So I started this article a few weeks ago and did an introduction that ranted about the stupidity of UFC not having a flyweight division for women. It was passionate, reasoned and contained cutting jokes about Dana White’s head starting to resemble a deflating Rugby Ball (or an American football same thing).
The very next day I woke up to the announcement that UFC are devoting the next season of The Ultimate Fighter to crowning it’s first women’s Flyweight Champion. This continues the tradition of shit happening with Invicta whenever I write about them, such as 500 words being wasted on a fight that gets scrapped because someone couldn’t make weight, which invariably happens. So what I’m saying is the Flyweight division has happened because of me, you’re welcome.
And with three of the eight fights on the latest Invicta card featuring star Flyweights in key matches, this show has an edge of importance with an impressive win for these fighters being a useful feather in the cap for those nipping over to the tryouts just a few days later in Vegas.
Flyweight: Vanessa Porto (18-7) vs. Agnieszka Niedźwiedź (9-0)
Agnieszka Niedźwiedź place on the main event in only her second Invicta fight proof is of her status as “one to watch”, the 22 year old being undefeated in nine pro fights. Hailing from Poland she has a strong grappling background as she started Judo at the age of seven and transitioned into MMA after giving BJJ a try.
She made her Invicta debut last July and immediately lived up to her reputation for trash talking when she got into a personal and heated war of words with Christine Stanley. When the bad mouthing commenced she wasn’t even facing Stanley and was actually due to fight Pannie Kianzad, but when that fight fell through just a few days before the show Stanley dived in for a shot at her. Kianzad won the bad tempered affair by decision and with some spectacular takedowns throughout, announced herself as a new force in the division.
Niedźwiedź followed this victory up with a fight in her home country on an all women’s show Ladies Fight Night 4, which sees fights contested in a boxing style ring, with a net placed between the bottom rope and canvas to keep grapplers from falling out over the edge. This makes them a smarter promotion than Pride ever was. (The group also has guys instead of women doing the ring card duties by having the round numbers painted on their bare chests, which is still about the same level of dignity as my job.) Niedźwiedź defeated a useful Brazilian in Samara Santos Cunha by trapping her in a crucifx and battering her unprotected head for the brutal third round stoppage. This was how Niedźwiedź loves to win fights as her game plan invariably is to go for takedowns and then go to work with elbows and punches.
In terms of experience Vanessa Porto may be Niedźwiedź ‘s toughest test to date, as Porto has been figthing since 2005 and has gained victories in her 18-7 career against such top names as Tonya Evinger, Roxanne Modafferi and Germaine De Randamie (the current UFC featherweight champion although it was nearly ten years ago). She was last seen in Invicta just over a year ago when she lost a thrilling back and forth five round battle for the Flyweight title against Jennifer Maia. Although a unanimous decision it was a close fight and because of that is probably why she finds herself in a main event which effectively is a number one contenders match.
An intriguing match up of experience vs youth, potential vs seasoned pro, this should make quite the story for whoever ends up going for the title after this.
Flyweight: Roxanne Modafferi (20-13) vs. Sarah D’Alelio (11-6)
When Roxanne Modafferi fought for the Flyweight title in the main event of Invicta 19 last September it was one of the most emotionally charged nights in the promotion’s history. The potential fairytale of the ultra popular Roxanne winning the title after nearly fifteen years as a pro in the sport caught people’s imagination. Social media and message boards chatter was overwhelmingly in support of her and on fight night, everyone it seemed wanted the Happy Warrior to walk out with the belt. Even the commentary team seemed to struggle to keep their bias in check, particularly when she was working to get Maia in an armbar, which she seemed tantalisingly close to pulling off.
We didn’t get the Rocky story we all wanted (or Roxy story) as Roxanne lost a split decision and immediately some assumed that this was may have been the last hurrah for the veteran. Such people took the “warrior” part of her nickname for granted as Roxanne was back in the gym as always and just as few months ago took a fight outside of Invicta for Fusion Fight League against Brazil’s Priscilla De Souza. Roxanne was all business, taking De Souza down for the ground and pound while defending well against armbars in some sticky situations. Her dominance paid of in the second when she mounted her opponent and worked successfully into the armbar and got the tap, winning the promotions flyweight belt in the process.
