History Lesson: The Journey of the Invicta Strawweight Title

On Friday, Nov. 20, Invicta Fighting Championships will host its 43rd event from Kansas City, Kan. The event will crown the eighth strawweight champion in promotional history. Let’s take a look back at the belt’s history.


SETTING THE PACE

Invicta FC 4 was the stage where the first-ever Invicta strawweight champion was crowned.

The main event was expected to feature Carla Esparza and Claudia Gadelha. Unfortunately, Gadelha was forced from the bout because of a broken nose and needed to be replaced.

Also training for a fight that night was Australian Bec Rawlings — neé Hyatt. Rawlings was set to take on Joanne Calderwood on the undercard, but got the call to face Esparza.

Rawlings was the underdog in the fight, especially considering the late notice. However, Rawlings showed up to fight the highly touted Esparza.

While Rawlings proved to be a tough opponent, Esparza proved why she was regarded as one of the best 115-pounders in the world. For five rounds, Esparza used her solid boxing and vastly superior wrestling to stifle Rawlings. When the buzzer went off at the end of round five, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Esparza was the first-ever Invicta strawweight champion.

It was a short run though…


FINNING THE VOID

Esparza’s championship win was quickly followed by the UFC opening its own women’s strawweight division. With that, the champion decided to join the new season of The Ultimate Fighter, where they had a tournament to crown the first-ever UFC strawweight titleholder (which Esparza would go on to win).

Esparza’s departure left a void. And that void was to be filled at Invicta 8.

Europe’s top 115-pounder, Katja Kankaanpää of Finland, was matched against top American prospect Stephanie Eggink. The bout was paired with an atomweight title affair for championship doubleheader.

Kankaanpää’s experience figured in heavy into this fight by many, and their assertions proved to be correct. Kankaanpää, the tough and gritty vet, was able to mostly stifle Eggink throughout the fight. The big X-factor was her grappling.

The fight went into the fifth round and Kankaanpää decided to hit the gas, preferring to score a finish over letting the judges decide. She got Eggink to the ground, slapped on a D’Arce choke and tapped out Eggink just over two minutes into the final round.

The title win was huge, but she was then tasked with being the first strawweight champ to defend her title.


GANGSTER’S PARADISE

Kankaanpää’s win was huge, but she had a big task ahead of herself, as the Invicta strawweight division was brimming with talent. Her first challenger would be a highly touted newcomer from Brazil named Livia Renata Souza, the self-described Brazilian gangster.

The struggle for the champion would be matching her ground game with that of Souza, as Souza is known for her top-level submission grappling. Unfortunately for the champ, that would be on display in this match-up.

After four rounds of fighting, Souza was able to slap on a triangle choke, forcing a tap from Kankaanpää, thus ending her brief championship run. Kankaanpää would retire from the sport a few fights later with that championship accolade to her name.

Now, it was the task of Souza to be the first strawweight champ to defend the belt. Her first opponent as champ was DeAnna Bennett, a respected veteran that has been in the position of big fights more than a few times. Bennett also happened to be 8-0 at the time, making this a battle of the unbeatens.

The co-main event of Invicta 15 figured to be the BJJ of Souza vs. the boxing and wrestling of Bennett. However, just 1:30 into the first round, Souza landed a brutal body kick that folded Bennett. Souza followed up with several punches and just like that, she had defended her title with a highlight-reel finish.

The UFC would eventually be in the future of Souza, but not before her next fight at Invicta 17.


QUEEN OF THE HILL

Souza would be matched up in her second title defense against Angela Hill, a young fighter in the sport that had made The Ultimate Fighter despite having just one pro fight. Hill had washed out of the UFC not long after, and was ready to regroup under the Invicta banner.

Hill had begun her comeback with Invicta, scoring TKO victories in two bouts over Alida Gray and the aforementioned Eggink. Those two wins allotted her the resume to warrant a title shot against Souza.

Invicta 17 came around with Souza and Hill populating the co-main event in support of the bantamweight title in the main slot. Fans anticipated a clash of styles.

