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Invicta FC 14: Evinger vs. Kianzad fight card preview

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Here's a quick look at all the fights on this weekend's Invicta FC 14 card, including headliners Tonya Evinger and Pannie Kianzad and co-main fighters Katja Kankaanpaa and DeAnna Bennett.

Invicta FC enters its 14th iteration this weekend, on Saturday, September 12th in Kansas City, Missouri. With 10 fights booked it'll be the largest card since Invicta FC 8: Waterson vs. Tamada, assuming everything stays intact. The card is set to air live on Fight Pass, starting at 8pm EST, 5 Pacific.

Headlining the card will be a bantamweight title fight between champion Tonya "Triple Threat" Evinger and challenger Pannie "Banzai" Kianzad, herself the Cage Warriors bantamweight champ. In the co-main, former Invicta strawweight champion Katja "Killer Bunny" Kankaanpaa takes on the hard charging undefeated DeAnna Bennett. Along with Roxanne Modafferi, Andrea Lee, and Jinh Yu Frey the card is dotted with interesting rising and veteran talent, so let's take a look at the matchups.

BIG FIGHTS

MAIN EVENT: Invicta Bantamweight Title Fight - Tonya Evinger vs. Pannie Kianzad

Tonya Evinger walks in as a reasonable, but not immense favorite (-203 to -210) for her first title defense on the strength of her recent surge of fighting form. A longtime regional vet, she's always been a consistent winner, but it seems like it's only after her early exit from the Ultimate Fighter Season 18, where she got submitted by Raquel Pennington, that something has really started to click for her in the cage. Her combination of top shelf technical wrestling, consistent, high output kickboxing, and unbelievable toughness have made her a force in Invicta at 135. Is Kianzad the fighter to run her off her winning streak? I kind of doubt it.

    Invicta FC 14 Vivisection

Pannie Kianzad is almost certainly going to be the better pure striker in the cage, she has a nice technical base, is light on her feet, and has fast hands. But she's not the kind of power striker that is probably going to put much fear in Evinger. Add to the mix that her takedown game often revolves around her either pulling guard, or intiating a sacrifice or trip, and then relying on her scrambling ability to get position or find a submission on the bottom, and her status as an underdog feels right. It's not like Evinger can't be submitted. She has been, but it's now been years since the last time it happened. Evinger's lock down positional wrestling and ground and pound seem sharper than ever. If Kianzad can't clearly out-box her I don't think she'll out grapple her. And I don't think her striking is quite sharp enough to do the job.

Prediction: Tonya Evinger by decision

CO-MAIN EVENT: Strawweight Bout - Katja Kankaanpää vs. DeAnna Bennett

The former Invicta strawweight champion makes her return for her first bout since losing the belt to Livia Renata Souza at Invicta FC 12 back in April. Despite her past accolades, Kankaanpaa will enter as an underdog against Bennett, with the line running at (+170 to +179) against her. Those aren't huge odds, but they underscore a consistent theme in her Invicta run to date: that she's been really physically outmatched in most of her stateside fights. A less than thrilling cage grinding performance against Juliana Lima is probably her best overall performance outside Europe, and she still dropped the last round. Kankaanpaa has a ton of heart and toughness and is always dangerous, but more athletic fighters have been able to beat her.

Which brings us to the streaking DeAnna Bennett. She may not be the most technical fighter in the cage. She has a tendency to back up with her chin up and hands out when pressured and doesn't necessarily throw the best combinations, but she's got the athletic side covered in spades, especially when it comes to power. To Kankaanpaa's advantage, Bennett really does like to press the fight in the clinch against the cage, where Kankaapaa often does well to slow the grind and take energy from her opposition. But, I think the physical side of this fight is just too one sided to bank on Kankaanpaa getting the submission or doing enough damage to win exchanges.

