Couchzone Movie club may be taken a short break (thanks for asking. I know you didn’t but I have to pretend I have some sort of following being the fraud that I am)(I care! – Mike), while I get the messy business of working retail during the festive holidays out of the way. The new, revamped and improved Movie club will be back in 2018.
However one thing I won’t take a break from is covering the whirlwind striking and armbar wrenching fighters of Invita Fighting Championships. Invicta 26 comes from Kansas yet again on December 8th so take a break from all the festive crap, open your favourite beverage and snacks and chill the fuck out with some wonderful legal violence.
Last Friday was The Ultimate Fighter season finale and if any show emphasised the importance and influence of Invicta it was this one. That season featured fighters who had created a buzz and reputation while fighting for Shannon Knapp’s promotion. Case in the point the main event where Roxanne Modafferi fought a fast paced contest against Nicco Montano for UFC’s first women’s Flyweight title.
Roxanne made a home for herself in Invicta following her first stint in UFC. Although the MMA media had written Roxanne off as having any role in the rising women’s divisions, Roxanne used Invicta to improve her game and her loyal fans were delighted to follow her put together a win streak culminating with a shot for the promotion’s flyweight title. It was one of the most emotional charged build up to a main event in Invicta history and even in defeat vowd she was not done improving.
Following it up with a stunning performance over Sarah D’Aellio, Roxanne’s Invicta career earned her a spot in the Ultimate Fighter’s Flyweight tournament where she reached the semi final and on two days notice found herself in the final after finallist Sijari Eubanks was forced to drop out seemingly after her brutal weight cuts caught up with her.
Invicta gives women fighters a chance to showcase their skills, whether it be new talent coming up or experienced fighters rebuilding and refocusing their post UFC careers. Invicta is a sport changer. Without Invicta a lot of fighters would be trying their luck to get a spot in the wilds of fronter MMA shows.
Were it not for Invicta building a roster of exciting and colourful straw weights to draw from I suspect UFC would never have been inspired to add a second women’s weight class. Likewise when it finally decided to fill the gap in the two weight classes and create a flyweight division it was Invicta that it got some of it’s most recognisable talent from.
Flyweight Title: Jennifer Maia (14-4-1) vs. Aga Niedźwiedź (10-0)
With Bellator and UFC crowning their first Flyweight champions within the last month it’s time for Invicta to showcase it’s own Flyweight Championship, a division it has supported since 2013.
Champion Jennifer Maia will be out to prove she is just as worthy a champion as Llima Lei Mcfarlane and Nicco Montano who are now in competition for her number one female flyweight world ranking. The Brazillian who only speaks Portuguese has been fighting in MMA since 2009, switching to the sport from Boxing who after three wins decided there was more opportunities for her in mixed martial arts.
Mixing her boxing background with a powerful ground and submission game she’s attained a 14-4 record with three of those loses coming to top competition in Vanessa Porto, Deanna Bennett and Leslie Smith. The fourth was a complete travesty in a tournament for Cage Warriors having been suckered punched at the start of the fight when going to touch gloves with Sheila Gaff (who went on to wash out in UFC in two first round losses. Karma baby).
Maia’s big moment came in 2016 when she fought Vanessa Porto for the Interim Flyweight title. Maia won a tough back and forth fight by decision, winning the title and avenging her early loss to Porto. She successfully defended her title (by then the champion proper) against Roxanne Modafferi in another exciting decision win.
Maia is an underrated fighter on the flyweight scene. Able to mix up her game with powerful boxing and wrestling, she is a match for anyone and a victory on this night against a much hyped opponent would cement Invicta has having a vibrant, relevant Flyweight scene.
Challenger Aga Niedzwiedz has what we call in Yorkshire “a right gob on her” (translation a big mouth). Just after the UFC flyweight champion was crowned Niedzwiedz tweeted “TV show is over so it’s time to see who’s the best flyweight in the world.”
Bold as brass, this lass is not out to win popularity contests, having come into Invicta with a cocky reputation and ready to make a name for herself by badmouthing her fellow fighters. But it ain’t cocky if you can back it up.
Christine Stanley was the first Invicta fighter to try to bring her down to earth, but Niedzwiedz was able to win that ill tempered grudge match. Next up was a title eliminator win over Vanessa Porto which was more solid than spectacular, and although Niedzwiedz won the fight handily with fast takedowns she seemed disappointed in her performance.
A proud Pole, Niedzwiedz has made a name for herself in a short space of time. Winning 10 fights despite being only 22. Naturally comparisons will be made with her fellow Pole Joanna Jedrzejczyk and in her own way Niedzwiedz is just as vicious, her favourite way to win being to take down her opponent and batter her with elbows.