What they saw was a highly competitive bout. Hill used her solid Muay Thai skills and excellent athleticism to contrast with the top-level ground game and strength of Souza. Both fighters had their moments, but after 25 minutes it would come down to the judges’ scorecards.

The judges were split in who they thought took the victory; with two judges scoring the fight in favor of Hill, netting her the title and dethroning Souza in an upset.

Hill’s first title defense would take place at Invicta 20 against powerhouse Kaline Medeiros. The Brazilian Medeiros was known for her fierce knockout power and was a threat to put Hill out with one shot.

In a more clear-cut title fight for Hill, she was able to outpoint Medeiros on all the scorecards, defending her title and continuing her career resurgence after her initial UFC ouster.

Hill vacated the title after the win and headed to the UFC, as she received a late-notice opportunity. She’s been there ever since.


BLACK BELT, TITLE BELT

With the departure of Hill, Invicta again needed to fill a vacancy. So, the company looked to two of it’s top international stars to fill that need: Mizuki Inoue of Japan and Virna Jandiroba of Brazil.

Invicta 28 was the site where that vacant title would be filled. Mizuki was known to Invicta fans for her exciting style and impressive resume, while Jandiroba was an undefeated 13-0 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt looking to make a name for herself.

Like many of the title fights before it, Mizuki-Jandiroba was a competitive fight that had fans in attendance on their feet. Mizuki’s striking and Jandiroba’s grappling were both on display, in a great contrast of style.

For the second time in Invicta strawweight championship history, the judges were split on their choice for the winner. However, it was Jandiroba who got the judge’s tilt, making her the second Brazilian champ in the division’s history.

With that win, Jandiroba was then matched up with a fellow Brazilian Janaisa Morandin at Invicta 31 in her first defense of the gold. However, this time, she made sure to leave no doubt in the minds of the judges and fans.

In the second round, Jandiroba really made the grappling disparity apparent, as she dominated her countrywoman. She secured a beautiful arm-triangle choke, coercing a tap from Morandin and successfully defending her title.

As with the previous champ, Hill, Jandiroba would be offered a UFC contract and would then vacate the title to pursue that endeavor.


ONE NIGHT, THREE FIGHTS, ONE BELT

To fill the void left behind by Jandiroba, Invicta decided to hold an eight-woman, one-night tournament to crown a new champion. The tournament would consist of UFC veterans Kailin Curran, Juliana Lima and Danielle Taylor; international stars Sunna Davidsdottir and Manjit Kolekar; Invicta mainstays Sharon Jacobson, Amber Brown; and top regional fighter Brianna van Buren.

Each quarterfinal and semifinal bout was one round, with the final being a three-round affair. The winner of that three-round fight would earn the Invicta gold.

The opening round saw Curran and Lima score split decisions over Davidsdottir and Taylor, respectively. Jacobson defeated Brown by unanimous decision and van Buren scored an armbar finish over Kolekar.

The semifinals saw two more definitive wins than the first round, though there were no finishes. Van Buren bested the favored Lima by unanimous verdict, while Curran did the same over Jacobson in what was seen as an upset.

The main event came and both fighters could taste victory. It was just 15 minutes (or less) away.

In what was an outstanding performance, van Buren completed the Cinderella run in which she outlasted UFC veterans and other top prospects to dominate Curran in the finals and choke her out in the second round. With that, the championship void was filled with a young, exciting star.

However, we would never see van Buren defend that title, as the UFC offered her a fight on late notice, effectively vacating the belt.


LAND OF THE RISING STAR

With the belt without a home, Invicta again had to put together two stars to square off for the gold. Invicta 38 was the site, and competing for the title would be Japanese phenom Kanako Murata and scrappy veteran Emily Ducote.

Murata had gained fame fighting for top Japanese organization Rizin and was known for her excellent wrestling. Ducote, on the other hand, was a former Bellator MMA flyweight championship challenger who had ransacked Janaisa Morandin in her Invicta debut to earn this slot.

This was another great fight. Murata had her moments where she showed off underrated striking and good grappling. Ducote showed off her good striking as well, as well as her scrappiness. They threw down for five rounds, warranting a call to the judges.

