Former Invicta FC flyweight champion Vanessa Porto returned to action at Bellator 263, looking to bounce back from a loss to Liz Carmouche.
Porto had seen a four-fight win streak snapped with the loss to the “Girl-Rilla.” On Saturday in Los Angeles, she was looking to right the ship against fellow Brazilian Ilara Joanne, a.k.a. “Arya Stark,” who had not competed since a 2019 loss to Kana Watanabe.
With Juliana Velasquez lined up for a fight with Carmouche, Porto and Joanne had a chance to boost themselves into the conversation over who the next challenger at 125lbs would be. With that in mind, both fighters appeared to want to make a statement Saturday, as they immediately began to swing wild off the opening bell. Cooler heads prevailed, however, with the tempo slowing at least for a few seconds. Joanne then went on the attack, landing a right hand among other blows — and soon enough, Porto was showing some damage. In the early going, Joanne’s speed was a big asset, allowing her to move in, connect, and escape.
Throughout the first half of the round, Porto seemed content to stay on the feet, forgoing any takedown attempts. Her jab did begin to get going, however, stopping Joanne in her tracks at one point. Still, Joanne’s striking was the story, earning her the round, with Porto only attempting a takedown in the dying seconds — which backfired, with Joanne ending up on top.
If there was a bright spot on the feet for Vanessa Porto on Saturday, it might have been her kicks. But Joanne’s boxing was still far superior, and Porto struggled to beat her to the punch once again in the second. Joanne was throwing in combos, 1-2s, mixing in the odd kick. This time, Porto didn’t wait til the end of the round for a takedown. Instead, she planted Joanne on her back with a good two minutes remaining, and finished the round there, though Joanne would throw up a submission attempt or two from her back. It was also Porto leaking blood out her nose at the end of the frame.
As she had so often in the fight, Joanne landed a combo to open the third round, one hand drilling the body, the other landing upstairs. While Joanne found success on the feet early, as she had the previous round, Porto landed the takedown earlier in the frame. This time she had a little over two minutes to work. Joanne worked for a triangle or arm-bar, but Porto stacked her up then settled into her guard. However, the ref opted to stand them up, arguably a bit quick, when Porto appeared to stall. The name of the game for Joanne from there was to avoid being put on her back a second time. Which is exactly what she did, but when it came time for the scorecards, two judges awarded a 29-28 to Porto, based on her takedowns in the second and third rounds.
Official Result: Vanessa Porto def. Ilara Joanne by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)