Fresh off the heels of a successful 5th event, Invicta FC returns to Ameristar Casino Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri on July 13th with another stacked card. The premier all-women's MMA promotion has announced 13 fights so far, and there are some fantastic matchups:
Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos (11-1) VS Marloes Coenen (21-5) (Inaugural 145 Pound Title Fight)
Leslie Smith (5-3-1) VS TBA (135 Pound Fight)
Jessica Penne (10-2) VS Nicdali Rivera-Calanoc (8-6) (105 Pound Fight)
Miriam Nakamoto (2-0) VS Duda Yankovich (1-1) (135 Pound Fight)
3 thoughts on the card:
1) In the main event, Cyborg Santos and Marloes Coenen rematch for Invicta's inaugural Featherweight title. 3 years after their first fight, they're still the two best fighters in their division. If either wins in impressive fashion, there will be immediate calls for the victor to fight Ronda Rousey in the UFC. I doubt much will come of it, and I see the winner taking at least one more fight at 145 under the Invicta banner as the Gomes/ Budd fight provides a ready-made challenger . But after that, no one at 145 is really deserving of a title shot, so at that point I expect the UFC's siren calls for Cyborg and/or Coenen to reach a fever pitch.
2) I'm concerned by the fact that there are zero Flyweight (125 pound) fights on this card. The UFC's 135 pound division, particularly the TUF tryouts, has attracted a lot of Flyweight fighters. Invicta really needs the top 125 pound prospects to return to their natural division. It would also help if Rosi Sexton and Sheila Gaff moved back down sooner than later. The other thing working against 125 is that 3 of the top fighters are tied up in Bellator (i.e. Jessica Eye, Michelle Ould, Munah Holland) Jennifer Maia is a decent challenger for Barb Honchak's belt, but I'm concerned about the growth and viability of this division going forward. Hopefully the UFC's Bantamweight division doesn't totally ruin Invicta's 125 and 145 pound divisions.
3) Strawweight is head and shoulders above the other divisions in Invicta. With the UFC taking most of the talent at 135 (and 125 and 145...) 115 is easily the deepest weight class. This is especially ridiculous considering many top Strawweights aren't even in Invicta yet (e.g. Jessica Aguilar, Megumi Fujii, Felice Herrig, Mei Yamaguchi, Emi Fujino, etc.) The division features an excellent mix of contenders and prospects. Most of the best fights on this card are at Strawweight.
With that, here are my favorite fights on the card:
1) In a tantalizing Bantamweight matchup, Miriam Nakamoto fights Duda Yankovich. This is arguably a superfight: I'm not exaggerating when I say that I can't remember any matchup in WMMA history featuring fighters with better striking credentials. Nakamoto has arguably achieved more success in Muay Thai in Thailand than any other American woman. She's fresh off a nasty (though controversial) KO of blue-chip prospect Jessamyn Duke at Invicta FC 5. For her part, Yankovich is a decorated boxer and kickboxer, having won a plethora of international titles. She drops down to 135 for the first time to fight Nakamoto, and I'm frankly surprised she can make it, as she's a fairly large woman. Yankovich has clearly been working on other aspects of MMA, as she broke her last opponent's arm with a keylock to earn her first victory. Expect violence from this one. DO NOT MISS THIS FIGHT.
2) Speaking of can't miss fights, Rose Namajunas fights Tecia Torres in a battle of the top 2 prospects at 115 (and 2 of the best prospects in WMMA). Namajunas is coming off an eye-popping flying armbar of Kathina Catron an Invicta FC 5, while Torres beat Paige VanZant from pillar to post at Invicta FC 4. I think both fighters will be fixtures of the top 10 in their division for years to come. Namajunas and Torres have the opportunity to make a huge statement with an impressive performance.
3) In an intriguing striker versus grappler Strawweight fight, fan favorite Joanne "BADMOFO JOJO" Calderwood welcomes undefeated Brazilian Claudia Gadelha to Invicta FC. The Scottish Calderwood has taken WMMA by storm with her lethal Muay Thai, while Gadelha possesses excellent BJJ credentials. This could turn out to be a title eliminator.
4) Carla "Cookie Monster" Esparza defends her strawweight belt for the first time against Ayaka Hamasaki in the co-main. The two were originally scheduled to meet at Invicta FC 4, but Hamasaki pulled out to defend her Jewels title. The Megumi Fujii protege is a dangerous submission grappler, while Cookie Monster boasts NCAA wrestling credentials. The winner of this fight will likely be considered the #1 fighter at 115, and one of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in WMMA.
The best of the rest:
1) Sarah D'Alelio takes on Lauren Taylor in a battle of fringe top 10 Bantamweights. D'Alelio has looked good since dropping to 135, earning a 3-1 record in fights with Invicta. The Cesar Gracie fighter most recently outgrappled Amanda Nunes to an easy decision win. Taylor impressed at Invicta 5 in her Bantamweight debut against WMMA vet Kaitlin Young. An impressive victory could earn either fighter a call from the UFC, though D'Alelio has a past loss to Ronda Rousey working against her.
2) Former Invicta Atomweight champ Jessica Penne begins her climb back to the top against veteran Nicdali Rivera-Calanoc. Rivera-Calanoc was scheduled to fight Cassie Rodish at Invicta 5, but pulled out with an injury. An impressive victory for Rivera-Calanoc could earn her the next title shot against Michelle Waterson, though Simona Soukupova may have already earned it.
3) Bec Hyatt welcomes 18 year-old phenom Mizuki Inoue to Invicta in another fun Strawweight matchup. Hyatt has quickly become one of the most popular WMMA fighters, and the Australian continues to claw her way back to title contention. The preternaturally gifted Inoue became one of the youngest champions in any major MMA promotion ever when she earned a Jewels title at 16. Her only loss is to Hamasaki. I can't wait to see what she has for Bec. Have I mentioned that 115 is awesome?
4) I fully expect Veronica Rothenhausler to extend her first round KO streak against the underwhelming Mollie Estes.