While Roxanne may have that belt, you have to think that the one she really wants is still round the waist of Jennifer Maia and the determined and always positive fighter has not given up on those aspirations.
By the way, fans of Roxanne’s cosplay antics at her weigh ins may be in for a treat. She recently asked Invicta promoters for a large stage at the weigh ins, one that can accommodate her and her coach, so perhaps she’s bringing something special to Kansas.
“I hope they bet their fucking house, I hope they bet their kids college fund”
These were the words of Sarah D’Alelio ranting at the people who had bet against her after choking out Andrea Lee. This anger and frustration was a result of her being overlooked and written off against the much hyped golden girl of the promotion. Feeling disrespected is understandable after a seven year pro career that has seen her fight some of the biggest names in the sport and scoring a fair few wins over them along the way.
She may feel further aggrieved as D’Aleio at 34 she is technically a year older than the age bracket the UFC has set for their Flyweight season of Ultimate fighter.
D’Alelio career had hit a dodgy path between 2012 and 2014 winning only one in five fights, but she has since recovered from a losing streak to win four in a row. It was the Lee that turned people’s perceptions where she weathered a storm to eventually catch Lee’s back and force her to tap in the last minute of the fight. From there she’s fought and won twice, most recently in Bellator in Novemember where she got an armbar victory against Jaimelene Nievera in the second round.
Modaferri and D’Aleio have an incredible fifty pro fights between them. With this much experience and both of them having a knack for ever improving and bouncing back from some dips in their records this is another chance for both of them to prove they have lots still to offer the sport..
Atomweight: Herica Tiburcio (10-4) vs. Tessa Simpson (5-1)
With Flyweights now being recognised by UFC the next thing we should be hassling Reebok Land about is the absence of an Atomweight division. Watchng Atomweights is like watching a regular fight on fast forward, with blistering pace and wild flurries that look like two tornadoes ramming into each over repeatedly and trying to tear each others arms off.
Our one Atomweight battle on this show sees two fighters who share the distinction of having beaten Simona Soukupova in their last fight. Tessa Simpson made her debut against Soukupova last July cruising with some crisp striking and kicks, but it almost slipped away from her when she took a hammering in the last thirty seconds and just managed to survive to the final bell. Nevertheless she came away with the unanimous decision and now faces a former champ of the stacked division.
Come fight time Herica Tiburcio has the demeanour of an excited little kid running round Disneyland while on a massive sugar rush and who refuses to calm the fuck down for her exhausted parents. I know I shouldn’t say this about a professional who punches people in the face and pulls arms out of sockets for a living but the wide eyed joy she exhumes is really endearing. Even Judie Kedzie referred to her in a cute manner as a Bumblebee, which is kinda cute (although Bumblee stings sodding hurt).
After a slight glitch in her record Tiburcio got back to winning ways by out striking Soukupova to a unanimous decision. She looked comfortable, refocused and fresh and may have benefited from her a change in camps. This was her first win since causing a massive upset by tapping Michelle Waterson to win the Invicta Atomweight title in one of the best fights in the promotions history. Because she has already accomplished a lot in Invicta it’s easy to forget how young she is and at 24 is still honing her skills so hopefully there is a lot more to come and a rematch with Mizuki who beat her for the championship may be on the cards with a win here.
Bantamweight: Elizabeth Phillips (6-5) vs. Kelly Faszholz (3-2)
Elizabeth Phillips is in the process of rebuilding her record after failing to make an impact on her stint with the UFC, winning one of her her five fights in Reebok Land. After being cut by UFC Phillips then accepted a late fight with Leah Letson on Invicta 21 and despite drawing first blood was brutally knocked out with a high kick in just over a minute. Less than a month later she was fighting for Excitefights where she got a decision win over Sarah Howell who was in her first professional fight.