This could be another thrilling Flyweight title match. Both have a variety of styles to draw on, having strong but different standup styles , Maia being a powerful hitter while Niedzwiedz is more clinical. While both are happy to grapple and take it to the ground. Who ever walks out of Kansas with the belt should have a valid claim on that best Flyweight in the world tag.
Strawweight: Kimberley Tanaka Novaes (12-4) vs. Janaisa Morandin (9-1)
Novaes makes her debut for Invicta being a late stand in for Mizuki. The 9-3 fighter most bizzare victory came in a championship bout against Renata Baldan in Brazil in 2015. Novaes had been feeling unwell in the buildup to the fight, with training taking an unsual toll on her body. When getting checked out after her win a doctor told her she was actually 12 weeks pregnant. That’s right Novaes fought three rounds of a cagefight with a twelve week bun in the oven. Thankfully both mother and baby had no ill effects due to the fight, but one would question the promoter surely having a responsibility to test that fighters were not going to do combat in a cage while carrying a baby.
Novaes has been fighting since 2009 and scored a win over current UFC fighter Jessica Andrade early in her career, winning some furious exchanges to TKO the future star in the second round. She has a thai boxing background and has a fast paced, wild style that can make for exciting exchanges.
Her last fight was in Pancrase early this year and was beaten by Syrui Kondo who was able to tie up and negate Noaves stand up skills in a frustrating fight.
Janaisa Morandin made her long awaited debut at the last Invicta show, with a decision loss to Livia Renata Souza. It was a big step up in competiton for Morandin who typical of many fighters coming in from Brazil has a record littered with wins over inexperienced scrubs. (You can spot these scrubs by their sherdog profile pic which is normally a male shadow, even for the women. Also their record will be something like 0-1 or 0-2, meaning they tried MMA then thought fuck this shit). She was outclassed, but did get in some heavy shots and hung in to the distance against a very dangerous opponent and a fight she took at short notice. Hopefully we’ll get a clearer idea here of Morandin’s potential.
Strawweight: Kaline Medeiros (8-5) vs. Mackenzie Dern (4-0)
Probably of all the fights on the show the Invicta debut of Mackenzie Dern is the one that has garnered the most interest. Dern is a star in the Ji-Jitsui world, being a black belt and highly decorated in tournaments winning gold in the world cup in Abu Dhabi in 2015 and 2016.
Dern began her MMA career in mid 2016 and has shown promise in her four victories in LFC and LFA, willing to engage in stand up and not just rely on her grappling skills. Her last fight, a first round win over Mandy Polk saw her set up her rear naked choke submission with a beautiful combination of strikes that shows her standup coming a long way in a short time.
Questions have arisen though about Mckenzie due to her failing to make weight twice and her contests having to be made catchweight contests (ever notice how Catchweights often come about when it’s the name fighter that has missed weight.) Mckenzie has also continued to compete in Ji-Jitsui and her performances in that sport have suffered, with her losing contests that experts have stated she should not have done.
Many fighters find it tough to train for two disciplines and the time is probably coming that Mckenzie will have to step away from Ji-Jitsui to concentrate on MMA where the financial rewards are more plentiful for a fighter with this level of hype.
Dern is not being fed an easy opponent in her Invicta debut, with the charismatic and exciting Kaline Medeiros welcoming her to the Kansas cage. Medeiros was a late addition to Invicta 17, bringing with her wins in Bellator and LFA and turning heads with her colourful mohawk. She won her first two fights and earned herself a shot at Angela Hill’s straw weight title. While the fight was a disappointment for two exciting standup fighters Medeiros took Hill the distance. Naturally she will be hoping to make life difficult for Dern in the same way that hyped fighters from other disciplines such as Heather Hardy and Tiffany Van Soest have run into.
Flyweight: Vanessa Porto (18-8) vs. Milana Dudieva (11-6)
The veteran Vanessa Porto is on a comeback trail of sorts having averaged only one fight per year in the last three fights and losing the last two. One fight was a thrilling back and forth with Jennifer Maia for the vacant flyweight title but she then failed to impress in May in her fight with Aga Niedzwiedz. This form does not reflect the career of Porto who has been fighting since the dark days of women’s MMA in 2005 and has gained scalps over some legends of the sport.
Milana Dudieva too is on a comeback trail having suffered back to back loses in the UFC. She came to Invicta to regroup in July but lost a split decision to Mara Romero Borella.
Honestly I’ve not a lot to say about this fight. But someone is going to lose their losing streak I guess?
Strawweight: Amy Montenegro (8-2) vs. Virna Jandiroba (11-0)
Amy Montenegro was involved in one of the weirder Invicta matches back in January when she fought Celine Haga at Invicta 21. Amy dominated the fight and actually made her opponent tap in the first round but the tap actually occurred a split second after the bell had rung. Montenegro angry at having to continue a fight she thought she’d already won beat the daylights out of Haga the rest of the fight and then in the final seconds got caught in a choke but lasted until the final bell. Or so it seemed. When the hold was broke Amy was found to be unconscious and technically should have lost the fight had the ref realised (rather disturbing in terms of fighter safety).
