Invicta 21 Preview: Featherweight shootout in Kansas City
January 10th, 2017 by Darren Wadsworth
A week ago Invicta 21 had a main event where the stakes and consequences were quite unclear. Common sense suggested that the Featherweight clash between Megan Anderson and Charmaine Tweet would see the winner having the unenviable task of facing Christina Cyborg Santos for the title sometime in 2017, however Invicta remained non committal on the subject.
Now with Cyborg facing a one year suspension for failing an out of competition drug for Spironolactone (which can be used to mask PED’s), Invicta has opted to make this a title fight for an interim featherweight title.
Naturally an eventual unification with the winner and Cyborg would be the ultimate plan, however there’s a very good chance that Cyborg has already fought her last fight with Invicta. Cyborg’s near £100,000 purse per Invicta fight has been mostly covered by UFC (maybe entirely) originally as a way to prepare her for a cut to bantamweight in the days when a dream fight with Ronda seemed a possibility. Now that UFC has been using her on it’s shows (in catchweight mismatches) and committing to a new featherweight division it would seem little point in the promotion paying for her to appear with Invicta. With Cyborg’s current price tag (way in excess of what it can pay it’s other top fighters) it’s questionable if Invicta could afford to keep her on it’s shows.
There’s every chance that the winner next Saturday at the Scottish Rite temple in Kansas could end up being the actual Invicta Featherweight champion and all indications are this will be a heavy hitting all out shootout. Megan Anderson has become possibly the most popular featherweight in Invicta and an absolute wrecking machine, smashing though tough competitors Amber Leibrock, Amanda Bell and Peggy Morgan in displays of frightening striking.
Likewise Charmaine Tweet showed her own power with a first round stoppage of Laytoya Walker at Invicta 17 last May with a spinning back fist that was one of the most spectacular finishes in the company’s history. Most of Tweet’s recent wins have come via knockout but she also has proven good with submissions having gained her first five victories via rear naked choke. Intriguingly Anderson’s last loss was in her Invicta debut against Cindy Dandois who used her superior wrestling to get her to submit.
This is a worthy showcase for the unique power the featheweight division brings and while some will point to the lack of depth and available fighters to question the viability box office wise for the weight class, if it provides a home for fighters that doesn’t require radical weight cuts that alone should justify it’s existence.
By the way, if you want some personal animosity and trash talking in your title fights then here you go, this shit is getting nasty.
The sheer power on display in this fight could make it the greatest Featherweight match in Invicta’s history and as a showcase for what a women’s 145 pound division can offer it’s miles more enticing than what UFC is offering next month.
Underneath the title fight Invicta 21 brings us the usual interesting card, with brand new fighters, familiar faces and plenty of potential show stealing match ups right from the bottom upwards.
Kicking off the show is Rachel Ostovich who’s made a name for herself with her signature Wonder woman attire but more importantly her tendency to find herself tangled up in the match of night. Ostovich bounced back from her thrilling defeat to Andrea Lee with an exciting decision win over Aerial Beck which saw her coming back from the brink of being stopped several times.
This could be another match of the night in the making, as although her opponent Christine Ferea is making her professional debut she brings strong fighting experience with from her primary discipline in Muay Thai where she racked up a 13-0 amateur record and won her pro debut in that sport with a fourth round stoppage over Caline Cutler at Lion 22 last May.
The road warrior looking Ferea is a naturally aggressive striker and with a job providing security on the Las Vegas strip battling in a cage is probably like a night off.
Amy Montenegro (7-2) vs. Celine Haga (10-13)
Celine Haga’s nickname should be “The persistence.” The Norweigen started MMA in 2009 in the Japanese promotion Jewels where she built up a whopping 1-11 record. No I didn’t get those the wrong way around, she lost eleven of her first twelve fights. But the bubbly, likeable lass was not going to give up and dramatically turned things around by winning nine out of her next eleven. She’s travelled the world in her most recent outings, fighting in the states, Ireland and Spain and is on a four fight win streak, winning all of them in the first round by submission. She’s been fun to watch in these fights, constantly working and transitioning towards repeated submission attempts. Probably the highlight was taking a fight on ten days notice for Bamma where she overcame jetlag, a brutal weigh cut as well as her Irish opponent Catherine Costigan on her own turf.
