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Invicta FC 25: Kunitskaya vs Pa’aluhi fight card preview

The West Coast gets another taste of the all-women organization’s offerings.

Invicta returns after a short turnaround from their event last month to set the stage for another visit to sunny California to crown a new bantamweight champion.

Hardened veteran Raquel Pa’aluhi (6-5) takes on Russian talent Yana Kunitskaya (9-3) in the headliner. Pa’aluhi has had a rough career, with a win/loss record that doesn’t reflect her skills or tenacity as a fighter. Raquel has faced Sarah D’Alelio, Sara McMann, Amanda Nunes and Raquel Pennington, all before 2013. She’s since gone 4-1 with wins over Ediane Gomes, Kaitlin Young and Pannie Kianzad with a lone loss coming via split decision against Colleen Schneider. She’s sharpened her boxing and footwork, managed a good gas tank, and utilized strong BJJ principles to outwork her opponents.

Kunitskaya made a name for herself on the European circuit, defeating Cindy Dandois in 2010 via TKO. After a two-year run that saw her win six in a row, she suffered a loss to Zaira Dyeshkova at ACB 32. Yana was able to bounce back with a win over Chinese prospect Yanan Wu last year, only to win the title with a controversial submission win against then-champion Tonya Evinger. That fight was overturned due to a horrendous call by referee Mike England, and Kunitskaya lost via choke in the eventual rematch despite multiple leglock attempts. Now that the title is vacant, she has another opportunity at the gold, and will face a very difficult test to get there. But Kunitskaya has been putting in time at Jackson/Winklejohn in New Mexico, so she should be in prime condition to face that test.

The co-main event is fight between powerhouse Brazilian Livia Renata Souza (10-1) attempting reach the mountaintop against fellow Brazilian Janaisa Morandin (9-0) on the road back to the strawweight title. Souza was undefeated and looked unstoppable until facing current UFC talent Angela Hill last year. Her only fight since then was a major statement against Invicta atomweight champion Ayaka Hamasaki via TKO. Her opponent is a very strong fighter with a decent takedown game and good top control. Yet despite being undefeated, Morandin has unfortunately not faced a single fighter in her career that has a winning record. Her lack of head movement as well as lack of experience against seasoned opposition could very likely cost her in a big way here.

Another fun fight will see Alexa Connors (4-1)facing Katharina Lehner (5-0). Connors is currently 1-1 in Invicta, losing her pro debut against former TUF contestant Laura Howarth. That was followed by a win over Stephanie Egger and other fights in other organizations, such as LFA. She brings a brutal right hand and a very physical style with a lot of clinchwork against the cage. Lehner created a bit of a buzz with her signing announcement, which portrayed her as a true boss. Undefeated in fights that were all decisions, Lehner brings a well-rounded game with good takedown defense and good striking output. Her style is favorable for winning rounds, but that doesn’t mean she’s not going for the finish if she sees on opportunity.

Roufusport firebrand Kali Robbins (4-1) will finally make her Invicta debut after weight-cutting complications got her pulled from her fight against Jodie Esquibel. She brings her dynamic pace and submission skills against 2-time USA Wrestling national champion Sharon Jacobsen (4-0), returning after a two-year hiatus from MMA.

Shino VanHoose (5-5) returns to Invicta to face a fearless and athletic newcomer in Alyse Anderson (3-0). Submission stylist Amberlynn Orr (0-1) takes on wild-swinging Sarah Kleczka (pro debut). Courtney King (1-0) comes off a win over Colbey Northcutt (yes, Sage’s sister) by TKO (h/t to Jolassanda) in her pro debut to face Shaianna Rincon (1-0). Rincon previously defeated Brooksie Bayard at Invicta FC 23 and has two submission wins as an amateur.

Cheri Muraski (5-1 amateur, 2 submissions, two TKO, 2-0 pro) brings her top-heavy half guard savvy to deal with the freakish strength and wrestling chops of Tracy Cortez (6-0 amateur, 1 submission, 3TKOs, pro debut). The card opens with Ashley Medina (4-1 amateur, 2 submissions, pro debut) using her suffocating volume striking and chain submissions against Jillian DeCoursey (6-0 amateur, 1 submission, pro debut).

Invicta FC 25 takes place at the Tachi Palace in Lemoore, CA this Thursday, August 31st. The event will be streamed live via UFC Fight Pass starting at 9:00pm EST.