In what we can call another piece of brilliant matchmaking by Invicta FC, we saw another split decision decide the Invicta 115-pound strap. That decision went the way of Murata, making her the first Japanese strawweight champion in Invicta. It also, in the process, proved the worth of Ducote, who is now one of the best 115-pounders.

Murata never defended the title, though. She vacated the title and signed with the UFC, leaving the belt without an owner once more.

That’s where Ducote and Montserrat Ruiz come in. The belt is on the line at Invicta 43. Who will add to the rich history of Invicta’s strawweight lineage?


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.

Invicta FC 43: Ducote vs. Conejo Fight Card Preview

On Friday, Nov. 20, Invicta Fighting Championships returns to action with its 43rd 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.


Strawweight Title: Emily Ducote vs. Montserrat “Conejo” Ruiz

The main event will have a vacant title on the line, as former Bellator MMA and Invicta title challenger Emily Ducote looks to take out Mexican star Montserrat Ruiz for the strawweight championship.

Ducote enters this title fight with experience fighting for a belt. She has challenged for the Bellator flyweight championship and Invicta strawweight championship, but fell short in both conquest. That said, the BJJ brown belt is well-rounded and tough as nails. Ducote is comfortable wherever the fight takes place. She did pick up her most recent win at Invicta FC 40, where she bested UFC veteran Juliana Lima on the scorecards. That win earned her this shot at the title.

Across from Ducote is Ruiz, a wrestler and ground fighter who has tasted defeat just once in her career. Possessing a strong submission game, Ruiz proved to the world that she was ready for this title shot in her most recent outing, a scarfhold keylock of Janaisa Morandin. This is her first shot at a major MMA championship.

Who will hold the belt come fight night? Will Ducote finally break through and win a major MMA belt, or will Ruiz add Ducote to her growing highlight reel, nabbing the title in the process?


Featherweight: Courtney King vs. Kayla Harrison

Olympic gold medalist Kayla Harrison is looking to make a successful debut at 145 pounds in the co-main event, as the $1 million PFL lightweight tournament winner takes on Invicta vet Courtney King.

With PFL’s 2020 campaign canceled due to COVID-19, Harrison has been afforded an opportunity to test the waters at featherweight. The top prospect will look to repeat her success in the lighter weight class. Harrison is an absolute brute, as her physical strength is uncanny. Obviously, the gold medal judoka has excellent takedowns and grappling, as she controls her opponent from the top and tires them out. She throws big ground-and-pound and has a strong submission game as well.

King is the woman tasked with taking on Harrison and will bring it come fight night. She’s riding a three-fight surge, which includes two wins by submission. It’s unlikely that she’ll want to grapple with the decorated Harrison, but she is a capable striker. This is her first Invicta appearance since February of 2019, where she choked out Holli Salazar.

Will the Olympian secure a win going into PFL’s 2021 season and keep her undefeated record? Or will King derail the hype train and hand the highly regarded Harrison her first loss?


Flyweight: Stephanie Geltmacher vs. Caitlin Sammons

A pivotal flyweight bout could push forward a future title contender in the next bout, as top prospect Caitlin Sammons steps in on late notice to take on the scrappy Stephanie Geltmacher. Sammons steps in for Trisha Cicero, who was forced off the event.

Geltmacher is a four-time All-American collegiate wrestler, so she always enters the cage with an excellent base. That said, she’s Hawaiian also, so she has no problem getting into a barn-burning brawl. She’s very physically strong and has rag dolled opponents in the past. Geltmacher is coming into this fight off her only career loss to Victoria Leonardo, which was an fan-friendly fight to say the least.

As for Sammons, the BJJ black belt has been dominant in her three career pro fights, all of which have come under the Invicta banner. She has a knockout, submission and decision on her record against Christina Adcock, Chantel Coates and Claire Guthrie, respectively. She also had quite the successful amateur career. Sammons is very aggressive in terms of trying to force a ground battle, and once the fight gets there, she dominates.

