test for her.
Mara Borella (12-5-0)
Being banned from competing in her home country of Italy has not stopped Mara Romero-Borella. The Italian earned her shot in the UFC by outpointing Russia’s Milana Dudieva at Invicta FC 24. In her debut, Borella dominated long-time veteran, Kalindra Faria. In her next bout, she would drop a close decision to Katlyn Chookagian. After which she bounced back with a decision victory of her own. Romero-Borella out-worked the previously unbeaten Taila Santos over three rounds. A good next step for Romero-Borella would be the winner of this weekend’s flyweight contest featuring Montana De La Rosa and Nadia Kassem. The winner would have a couple of victories in the UFC and would be ready for a step up in competition.
Taila Santos (15-1-0)
While Taila Santos was best known for her impressive record, only two names stood out on her resume going into her UFC debut. Those names being Gisele Moreira and Estefani Almeida. Like her teammate Sarah Frota, Santos was taking a pretty sizable step up in competition. Also, like her stablemate, she experienced the first setback of her career. In the loss, she showed an improved takedown defense but lacked the ability to string together long combinations to steal the fight.
Antonina Shevchenko would be a good test for Santos in her next fight. Both prospects are a bit raw at this stage in their mixed martial arts careers. Yet the pairing would make sense. Stylistically, it is an interesting fight. The bout would be a good way to judge the rate of development between fights for each athlete. It is clear that Shevchenko is nowhere near as polished as her younger sister, but that fact makes her an ideal opponent for the young Brazilian.