Controversial result it may be, but Montenegro looked an impressive beast in her debut with the boos from the audience while an understandable reaction in the heat of the moment was really unfair at what had been an impressive performance.
Interesting follow up, Montenegro faced Haga in the Eddie Bravo Jiu Jitsui Flyweight tournament in July and Haga won by choke, even more ironically it was in overtime.
The latest Brazillian to make her US debut with Invicta is Virna Jandiroba and while there are some tomato cans on her 11-0 record (as in the sort of fighters who have no wins and several loses and amount to no more than a silhouette on their Sherdog profile) she has scored wins over some decent names. Just over a year ago she defeated veteran Lisa Ellis by a rear naked choke in the first round and in April beat former UFC fighter Ericka Alemedia on a Brazillian card headlined by Matt Hammill, yeah Matt Hammil still around.
Virna is all about grappling and has submitted her opponents in 9 of her 11 victories.
Atomweight: Amber Brown (6-4) vs. Tessa Simpson (5-2)
If there was to be a consolation to be found in a three match losing streak it’s that the trio of losses Amber Brown is coming off have all been in great fights. Her championship shot at against Ayaki Hamasaki was an incredible war of submissions and Brown came inches away at times to becoming Invicta’s atomweight champ. Likewise her losses to a larger Ashley Yoder and Ashley Cummins were both exciting fights and Amber looked strong in both despite having a weight disadvantage in the Yoder fight.
She will obviously be looking to be more than entertaining and getting a win, which if she can put her large array of submissions she has in her arsenal, as well as her boxing experience she should be able to do.
Tessa Simpson too has been entertaining win or lose in Invicta. Winning her debut despite weathering a late scare against Simona Soukupova and losing a split decision against Hericia Tiburcio. Both fights had that whirlwind vs whirlwind look to them that the fast paced and agile Atom division brings to MMA.
Tessa took up Jiu Jitsui while pursuing an IT and computer science degree, but when balancing fighting with working in the real world decided smashing people full time more fun. She quit computers and bought a kick boxing gym with her husband who also is her main coach.
Flyweight: Christine Ferea (1-1) vs. Karina Rodríguez (5-2)
Karina Rodriguez when she came into Invicta didn’t have a massive buzz about her, despite a 4-2 record including a tasty scrap with Alexa Grasso back in 2013. In two and a half years she’d only had one fight, however the Brazillan blitzed onto Invicta 24 this year with a brutal stoppage over Barbara Acioly in the first round. Rodriguez hurt her opponent early and like a shark smelling a stoppage got her to the ground and was relentless with her assault.
Now only five months later she’s back.
Coming into Invicta with a mix of Muay Thai and MMA, Ferea made good on her reputation for brutal knock out stoppages by brutalisng and knocking out the popular Rachel Ostovich ( a star on the Ultimate fighter season and who has just won her first official UFC fight) at Invicta 21 at the start of this year. Inspired matchmaking pitted her with kick boxing darling Tiffany Van Soest. Ferea was outpointed on the scorecards with Van Soest snappy striking getting the edge, although Ferea seemed the more likley to get a finish when she took down Soest in the closing moments of the fight.
In a recent interview Ferea spoke out about how her look as a “gay tomboy” is liable to hinder her opportunities in favour of the “feminine girl” model type that promoters in the big leagues go nuts over. It’s no massive insight to recognise that UFC and Bellator will promote more what is considered a “hot” female fighter. Yet Ferea also highlighted that looks play can play a part in the gym, with instances where coaches are willing to spend more time with the pretty fighters.
The interview was part of a series of features on Bloody Elbow about women’s MMA in the “Male Gaze” and I really do recommend all MMA fans and especially those who enjoy women’s MMA to check them out. They make for some insightful and frankly sobering conclusions which we all need to consider with our attitudes towards women in MMA and gender politics in general.
Throughout all coverage of women’s MMA from message boards, social media and even to the high end reporting the attitude to women’s fighters is different to the men. Everyone is guilty of this. There is not a male journalist who has not on some level at some time made reference to a fighter’s looks even if in a positive manner. I will hold my hands up and say that when I look back at some of my past articles I cringe and embarrassed at some comments I would make about fighters being cute or hot.
In all sports there is sex appeal, but there a fine line between embracing and enjoying the sex appeal of athletes, whether male or female but where we get a problem is when the lack of a certain look gets in the way of the sport opportunities afforded to an athlete on the actual sport side. When it comes to promotion and match making pushes this is something I think happens to women more than men.
It’s just something to think about the next time the word “hot” comes up when arguing whether a fighter has the potential to be a star.
Til next time,
Enjoy the fights and merry fucking Christmas….don’t go to the sales.