CAPE TOWN - Chiara Penco, ladies and gentlemen. Your new and first Extreme Fighting Championship strawweight queen.
The Italian shot-caller proved why her name was tagged on the main-event ticket.
She flew to the Highveld set to battle it out for five championship rounds at Carnival City. And what a champion she proved to be.
“I am so, so, so happy,” she said after stunning Danella Eliasov from South Africa with a triangle-armbar in the fourth round.
“I need to thank my family, my coaches, my people. I love you all,” said an emotional 22-year-old Penco with that flashy piece of jewellery around her waist.
I’ve seen quite a few championship fights before, and most of them going the way you’d expect. This one, though, had its very own script.
As expected, in the first round Penco used her crisp boxing and clean striking to shake Eliasov, much to the expectation of many. The South African quickly realised she would not match her opponent and changed her strategy by taking the fight to the mat in the second.
The move worked like a well-oiled machine in the knowledge that Penco would soon tire due to the high altitude at Carnival City.
Eliasov got a scent of blood as Penco visibly faded in the third round.
Eliasov showed off her cardio and toughness laying into Penco this time around dropping shots at her own pace before initiating the ground and pound.
Cue the fourth round, and it seemed as if it was only a matter of time before SA would embrace its first female strawweight champion.
But then Penco proved she had other plans.
With her mouth wide open gasping for breath and a grimace on her face that portrayed someone who was in an extremely uncomfortable position, Penco absorbed the shots of Eliasov from guard before locking up the triangle that almost seemed to dislocate Eliasov’s forearm.
Eliasov quickly tapped before holding her arm in pain for a moment.
When asked how she felt about coming so far after eight years to finally getting so close to a title, Eliasov said: “This is not the end, you’re not rid of me yet.”
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Masunyane beat Hignett (Unanimous decision)