Kelly Faszholz is also coming to Invicta after successive losses in UFC, losing to Lauren Murphy and Ketlen Vieria. Kelly started her pro career with three wins all by Guillotine Chokes, putting her time in Jiu Jitsui to good use. She did look impressive in these fights, especially her win over Brittany Elkin where she showed some good boxing skills.
Her first UFC fight was taken on a weeks notice against Lauren Murphy which she lost with seconds to go in the last round. It was an exciting fight and a bloodied Faszcholz did well considering the fight been taken on such late notice. Her next fight however saw her dominated by Ketlen Viera over three rounds and it seemed her MMA career had to begin anew elsewhere.
Fights with consequences are a staple of Invicta philosophy, and while this does not have the stakes of a championship contender for these two fighter wanting to salvage their careers, this fight is as important as any on the card.
Flyweight: Andrea Lee (6-2) vs. Liz Tracy (3-1)
When people talk about the Straw weight division the name that keeps cropping up is Andrea Lee. First up she’s got the model looks that UFC is dying for a fighter who can do the business to come along with, and right or wrong it’s a sad truth that having those looks will open doors with the promotional team, especially when she’s proven a charismatic talker in interviews. Lee though has tons of potential in the cage where it matters. She has devastating standup (she’s had over 20 fights in boxing and muay thai on the amateur level) and has been strengthening her ground game in grappling competitions the last two years.
She’s been beaten by more experienced veterans in Roxanne Modaferri and Sarah D’Alelio, but in her last Invicta appearance was back to her crowd pleasing best with a one minute demolition over Jenny Liou. As well as gaining a lot of attention in Invicta she’s been fighting also for LFA where she had two great victories against Aerial Beck and Heather Bassett just a few months ago. Andrea is one of those fighters who just can’t help having exciting fights and these too apperances away from Invicta were no exception. Both were amazingly entertaining to watch, with Andrea showing fantastic agility mixed in with her grappling on the way to armbar stoppages. She is also now recognised as the flyweight champion for that that organisation.
Liz Tracy does not come in with the hype of Andrea but she has proven herself a real scrapper in her 4-1 pro record. She came into the pros with a ferocious debut pounding on Maria Rios until getting a rear naked choke victory in the first round. She then took a fight on a week’s notice against Ashley Yoder (now in the UFC) and got mixed in an absolute war of submission attempts and reversals so gripping it was like a worked pro wrestling match.
She finished off 2016 by collecting an Invicta scalp by beating Christime Stanley for SFL via a spilt decision.
Tracy is an exciting fighter, fast paced and has a wild look in her eye when in the cage that looks like she’s enjoying the hell out of fighting.
Andrea has noted that she’s not impressed by Tracy’s standup (she had over 20 fights in boxing and muay thai on the amateur level) and Lee should tear through her if it comes to a striking war. However if Tracy takes it to the ground with their speed and agility it could be a spectacular war of skills.
Featherweight: Ediane Gomes (10-4) vs. Pam Sorenson (5-1)
Ediane Gomes is an absolute warrior who has been competing in MMA since 2007 although in truth her whole life has been one long fight, growing up in poverty on the streets on Brazil and caught in the trappings of violence and drugs that a harsh childhood drifting through shelters and foster homes brings. Gomes efforts to break into MMA saw her fighting in barefist backstreet fights including a disturbing fight in the controversial Rio Heroes which saw her battle a larger male opponent. It’s hardly surprising with such a past that Gomes is an emotional fighter who gives everything in her fights just like in her loss to Rachel Pa’aluhi last time out in what was a gruelling war.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen her in the cage, (April 2015 to be exact). She was meant to fight Amanda Bell back in January 2016 but the fight got cancelled after Gomes got ill during the weighcut.
Pam Sorenson is another fighter who can credit MMA with improving her quality of life. Sorenson was unhappy with her professional and personal life and things changed for the better when she found herself in a gym and got the competitive bug.
She fougth six times in her first twelve months as a pro, winning five of them. She made her Invicta debut with a victory by overpowering Jessica Rose-Clarke to a decision win. In this fight she missed weight by a whopping four and half pounds.
She also apparently ran her dog for President last year. Insert your own joke here.
