Invicta’s newest addition from 2019 is perhaps their most welcome change since their foundation. The Phoenix Series one-night tournament has been a shot in the arm to set up new title contenders and elevate lesser-known talent, and it’s paying off.
This time it’s the bantamweights getting a platform, with the winner fighting three times in a single night to get a crack at the champion. The quarterfinals and semifinals are one-round affairs each, with the final being a standard three-round bout. All rounds in the tournament are five minutes apiece as well.
It’s a varied field, and they’re all hungry. This should be another very surprising and entertaining night.
First up, Syndicate MMA’s Serena De Jesus (1-1) went 5-2 as an amateur, and is now in the field against New England’s Kerri Kenneson (3-2). Serena’s Invicta debut was a decision loss to Taneisha Tennant, who will also be in the tournament. Kenneson is crafty and has some submission wins in her record, and she’ll have to outwork Serena, who can take damage and may have a strength advantage.
Next up is Taylor Guardado, who makes her pro debut after having her last amateur fight in 2011. But look at her amateur record, and she’s got wins over Amanda Bell (TKO), Ashlee Evans-Smith (submission) and Raquel Pennington (split decision). Her lone amateur loss was against Ronda Rousey. Her opponent Claire Guthrie is 1-0 as a pro and 7-1 as an amateur with three TKOs and a submission in the amateur ranks.
Hope Chase (2-1) has a submission and a TKO as a pro, and three TKOs as an amateur, where she went 4-1. Her opponent in the opening round is BJJ standout Juilia Ottolino, who won her pro debut in Invicta with a decision over Megan Cawley and went 2-0 as an amateur.
The aforementioned Taneisha Tennant (2-0) has trained with the likes of the UFC’s Katlyn Chookagian, and went 3-0 as an amateur. She’ll be in her second Invicta fight against Brittney Victoria (3-1), who also had a run as an amateur going 5-1. Both can pack a punch, and have a scrambly ground game to go with their striking.
Flori Neamtu-Moeller (1-1) made her amateur run in Tuff-N-Uff, Titan and Shamrock before going pro, racking up a 4-2 ammy record and sharpening her skills with Jame Krause’s crew. She meets Kelly “Skittles“ Clayton, who hopes to climb back to .500 as she’s currently 1-2. Her two pro losses came at the hands of Lisa Verzosa, who’s headlining the event, and Serena De Jesus, who might end up rematching her in the tournament. Her amateur record was an odd 3-3, with one draw.
Finally, the first round is rounded out by Morgan Hickam (1-2 pro, 4-1 amateur) vs Mitzi Merry (2-0), and has both wins as submissions.
Brazil’s Liara Pirosin (7-3) will be in the only bout that isn’t at bantamweight for this event, and it’s against BJJ specialist and Invicta mainstay Kay Hansen (5-3).
The main event will be a scrap between Julija Stoliarenko (8-3), a martial artist since her youth, and Lisa Verzosa (formerly Spangler, 5-0) for the vacant bantamweight title. Stoliarenko was a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter back in 2018, with losses then to Pannie Kianzad and Leah Letson, but has won four straight, all armbars, three of which were in the first round. The Lithuanian is as tough as they come, and has worked on her conditioning and striking to get to this point. Verzosa went 9-1 as an amateur with her lone loss to power wrestler Kal Schwartz, then made her pro debut in Invicta and hasn’t looked back. All of her pro wins are by decision, and she’s become a versatile and well-rounded competitor overall.
As usual, you can watch the weigh-in video and bout order draws right here, since embedding is not permitted for this video.
Weigh-in results are as follows:
Lisa Verzosa (134.2) vs. Julija Stoliarenko (134.2) - Invicta bantamweight title
Kay Hansen (115.9) vs. Liana Pirosin (116) - Strawweight bout
Kelly Clayton (135.5) vs. Florina Moeller (135) - First bantamweight reserve bout
Mitzi Merry (135.5) vs. Morgan Hickam (135.6) - Second bantamweight reserve bout
Taneisha Tennant (135.7) vs. Brittney Victoria (135.1) - Fourth bantamweight tournament quarterfinal
Julia Ottolino (134.7) vs. Hope Chase (135.8) - Third bantamweight tournament quarterfinal
Claire Guthrie (135.7) vs. Taylor Guardado (135.8) - Second bantamweight tournament quarterfinal
Kerri Kenneson (135.5) vs. Serena DeJesus (135.3) - First bantamweight tournament quarterfinal
Invicta FC: Phoenix Series 3 takes place this Friday night, starting at 8:00pm EST. This event, as usual, will be streaming live via UFC Fight Pass.