In this battle of prospects, who will come out on top? Will Sammons keep her perfect record intact, or will Geltmacher get back into the win column and put her name amongst the top contenders of Invicta’s 125-pound division?


Bantamweight: Brittney Cloudy vs. Hope Chase

A late addition to the card has been made and it will be in the bantamweight division, as Brittney Cloudy makes her return to Invicta against Hope Chase.

Cloudy is a former collegiate track athlete who successfully transitioned to a pro MMA career. She was supposed to fight at Invicta 42, but her fight was scrapped before fight night. 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.

Across from Cloudy is Chase, a 21-year-old prospect with a bright future in the sport. She has a karate and boxing background, so look out for Chase’s skills on the feet. She enters this fight after a semifinal finish in the Invicta Phoenix Series tournament, where she bested Julia Ottolino before falling to eventual tournament winner Taneisha Tennant. Prior to the tournament, she was on a two-fight winning streak.

In a division clamoring for talent and contenders, every win matters. Will Cloudy make a triumphant return to the organization where she made her pro debut, or will Chase notch the biggest win of her career?


Strawweight: Alexa Culp vs. Meaghan Penning

After making a successful pro debut in her last fight, Alexa Culp looks to score her second win when she welcomes Meghan Penning to Invicta in the latter’s first professional fight.

Culp is part of a strong stable of female fighters at Glory MMA & Fitness in Kansas, so it comes as no shock that the 20-year-old fighter has shown such promise. She went undefeated as an amateur before turning pro in her most recent bout. In her pro debut under the Invicta banner, Culp choked out Natalya Speece, showing off high grappling skills for a BJJ blue belt.

As for Penning, she is similarly a BJJ blue belt with a knack for finishing fights. She has never gone to a judges’ scorecards in her five-fight amateur career, scoring two knockouts and two submissions — while falling via submission in her lone loss. Penning is aggressive and exciting, and hopes to make a name for herself with Invicta fans while making her pro debut.

Will the 20-year-old James Krause protégé keep with her winning ways? Or, will Penning score a massive win in her pro debut, establishing herself as an up-and-coming strawweight to watch?


Flyweight: Juliana Miller vs. Kendal Holowell

A pair of newcomers to Invicta are set to meet in the flyweight division, as Kendal Holowell makes her professional MMA debut against one-fight pro Juliana Miller.

Miller is undefeated as an amateur and a pro, so she’s never tasted defeat in a mixed martial arts contest. She’s a BJJ purple belt that regularly competes in high-level grappling tournaments, showing how solid her ground game is. Miller will look for takedowns early and often, so she can show off those grappling chops in an attempt to score the finish.

Holowell makes her pro debut after a 7-1 run as an amateur. She is a blue belt in BJJ, meaning she likely is giving up some skill on that mat with Miller. That said, she’s got solid striking as well, which she will look to employ in this bout. Holowell is making her debut after the biggest win of her amateur career, a unanimous decision victory over Cara Greenwell.

This is a battle of prospects looking to gain notoriety in this fight. Does Miller make it two wins in two fights as a pro, or does Holowell make a successful 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.

Invicta FC 42: Cummins vs. Zappitella Fight Card Preview

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.

Phoenix Series 2: Get to Know the Fighters Competing for Tournament Glory

After an incredible first tournament in May that saw Brianna Van Buren crowned the Invicta strawweight champion, the Phoenix Series is back for its second tournament. With it comes eight flyweights all set to compete on Sept. 6 in a one-night, single-elimination tournament at the Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan.

The competition will follow the same rules as the first installment of the series and similar to that event back in May, it features a mix of top competitors including Invicta veterans, exciting prospects and newcomers to the Invicta FC cage.

Without further ado, it’s time to meet the eight women involved in the return of the Phoenix Series:

DeAnna Bennett (10-5-1):

The first of three fighters who step into this tournament after competing in a four-woman title contender tournament earlier in the year, Bennett is no stranger to being at the top of her division in Invicta. Bennett challenged Livia Renata Souza back in 2016 for the Invicta FC strawweight championship, coming up short on that occasion.