Strawweight: Tiffany Van Soest (0-1) vs. Christine Ferea (1-0)
If World class kick boxer Tiffant Van Soest’s much hyped first foray into MMA last September was meant to welcome a new star into the sport it did not go to script. Her striking skills were neutralised by Kayln Schwartz who wisely took the fight to the ground and forced Tiffany out of her element submitting her in the second round. Van Soest bounced back by returning to the sport she knows best by winning the semi and final of the Super Bantamweight Grand Prix at Glory 36 in December.
Skipping back and forth between Kick Boxing and MMA seems to be the plan for now as on her announcement to joing Invicta it was made plain that she would be continuing to fight for Glory.
Whether such a plan is feasible to make a mark in MMA remains to be seen. In any case by being matched with a more standup based fighter in Christine Ferea there’s more of a fans will get to be thrilled by the much promised striking skills of Glory’s finest star.
Ferea stormed into Invicta with a devastating knockout of Rachel Ostovich in January, where she coped well with the wrestling of the more experienced MMA practitioner. Ferea though only having one pro MMA fight has more fight experience in Muay Thai with 13 amateur wins and one pro victory (a fourth round KO victory for Lion).
Incidently in an interview recently Ferea revealed how following her fight she got some hash comments on social media concerning her appearance. It seems that some idiots were offended by Christine’s tattoos and mohawk and thought this justification enough to slam her for being “unfeminine.” While Ferea seemed to shrug off some comments it’s still a massively disrespectful way to treat a fighter (and frankly any person) who puts in the dedication to perform in what is a very dangerous sport and enables us fans to enjoy the most exciting spectacle that is MMA. While I’m now White Knight or Social Justice Warrior (which I never know why that should be a bad thing). I’m forever disgusted that such narrow minded behaviour from the brave trolls who throw abuse and insults from the safety of internet anonymity. MMA is still a sport I consider part of counter culture and is home to individualists and outsiders, fighters and fans alike and I hope for more open minded attitudes because of this, Ferea in interviews come across as articulate, down to earth and a cool person and I’m hoping she has the last laugh by tearing the house down win or lose in an explosive stand up war.
Bantamweight: Shaianna Rincon (0-0) vs. Brooksie Bayard (1-1)
When Brooksie Baynard read the book on MMA she obviously skipped the pages that covered “feeling out process.” In fact she probably ripped the pages out and thought “Screw that crap!” Because Brooksie Baynard comes out swinging from the opening seconds and is relentless in her aggression. As an example of this check out her Pro debut against Melanine LaCroixbut for Bamma USA. She may have lost the fight by decision, but it was an insanely action packed heaby hitting fight with some brutal knees to the body in the clinches.
Baynard has been fighting since 2012 in the amateur ranks and during her 4-0 record got a Northcutt scalp by overwhelming Sage’s sister Colbey. After her debut loss she rebounded by quickly choking out Sha Whittington in 22 seconds.
She’s also nicknamed “The Bear” which means she’ll be the favourite of the owner of this fine website you’re visiting now.
Shaianna Rincon makes her pro debut with Invicta and comes in with at least four recorded victories. Her first amateur fight was a mad scramble with Michelle Gama that she won with a Guillotine in two minutes. Two of her victories came against long time amateur Brooke Mayo and she was the only one to beat her first by submission and then via decision. While more controlled than her opponent she is quite comfortable in letting her hands go and getting into fast exchanges.
I say this on almost every show, but this has all the potential of being the best opener on the show ever, treating us all with a brutally fast all out brawl. I can’t wait and neither should you.
And if all of that is not enough to get you tuning into Fightpass next Saturday, well you’re obviously an arsehole and I don’t want to talk to you.
As always Halfguarded will covering Invicta 23 with live play by play from Mike Coughlin, a man who knows what all those whacky moves and holds are called and is the only journalist covering the sport today who has actually been in the cage and had a bash. And unlike all other MMA reporters, Mike is also funny too. (The check is in the mail…)
Time permitting I’ll do a recap of the show too.
Halfguarded, we spoil you, we really do.
Enjoy the fights