After a Christmas break that felt a little too long, MMA fans will finally be getting their first taste of what 2022 has to offer on Wednesday night. Invicta FC’s first event since August 2021, Invicta FC 45, promises to be an exciting start to their year.
This six-bout card is headlined by what could be considered one of the biggest grudge matches ever to grace Invicta’s atomweight division.
Zappitella vs. Delboni 2 — A Score to Settle
With their first meeting only a little over half a year ago, “Half Pint” Alesha Zappitella kept her atomweight belt after a controversial split decision against Brazilian Jéssica Delboni.
Delboni (11-3) insists that she had won that fight, saying in the official Invicta promo: “There was no doubt in my mind, I had won that fight […] My coach was very frustrated with the decision. We thought we had won.”
Now, the Brazilian is coming into the cage with a new fire, with three more wins on her record since that fight in May 2021.
Two of the three wins come from defeating Marisa Messer-Belenchia and Tabatha Ann Watkins with unanimous decisions during the quarterfinal and semifinal of Invicta’s Atomweight Phoenix Tournament, respectively. But it was her win in the finals against Lindsey VanZandt that gave the Brazilian another shot at the atomweight title.
On the other hand, the champ has not been active since that last meeting in May. “Half Pint” went on a two-fight win streak before nabbing the vacant atomweight belt with an impressive Von Flue choke submission during her bout against Ashley Cummins.
Despite the inactivity, Zappitella still carries a four-win streak into the upcoming battle against Delboni. Both fighters insist that they won that fight back in May, but now they have the chance to prove it.
Zappitella and the Big Question Mark
Since the champ has not had any other opportunity to defend her belt since fighting Delboni, no one can be sure how she has improved over the months. Looking at her record, Zappitella’s 9-2 (1 NC) record is full of decision wins. However, her two submission wins show that there’s more to “Half Pint” than meets the eye.
Zappitella’s first submission was against Miao Ding in Kunlun Fight back in 2017 via arm-triangle choke. Her second was during the bout mentioned earlier against Ashley Cummins, where the champ successfully pulled off a Von Flue choke in the fourth round and, ultimately, secured the Invicta Atomweight crown.
Although that being said, both of the losses on Zappitella’s record came from decisions as well — one against Viviane Pereira and the other facing Kanna Asakura, both in 2019. Here lies both the strength and the weakness of “Half Pint”.
The American needs to pressure the Brazilian while ensuring that she is light on her feet to avoid Delboni’s vicious counters. Although her record certainly shows that she can go the distance, “Half Pint” may have to utilize her wrestling/BJJ background and secure a finish to keep her belt this time around.
Delboni Out for Blood
“I’m not here to play games,” Delboni said during the official fight promo, “I don’t want to leave this in the hands of the judges.”
While Delboni’s 11-3 record is not too dissimilar to that of her opponent, her two non-decision wins stemmed from TKOs — both before her career in Invicta FC began.
The Brazilian’s first taste of a finish was against Pamela Ferreira, taking down her fellow countrywoman and finishing with a flurry of punches and elbows late in the first round. Her second was against Bruna Brasil — the bout during which Delboni was the clear dominator but a yell-inducing injury sustained by Brasil as Delboni attempted a take-down after a clinch ultimately gave the latter the dub.
If the Brazilian wants to claim the Atomweight belt, she will need to stop relying on her counter-attacks and throw more than just 1-2 combos. Taking control of the cage is more than just pushing your opponent against the fence; it’s about domination and giving the most damage.