Haga’s opponent is definitely a step up in quality, with Amy Cadwell Montenegro coming off a shot to get into the TUF house this year. Professionally she has a 7-2 record (she began fighting as an amateur in 2008) and one of those losses was her last Invicta fight with current UFC prospect Jamie Moyle.
Flyweight: Heather Hardy (0-0) vs. Brieta Carpenter (0-0)
I’ve said many times that for me personally part of the appeal of Invicta is that it retains the underground, alternative spirit that some MMA promotions have left behind after evolving into athletic and corporate respectability. One forgotten old school MMA troupe that Invicta has recently employed is bringing in fighters who have excelled in other fighting disciplines giving fans the chance to see how they do in MMA.
This time it’s the turn of boxer Heather Hardy, making her MMA debut. Hardy has had to fight through life before she ever put on a pair of gloves. At the age of twelve Hardy was taken advantage of and raped by a drug dealer, something she kept secret until just a few years ago. Hardy found herself gravitating to boxing while her marriage was coming to an end when her ex took off with all their savings and left her alone with a ten year old daughter to raise.
Hardy channelled her life experience between the ropes and was a massive success winning all eighteen of her contests and claiming the WBC International Featherweight and super bantamweight titles. With her looks, charisma and exciting style she’s become a poster woman of sorts for women’s boxing with inevitable comparisons to Ronda Rousey. Just a few months ago she had one of the most high profile women bouts against Shelley Vincent and for the first time was televised live on NBCSN and considered a major step forward for women in Boxing.
In the tradition of Griffin-Bonner and Carano-Kedzie where showcase fights delivered at the most vital of times this scrap was an absolute scorcher, an all action, very heated affair that saw Hardy walk away with the decision. It’s definitely a fight that’s worth searching out.
But to save you the trouble I’ve found it for you, all ya gotta do is click.
As big a step for women’s boxing as the fight was, the sport still trails behind MMA in providing prospects for Women and it’s thus that Hardy in seeking a viable career finds herself stepping into the caged variety of fighting.
As Invicta 19 showed with the debut of kickboxer Tiffany Van Soest the transition from an all standing combat sport to all in MMA even for a top fighter can be perilous, especially only five months removed from boxing and it will be interesting what she has learned and brings to her fight with fellow processional debuter Brieta Carpenter.
Carpenter is a committed MMA fighter with an 8-2 amateur record and has an exciting stand up. She loves mixing things up and is especially proficient with her kicks as evident with her knockout over Silvia Babaeghian and her final amateur fight a 10 second knockout over much fancied Serena Dejesus.
What we have here is an intriguing match up of boxing vs MMA style standup, a classic mashup of disciplines that we rarely get to enjoy these days. How Hardy copes if Carpenter forces the fight to the ground or how Carpenter will perform if she ends up standing with an accomplished boxer are those questions that made mixed martial arts back in the day should an interesting sport to follow.
Flyweight: Andrea Lee (4-2) vs. Jenny Liou (6-4)
Andrea Lee’s promising MMA career hit several stumbling blocks back in March when she was upset by veteran Sarah D’Alelio in March and then failed her drug test for having Canrenone and Spironolactone in her system. With her suspension now over Andrea brings a wealth of experience far greater than her 4-2 record would suggest. Take into account her amateur contests spread over MMA, Kickboxing, Muay Thai and Boxing and she’s had just short of 40 licensed scraps (and with verified fight records so contentious and incomplete there may be a few more unrecorded out in the wilderness). An exciting fighter who mixes fast heavy striking with some nasty submissions (just check out the first round of her Legacy fight with Ariel Beck in 2015 if you have the stomach for it), she has superstar written all over her if she can get a decent string of victories under her belt.
