Invicta returns after a small hiatus with what looks to be a fun card. Although unfortunately plagued by injuries, it still showcases some very talented fighters and promising matchups. The main event features the promotion's biggest star Cristiane Justino, also known as Cris Cyborg taking on Ukranian grappler Daria Ibragimova for the Invicta featherweight title.
Cristiane Justino (14-1-1NC) vs Daria Ibragimova (9-1)
To put things politely, this bout is not an example of Invicta at its best. While it's easy to understand that not too many women are willing to take on one of the most feared women on the planet (and the fact that women's featherweight is in dire need of rounding out with talent), it seems that this was the best opponent they could find. No disrespect to Ibragimova, but I don't see any avenues for victory for her. She won't defend well standing, won't stop the takedown and will be hurt enough by the time the fight hits the ground that she won't be able to capitalize with a submission attempt. Expect this to be another highlight-reel finish, and a more than characteristically violent one at that.
Standing at only 5'4, DeAnna Bennet has racked up a rather impressive resumé in a very under-the-radar fashion. She has wins over TUF winner and current UFC talent Julianna Peña, two-time national women's wrestling champion Sharon Jacobson and crafty veteran Colleen Schneider, and that's on the regional scene alone. She's continued her winning ways after signing with Invicta and holds wins over Michelle Ould, Jennifer Maia, Norma Rueda Center and former champion Katja Kankaanpää. She takes on the very dangerous and athletic Livia Renata Souza who looks to defend her title in what could be the most compelling and exciting matchup of the night. Souza's lack of well-known opposition hasn't been much of a problem yet, as she shows a lot of tenacity and a very solid ground game.
Raquel Pa'aluhi (5-4) vs Colleen Schneider (9-6)
Don't let those records fool you. Both women have fought some very good opposition and are more than capable of putting on amazing fights. Pa'aluhi brings everything forward and has rounded out her game to be more complete mixed martial artist, but loves a good brawl if the opportunity presents itself. She is currently coming off a win against Ediane Gomes. Schneider is replacing Mexican standout and former title contender Irene Aldana, who suffered an injury. An established veteran that has had some ups and downs, but is reliably tough and always looking for submission opportunities and uses more of her Savate background in the striking department. Schneider is coming off a fun decision win against Bryanna Fissori at Pancrase 270 in October.
Amber Brown (5-1) vs Shino VanHoose (4-3)
Amber "The Bully" Brown trains out of the Fit NHB gym in Albuquerque, NM and has a solid wrestling grind game that can suffocate an unprepared opponent. She's taking on replacement VanHoose, filling in for an injured Lisa Ellis. VanHoose has a kickboxing background but a rather small frame and not much of the athleticism and physicality to defend what Brown brings to the table. Also to be considered is the lack of quality wins for VanHoose, as it is unfortunate that most of her wins are against people that quite frankly shouldn't be fighting. On the other hand, Brown is coming off a decision win against Liz McCarthy and a rear naked choke submission win against Catherine Costigan.
Former TUF contestant and UFC talent Angela Hill brings her kickboxing-centered style against former Olympic alternate Alida Gray, replacing an injured Jodie Esquibel. Gray is a fighter whom most fans may remember as the challenger brought in to fight Jessica Aguilar for the inaugural World Series of Fighting strawweight championship. Others may remember her for this. Yes, that is a thing that happened. Gray is a deceptively heavy-handed judoka that lacks some mobility and has unfortunately had some struggles against more technical strikers that have better use of angles and sound defense. She seems to have mostly used her Judo to defend takedowns instead of initiating them. This appears to be something that could easily play into the hands of Hill, who could bully her against the cage and wear her down, as well as use her leg kicks and attacks to the midsection. Another fight to definitely not sleep on.
Another fighter that's been around the block despite only 28 years old, Schuckman appears to be really putting things together, showing signs of improvement even in some losses. She is coming off a controversial TKO win against Jenny Liou Shriver last April. Her opponent is the always exciting Mizuki Inoue, who at only 21 years of age has beaten some fighters she probably shouldn't have by sheer talent. Her counter game is strong, her ground game is clever and she is absolutely fearless. She lost in a bout against former KSW flyweight champion and current UFC talent Karolina Kowalkiewicz which served as more of a coming out party for Kowalkiewicz, but showed serious flaws in Inoue's game in terms of dealing with distance. She then lost to Mexican phenom Alexa Grasso via decision but appears to be narrowing the gaps and recently notched a win against Emi Fujino at Deep - Jewels 9.
Amanda Bell (3-3) vs Ediane Gomes (10-4)
This bout should be special. Both opponents rely extensively on athleticism, strength, grit and crazy instincts. Bell hits hard and can wrestle well enough, and has some decent wins on her professional record despite it not yet matching the promise of her amateur record. Ediane Gomes is very aggressive with her strikes, but can be very submission-savvy although she seems to have a propensity to get caught with submissions herself. They'll both engage in a crazy firefight at some point, and this could become a battle of will.
Australian talent Megan Anderson has some heavy hands and some physical gifts, but isn't the most technical fighter. Then again, the same could be said for her opponent Amber Leibrock. Two tall women that bring big punches and not much in the way of defense? Sounds like fun - sign me up. Leibrock is coming off a win last July after she knocked out Marina Shafir while Anderson is coming off a tough submission loss to veteran grappler Cindy Dandois last September.
Invicta 15: Cyborg vs Ibragimova live from the Hangar at the OC Fair and Events Center in Costa Mesa, CA this Saturday. It will be streaming live on UFC Fight Pass.