After beginning her career 8-0, Bennett has been a top contender in the sport for many years. She will be going into the tournament in search of a title shot after just missing out on one when she lost a very close decision to Karina Rodriguez in her last fight.

Milana Dudieva (12-8):

Dudieva is the second fighter in the tournament who comes in after competing in the four-woman tournament earlier this year, losing her initial fight — a “Fight of the Night” performance — to Karina Rodriguez who went on to beat Bennett in the final and win the tournament.

She comes into Sept. 6 as the woman with the most fights in the competition and an impressive record of 12 wins with 10 coming via stoppage. Dudieva has experience fighting in the UFC and against some of the biggest names in the sport such as former UFC champion Jessica Andrade. Her experience and strong Judo background make her a tough match-up for any of the other seven women.

Miranda Maverick (5-2):

The third and final woman who competed in the flyweight tournament earlier in the year is Maverick. She comes in as the youngest of the eight women at 22 years old but is showing promising signs as a prospect in the sport.

Maverick lost her fight in the four-woman tournament to DeAnna Bennett but held her own against her the whole fight showing that despite only being seven fights into her professional career, she is ready to take on the very best in Invicta. Whilst studying and aiming for a PhD in psychology, she has picked up a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and earned four of her five wins via submission.

Shanna Young (6-2):

Stepping into the competition to replace the injured Cheri Muraski doesn’t mean that Young isn’t prepared for this tournament. Fighting on Dana White’s Contender Series in August, Young will be hoping to capitalize on this quick turn around and make the most out of the opportunity.

This will be Young’s second time in the Invicta cage following a split decision loss to Lisa Spangler at Invicta FC 31, a fight which was in contention for “Fight of the Year.” A black belt in Karate, Young has finished four of her six wins and is a skillful distance striker.

Liz Tracy (5-3):

“The Titan” Tracy comes into the second tournament of the Phoenix Series with confidence in her own abilities. Bringing strong wrestling fundamentals and high-level training at 10th Planet Portland, Tracy has showed that she has the ability to neutralize her opponents with her technique.

Stepping into the cage for the first time in 2019, Tracy’s last fight at Invicta FC 32 was voted the best “Fight of the Year” in 2018 by the fans. Her performance against Stephanie Geltmacher showed that Tracy is not just a grappler and that she can and will stand and trade punches with anyone standing across the cage from her.

Victoria Leonardo (6-1):

Making a short turnaround after a “Fight of the Night” performance at Invicta FC 36 that extended her winning streak to four straight, Louisiana’s Leonardo will be out to prove she’s a contender at 125 pounds.

The 29-year-old will make her fourth Invicta appearance and looks to add to her resume that includes four submission finishes. She has tangled with fellow tournament competitor Miranda Maverick and holds wins over Stephanie Geltmacher and Jamie Milanowski under the Invicta banner.

Daiana Torquato (9-3):

The first of two fighters in the tournament who will be stepping into the Invicta cage for the first time, Torquato is bringing lots of momentum with her into the tournament.

Following seven straight wins in her native Brazil, Torquato is a black belt in Muay Thai and has a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. She trains out of Thai Brasil Floripa alongside the UFC’s Marina Rodriguez and will be ready to test her striking skills against whoever she is matched up against.

Maiju Suotama (8-4):

The final entrant in the eight-woman flyweight tournament is Finnish grappling specialist Maiju Suotama. An ADCC European champion and a NAGA expert champion, Suotama’s grappling accomplishments speak for themselves.

With all but one of her professional wins coming via finish — with five TKOs and two submissions — Suotama rounds out the eight competitors as an exciting finisher and a former Strikeforce fighter.


This piece is a special contribution from Kyle Dimond, a journalism major in Gloucester, England. You can follow Kyle on Twitter.

Phoenix Series: Get to Know the Fighters Competing for Strawweight Gold

With the first installment of the Invicta FC Phoenix Series on the horizon, eight of the strawweight divisions finest are preparing for battle on May 3.

