On Thursday, Sept. 17, Invicta Fighting Championships returns to action with its 42nd event from Kansas City, Kan. The event will air live and exclusively on UFC Fight Pass at 8 p.m. CT. Let’s take a deeper look at the night’s fight card.
Atomweight Title: Ashley Cummins vs. Alesha Zappitella
The main event will see the vacant atomweight title up for grabs, as top 105-pounders Ashley Cummins and Alesha Zappitella square off in what should be a competitive championship bout.
Cummins has been atop the Invicta rankings since re-entering the organization in 2017. The well-rounded 33-year-old came up short in her most recent bout, also an atomweight title bout, against now-UFC roster member Jinh Yu Frey. In that bout, she showcased strong striking against the reigning champion. That loss snapped a two-fight surge where she bested Jessica Delboni and Stephanie Alba.
Meeting her across the cage will be Zappitella, a two-time world qualifier in wrestling. Zappitella uses her wrestling in many of her fights, imposing her will once she’s able to muscle her opponents to the ground. Despite being just 4-foot-11, she is able to grapple with opponents because of her athleticism and improving striking. She rides a two-fight winning streak coming into this bout, besting Lindsey VanZandt and Kelly D’Angelo under the Invicta banner to earn this opportunity.
With the gold up for grabs, who will prevail? Will it be ferocious wrestler with relentless pressure? Or will Cummins finally achieve her goal of becoming the Invicta champion?
Bantamweight: Lisa Verzosa vs. Raquel Canuto
After three years away from the cage, Invicta staple Raquel Canuto — nee Pa’aluhi — makes her return to the company. In her way will be Lisa Verzosa, a top bantamweight prospect looking to fight her way into another potential title fight.
Canuto is a typical tough-as-nails Hawaiian with an excellent chin and exciting striking style. She stepped away from the cage starting in 2018 to really focus on her submission grappling, and has been partaking in high-level grappling tournaments ever since. She’s also earned her BJJ black belt in that time, which is proof that her ground game is a strength. Her cage time is quality as well, as she’s fought fighters such as two-division UFC champ Amanda Nunes, as well former UFC title challengers Sara McMann and Raquel Pennington.
Verzosa is just 24 years old and has already risen the ranks to fight for an Invicta title in her last bout. In what was an absolute war, Verzosa suffered a decision loss, but gained massive amounts of respect for the effort she put in and her absolute toughness. Verzosa likes to brawl on the feet, but also has good submission wrestling, making this matchup even more intriguing.
Will Canuto re-assert herself as a top bantamweight in the Invicta 135-pound division in her first fight since 2017? Or, will Verzosa continue to show that she’s the future of the division with the biggest win of her career?
Strawweight: Jéssica Delboni vs. Herica Tiburcio
It’s been a while since the time former Invicta atomweight champion Herica Tiburcio last competed. But she makes her anticipated return in the strawweight division against fellow Brazilian Jessica Delboni.
Tiburcio has not fought since 2017, as she became a mother during that time. The BJJ black belt returns in a new division, looking to move up the ladder quickly to get into a title fight. Tiburcio is just 4-foot-11, but she fights big. She has great takedowns and submissions, which she seemingly gets with ease. She even owns a submission victory over UFC star Michelle Waterson, which is what earned her the atomweight belt.
She takes on Delboni, a member of Parana Vale Tudo where former UFC champ Jessica Andrade trains. Delboni, also a former atomweight, is a BJJ brown belt and taekwondo black belt. She’s well-rounded and will challenge Tiburcio anywhere, whether it’s on the mat or on the feet. That was seen in her most recent Invicta fight, where she outlasted Lindsey VanZandt in a strong performance.
Which Brazilian will come out on top come Invicta 42? Will it be the former atomweight champion? Or, will Delboni ruin her return while throwing her name in the 115-pound contender circle?
Flyweight: Victoria Leonardo vs. Liz Tracy
A pair of Invicta staples in a crowded, talent-laden division are jockeying for position in the title picture, as Victoria Leonardo meets Liz Tracy in a flyweight feature fight.
Leonardo was set to fight at Invicta 40, but her fight was cancelled at the last minute. The BJJ purple belt is know for her excellent grappling and submission game, as well as her physical strength. While she is coming off a setback against No. 1 contender Erin Blanchfield, Leonardo has been strong under the Invicta banner, with wins over Stephanie Geltmacher and Jamie Milanowski. She looks to get back in the win column here against Tracy.
On the other side of the cage you have Tracy, a brown belt in BJJ known for being tough as nails and for being a pressure fighter. Her best win to date came under the Invicta banner when she took a unanimous decision over Cheri Muraski. Like Leonardo, she’s coming off a tough loss, and looks to erase that near memory with a crucial victory.
Leonardo and Tracy are very similar fighters, which should make for an interesting fight. Styles make fights, which this is why you should keep a strict eye on this fight.
Bantamweight: Auttumn Norton vs. Brittney Cloudy
A “Fight of the Night” contender takes place in the bantamweight division, as the always exciting Auttumn Norton looks to build on her most recent Invicta win when she takes on promotional returnee Brittney Cloudy.
Norton enters the cage on the heels of her first pro win, a victory over Yaya Rincon in the featherweight division. Norton is just 1-1 but had an extensive amateur career where she showed her well-rounded skill set. She’s a BJJ blue belt, but has shown to be an aggressive, exciting grappler when the fight hits the mat.
Across the cage from her will be Cloudy, a former collegiate track athlete who successfully transitioned to a pro MMA career. Cloudy is a strong striker and is a Golden Gloves champion as an amateur boxer. After a great amateur career, she has shown to be a solid prospect, possessing technical, powerful boxing and an underrated submission game. Her only two losses came via split decision in bouts that could have easily gone her way. This is her first Invicta fight since her pro debut in 2018 against top Invicta flyweight Erin Blanchfield.
This fight is certainly going to set the winner up with a good position in Invicta’s bantamweight division. Will Norton build on her first pro win in her last outing, or will Cloudy make a successful return to the promotion where she made her pro debut?
Strawweight: Jennifer Chieng vs. Flore Hani
A pair of prospects with Pacific roots are set to clash in the flyweight division, as Micronesian-American Jennifer Chieng makes her sophomore pro effort against French Polynesian scrapper Flore Hani.
Chieng brings an extensive boxing background to the cage, as she represented her native land in the 2016 Olympics and is a New York Golden Gloves champion. After several fights in the amateur circuit, she made her pro MMA debut in 2018, where she scored a first-round knockout over Jessica Ruiz. She has yet to fight since then, but the scrappy striker is looking for revenge on Hani stemming from a 2013 amateur boxing encounter the two had.
Hani, like Chieng, has pro boxing experience as well. She’s also the more experienced of the two when it comes to MMA. Hani has two more pro bouts to date, as well as an appearance in the Invicta Phoenix Series, where he dropped a split decision to Chantel Coates. Hani is a physically strong athlete who loves to strike and will have no problem meeting Chieng in the middle of the cage for a fight.
In the battle of two boxers-turned-MMA fighters, who will come out on top? Will Hani outmaneuver Chieng again, or will Chieng score her revenge in her Invicta FC debut?
This piece is a special contribution from Riley Kontek, a veteran combat sports writer whose work has appeared on Bleacher Report MMA, Combat Press and the MMA Intel Blog. You can follow Riley on Twitter.