Prediction: DeAnna Bennett via decision

FEATURE FIGHT:  Flyweight Bout - Roxanne Modafferi vs. Mariana Morais

Like Tonya Evinger, Roxanne Modafferi is on something of a surprising surge of good form late in her career. She may be coming off a loss against Vanessa Porto, but recent wins over Andrea Lee and Tara LaRosa have shown that with the right type of fighter in front of her, "The Happy Warrior" still has the ability to surprise people and derail prospects. That may be why she's the favorite here, with odds running -190 to -184 in her favor. In some ways she reminds me of Frank Mir's recent improved form. Both fighters are obviously boxing better and showing better ring craft than ever. That may not mean they'll win all their fights, or that they suddenly look like natural, sprightly strikers, but it means they're a bit more dangerous than people expect of veterans who have always been known for their grappling.

Across from Modafferi this time around will be a fighter with a background in Judo and a striking base that looks a bit more like Tae Kwon Do. She's a pretty decent technical striker at range, when given space, but has shown serious problems with fighters that can close her down and grind her against the cage or get the fight to the ground. Honestly this looks like it could be a lot like Modafferi's fight with Lee, where despite being the less athletic fighter, her ability to stay busier, work inside, and out work her opponent on the mat will get her the win.

Prediction: Roxanne Modafferi by decision

THE REST

Flyweights Andrea Lee vs. Rachel Ostovich - A battle of two really solid athletic flyweight prospects with a lot of development left to do. Both are good physical specimens, both have the ability to land strikes with power, both need a lot of work on their ground games. The deciding factor here will probably be Lee's somewhat higher output and much more technical approach in the standup. I expect things to get pretty sloppy if it hits the ground, but while it's on the feet, Lee should have the clear advantage. - Andrea Lee by TKO

Featherweights Megan Anderson vs. Cindy Dandois - Dandois is something of a throwback fighter in modern MMA. She's got a super crafty grappling game and she's big enough to force the fight to the ground sometimes, but that's about it. Everywhere else she can be beaten. Anderson is a huge, rangy featherweight who actually uses that range pretty well to throw long straight shots, but she also walks herself right into the clinch with opponents. If she can stay upright she should win, if she can't she probably wont. - Megan Anderson by KO

Flyweights Sharon Jacobson vs. Jamie Moyle - This is very likely going to be a firefight. Moyle really favors the Thai clinch and is reasonably technical there. For her part, Jacobson has shown herself to do best in dirty boxing situations and is very aggressive when it comes to rushing opponents and pressing them into the cage to land hard shots. That should mean that both fighters get to spend a lot of time with their opponent right where they want them. Jacobson also has a really great wrestling game that she doesn't use as much as she should. If Jacobson just chooses to strike I'm not sure she'll get the win. If she shoots, she has a big advantage. - Sharon Jacobson by decision

Atomweights Liz McCarthy vs. Jinh Yu Frey - Like Angela Lee higher up the card, Yu Frey is a fighter that's show a lot of early promise to be a really exciting talent. She's got a great technical striking game and seems to be evolving the rest of her skills to meet it. The question is really just about consistency and output for her. McCarthy has a very meat & potatoes wrestling game, so if Yu Frey doesn't keep her striking volume high, she could easily lose the positional battle. - Jinh Yu Frey by submission

Strawweights J.J. Aldrich vs. Rosa Acevedo - Visa issues will keep Daniela Kortmann out of a planned bout with Aldrich and mean that Invicta has had to go out looking for a late replacement in Rosa Acevedo. Aldrich isn't a particularly thrilling fighter, but she's pretty decent everywhere. From all reports, Acevedo is not. - J.J. Aldrich via TKO

Flyweights Amanda Bobby Cooper vs. Aspen Ladd - This is probably just going to be a fun/ugly scrap of a fight. I'd take Ladd just by dint of her being more well rounded, but ABC has some boxing experience that could push things in her favor if they just stand and trade. - Aspen Ladd by submission

Lightweights Felicia Spencer vs. Rachel Wiley - Two lightweights making their pro debuts? Flip a coin.