With the eight competitors being randomly matched up ahead of the event, in one night we will find out who is the winner of the tournament and new strawweight champion. The action will take place from Kansas City’s Memorial Hall.

The very first tournament of the series features a mix of former title challengers, UFC veterans and staples of the strawweight division in Invicta FC.

Let’s take take a deeper look at the eight women involved in the dawn of a new chapter for the promotion.

MIZUKI (13-5):

Japan’s MIZUKI has been a well-known face in women’s MMA for some time and a true veteran of the Invicta cage. She has fought seven times under the Invicta banner fighting the likes of UFC veterans Bec Rawlings and Karolina Kowalkiewicz.

In her last fight, MIZUKI defeated Viviane Pereira at Invicta FC 32. Pereira is also an ex-UFC fighter, competing four times in the promotion. MIZUKI also challenged for the strawweight title last year, coming up short to then-champion Virna Jandiroba and losing via split decision. MIZUKI’s experience and quality anywhere the fight goes makes her a favorite going into the tournament.

Janaisa Morandin (10-2):

Brazil’s Janaisa Morandin has made a big impact in her short time as a professional fighter. Still only 24 years old, Morandin is the most recent person to challenge former titleholder Virna Jandiroba for the strawweight belt.

She lost the fight due to an arm-triangle submission in the second round but this was only her third fight in Invicta. With six of her ten wins coming via finish, Morandin will be looking to beat her opponent quickly, giving her a bonus and the advantage of getting to pick her opponent in the semifinals.

Danielle Taylor (10-4):

Making her second appearance in Invicta, Danielle Taylor showed her class in her debut beating the undefeated Montserrat Ruiz at Invicta FC 33.

Competing against the likes of Weili Zhang and defeating former Invicta champion Jessica Penne during her UFC run, Taylor has shown she can compete at the highest level. Her dominant debut put the division on notice and now Taylor is ready to separate herself from the rest.

Juliana Lima (9-5):

With seven fights in the UFC, Brazil’s Juliana Lima is ready for everything you can throw at her. She has stood across the cage from the likes of Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Tecia Torres and Carla Esparza. During her time in the UFC she picked up wins over Nina Ansaroff, Ericka Almeida and JJ Aldrich.

She is returning to Invicta for the first time since 2013. At the age of 37, Lima may be the most experienced woman in the tournament which could help her progress into the later stages.

Kailin Curran (4-6):

The last of the UFC veterans in the tournament, Kailin Curran entered the UFC at 3-0 in her pro career. Curran has not fought since the end of 2017 and will be looking to make a big impact on her return which will also be her debut in Invicta.

Curran has a history of being in entertaining fights and won a “Fight of the Night” bonus for her UFC debut against Paige VanZant in 2014.

Brianna Van Buren (5-2):

After a great performance in her second Invicta appearance, Brianna Van Buren comes into the tournament with plenty of momentum behind her.

“Tha Bull” defeated ex-UFC fighter Jamie Moyle in her previous fight and asked for the winner of the co-main event of the evening which was won by Danielle Taylor. Van Buren is a fast and creative striker that will be able to go toe-to-toe with any of the women in the tournament when in striking range.

Sharon Jacobson (5-4):

Sharon Jacobson is a staple of the strawweight division in Invicta. She has five previous fights in the division with three wins, all via unanimous decision.

A veteran of the U.S. Army, Jacobson uses her determination and athletic ability to take opponents down and nullify their offense. Her grappling abilities make her a dangerous match up for anyone in the tournament.

Sunna Davíðsdóttir (3-0):

Despite having the least experience on the surface, Sunna Davíðsdóttir’s three wins have all come in Invicta FC. Debuting at Invicta FC 19 in 2016, she has picked up unanimous decision wins over Ashley Greenway, Mallory Martin and Kelly D’Angelo.

Davíðsdóttir is solid wherever the fight takes place. Her last fight was at Invicta 24 in 2017. With this break in action, she’ll be eager to show off what she has been working on whilst training at Mjolinir in her home country of Iceland.


This piece is a special contribution from Kyle Dimond, a journalism major in Gloucester, England. You can follow Kyle on Twitter.