Invicta FC made its AXS TV debut last night with a pair of title fights, both of which went the distance and delivered plenty of entertainment.
In the main event Mexico’s Karina Rodriguez came on strong in the championship rounds to out work and out pace the powerful Daiana Torquato and clinch the vacant Invicta FC flyweight title. In the co-main event Alisha Zappitella defended her Invicta FC atomweight crown—which she won with a Van Flue Choke at Invicta FC 42—with a razor thing decision over Jessica Delboni.
It didn’t take long for the main event to turn into the brawl we were expecting. However, surprisingly, it was Torquato who was the one landing punches in bunches with Rodriguez stuck against the fence. Rodriguez was able to survive, though, and fire back with combos of her own. Though, it did look like Torquato’s punches were landing with a lot more oomph than Rodriguez’s. Torquato also scored with heavy leg kicks, reddening the left knee of Rodriguez. Both fighters threw heavy leather in the clinch, with Rodriguez scoring her best strike of the round (a knee up the middle) and Torquato landing some thudding punches.
In round two Torquato continued to work the legs of Rodriguez, knocking her off balance and thus prone to her other attacks. Just like in the first, she was able to score with big punches to the head and force Rodriguez to—uncharacteristically—step back and become a more cautious fighter. Rodriguez did let her hands go a few times, but paid the price each time with stiff combos coming back at her from the Brazilian. Despite Torquato bossing the round, Rodriguez was able to drop her right on the buzzer with a right hook. Torquato hopped right back up, though.
Rodriguez looked energized off of that knockdown. She came into the third throwing combos and landing good leg kicks. Torquato, for the first time in the fight, appeared a little gun shy. She soon shook that off, though, and both fighters traded blows in the centre of the cage. This time it was Rodriguez’s punches that looked to be landing with the biggest impact.
The brawl continued into round four with mini moments of rock ‘em sock ‘em robots. Late in the round it was Torquato who seized back the initiative, landing well with her counter punches and reactive leg kicks.
In round five both women knew that Rodriguez was ahead on two scorecards. Despite that fact, Torquato started the round of patiently, covering up as Rodriguez fired punches in her direction. Torquato kept working the leg kick and then went in for a clinch. She tried to rush Rodriguez back to the fence, but each time she was unable to keep Rodriguez there. She also grabbed a single leg, but was unable to get the takedown. Rodriguez did well in keeping the fight standing and in the centre of the cage, where she was able to keep pushing the pace.
Ultimately, Rodriguez’s continued willingness to brawl, and ability to prevent Torquato’s attempts to grapple and wrestle her, won her the fight, with scores of 50-45, 48-47 and 49-46 from the judges.
The win gives her the vacant Invicta FC flyweight title. But how long will she hold it? Rodriguez is certainly a UFC calibre fighter and that organization is quick to poach talent from the world’s premier all-female MMA league.
In the co-main Zappitella was springy from the get go, hopping in and out of range and looking to land combos. Delboni, instead, played the role of calm counter puncher — looking for a single shot to put Zappitella down when she came in. Delboni, in addition to stuffing Zappitella’s takedowns, also landed the most significant strikes of the round, reddening Zappitella’s inner thigh with a heavy leg kick and ripping a knee to the body.
Despite two of the three judges not digging her game-plan in the first round, Delboni stuck with it in the second, loading up on counters and stuffing takedowns. Zappitella expended a lot of energy with her fast footwork and her blitzing attacks, though that didn’t result in any damage. Delboni was able to connect with a clean jabs, counter hooks and chopping leg kicks.
In the third Zappitella found a home for her overhand right, catching Delboni behind the ear on a few occasions. The Brazilian looked unfazed, though. The American wasn’t able to land the takedown, though, with Delboni proving too strong and too sharp with her reactions. After stuffing one takedown, Delboni was able to catch Zappitella with a clean hook that wobbled her. Delboni then poured it on, but Zappitella was able to tie her up and make it to the end of the round.
Delboni started the fourth with a hard combo, that finished with a leg kick. Zappitella started limping, slightly, after that. With Zappitella slowed, Delboni upped her pressure, coming forwards more looking to throw bombs. Zappitella tried to fend her off with a takedown attempt. But Delboni was, again, too strong. Zappitella was able to land some solid counter punches, though. As the round ended Delboni further punished Zappitella’s lead leg with two heavy kicks.
All three judges had the fight 38-38 heading into the final round. After failing on a takedown attempt, Zappitella sat in the pocket and caught Delboni a number of times as she lurched forwards looking to fire off a combo. Delboni scored with more leg kicks and finally landed a combo up against the cage, which stunned Zappitella momentarily. Zappitella reacted with an attempt at a head and arm throw, but Delboni stuffed it and got separation. When the fight ended both atomweights raised their hands in victory after a close round and a close, well contested, fight.
In the end, two of the three judges saw the last round for Zappitella. Delboni looked bemused, and crushed, by the decision. Zappitella’s work-rate won her the fight and retained the title, even though a lot of what she worked towards didn’t pay-off. Delboni has a case to be disappointed, having landed the most telling strikes throughout the bout.
Before the title fights Juliana Miller and Claire Guthrie put on a good show.
Initially Miller seemed intent on securing takedowns and Guthrie looked like she was hoping to light her up on the feet. In the first Miller was unable to get the takedown and was forced to eat some hard defensive elbows against the fence for her troubles. In the second Miller was more aggressive with her striking and was able to get Guthrie to the ground with a kimura attempt. But Guthrie was able to wriggle free of her and later land some nasty shots inside the clinch. Despite Miller having some good moments in the second, she was down 20-18 on all scorecards heading into the third. That knowledge spurred Miller to go all out looking for strikes, but Guthrie was composed in sitting back and cracking Miller with counters. Miller was able to get more takedowns, but she was unable to get the finish she needed to win the fight. Guthrie goes to 3-1 as a pro with the unanimous decision victory and earns her first win inside the Invicta cage.
Josee Storts beat Maria Favela in a fight that went the distance. The contest saw both fighters not willing to drop their defence in exchange for any home run swings. They were tied up heading into the third round and it was Storts who was able to seal the win thanks to a takedown and some confident top control. Storts moves to 3-0 in her young career with that win.
Fatima Kline impressed in her pro debut, quickly taking down the previously 1-0 Ariana Melendez. Once the fight hit the ground the BJJ brown belt assuredly improved her position until she was able to sink in the fight ending rear naked choke.
To open the show there was a battle between two more pro debutants, with Elise Pone beating Chrissy Yandolli by second round TKO. In what was primarily a kickboxing battle, Pone had a lot more snap to her kicks, which she demonstrated by beating up her opponents lead leg. In the second, with Yandolli’s mobility hampered from the leg kicks, Pone was able to stalk her down and launch a ferocious combo against the fence that forced the ref to step in.
Flyweight Title: Karina Rodriguez def. Daiana Torquato by unanimous decision (50-45, 48-47, 49-46).
Atomweight Title: Alesha Zappitella def. Jéssica Delboni by split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47).
Flyweight: Claire Guthrie def. Julianna Miller by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
Flyweight: Josee Storts def. Maria Favela by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Strawweight: Fatima Kline def. Ariana Melendez by submission (rear-naked choke), round 1 (3:00).
Flyweight: Elise Pone def. Chrissy Yandolli by TKO (strikes), round 2 (2:07)