Jenny Liou a scholar who mixes her MMA with her passion for teaching literature had a rough time in her first stint in Invicta losing to Lacey Schukman and Jamie Moyle. However since then she has turned her record around with three back to back submission victories all via armbar and one of them to once Invicta fighter Shannon Sinn. She did lose her last fight to Sarah D’Alelio on a card in July which took place only a month after the Sinn fight.
Bantamweight: Sijara Eubanks (2-1) vs. Aspen Ladd (4-0)
Aspen Ladd is a true child of Invicta, having spent her entire pro career with the promotion. While some with impressive amateur careers have faltered with the step up to the pro ranks, Ladd has made good on the promise shown winning all four fights within the distance with three vicious ground and pound TKOs and a submission win over current rising UFC star Amanda Bobby Cooper.
The ultra calm and composed but deadly Ladd has screamed potential in her past outings and while it may be early to start talking about the 21 year old as a title contender in the highly competitive Bantamweight division I’m sure 2017 will see a big step up in competition and bigger fights for the Californian.
Hoping to prove a stumbling block for Ladd is another hot prospect Sijara Eubanks who also made her pro debut with Invicta and had won both her fights with the promotion with impressive first round TKOs. Eubanks has come into the pro ranks with several years worth of competing successfully in BJJ tournaments.
Catchweight (120 pounds): Jodie Esquibel (5-2) vs. Kali Robbins (4-0)
Jodie Esquibel’s MMA career took a hit in 2016, having been totally robbed of her chance to get into the TUF house after judges gave the nod to Ashley Yoder in her elimination fight. Her subsequent return to Invicta in July saw her lose a gutsy performance against an on fire Alexa Grasso in her final fight before heading off to UFC. Esquibel breathes and lives fighting and comes from a strong boxing background and is a sport she stills goes back to from time to time.
Esquibel’s opponent was originally Deanna Bennett who has had to pull out due to personal reasons. Stepping in is the undefeated in her four fight pro career Kali Robbins. “The pop tart” (so called because she likes eating pop tarts and why not?) fell into combat sports while visiting a gym and seeing Jiu jitsui training and wondering who those guys in pyjamas were wrestling on the floor. Her pro debut against Corrie Ward gained a lot of attention and she used her grappling to win with a rear naked choke in the second round. Her following fights all ended in the first round with two submissions and an eight second knockout.
Robbins is a fast starter, rushing in with a tenacious drive towards submissions and this fight should be an exciting clash of styles given Esquibel’s proficient boxing.
Bantamweight: Pannie Kianzad (8-1) vs. Raquel Pa’aluhi (5-5)
Rounding off the card is this contest that again features a fighter with a tendency to be involved in absolute wars. Raquel Pa’aluhi has been through three tough brawls in Invicta winning against Kaitlin Young and Ediane Gomes and losing her last fight in a split decision Collen Schneider a year ago that saw her fighting with a nasty cut she received early on. Nicknamed the “lionheart” it’s a moniker that is well deserved as she has had to weather some serious storms in her victories and took time away from the sport to improve her game by training BJJ realising she needed to work on her submissions defence after a string of defeats.
Pannie Kianzad has not been seen in the cage since her losing effort to Tonya Evinger back in September of 2015. This was due to a series of injuries with her back and then her knee that kept her off the Invicta 19 card, which became such a severe an impact on the quality of her life that the Swede began questioning her future in the sport.
Now she’s refocused herself mentally and is happy to return to MMA and build on her 8-1 record to pursue her dream of fighting in the UFC. This will be a real test for both fighters in a clash that will have massive repercussions for both of these ladies immediate Invicta status.
Like all Invicta cards there is a lot of potential for great fights and with a mass of women eager for the tight Invicta spotlight a lot of consequences for who will coming away from the show with wins and losses to add to their fight tally.
Halfguarded has been a proud supporter of Invicta since the site’s inception and there will be live play by play coverage from Mike Coughlin who unlike me actually knows what’s actually happening once the bell rings (I do?). And there will be my usual recap after the show.
We spoil you, we really do.
And for God sake’s Mike England read the fucking rulebooks this time!