KANSAS CITY, Kan. — On Friday, June 11, Invicta FC hosted the fourth installment of its Phoenix Tournament from Memorial Hall in Kansas City. The event featured eight atomweight athletes competing for a shot at reigning Invicta FC atomweight champion Alesha Zappitella. Phoenix Tournament: Atomweights aired live on AXS TV in the U.S. and worldwide on Invicta FC’s YouTube Channel.
The tournament action kicked off with recent title challenger Jéssica Delboni against current champion Alesha Zappitella’s training partner Tabatha “Batgirl” Watkins, who was making her promotional debut. Watkins threw a variety of kicks to open the contest, but Delboni was able to catch one and power her to the mat. Watkins was aggressive from the bottom, attacking with an armbar. Delboni was patient and escaped the submission threat. From side control, Delboni rained punches and hammerfists. When the judges were called upon, it was Brazil’s Delboni who advanced to the semifinals.
In the second quarterfinal match-up New York native Lindsey “Damsel” VanZandt squared off with Invicta newcomer Katie “Maquina Asesina” Perez. VanZandt attacked with kicks to start the bout, hurting Perez to the body. Perez sought a takedown, but ended up on her back. VanZandt allowed the fight to return to the feet. She stunned Perez with a series of left hands that forced her to shoot yet again. VanZandt sprawled, then took the back of Perez. VanZandt slapped on a triangle-armbar. Perez defended initially, but eventually was forced to succumb to the armbar as VanZandt moved to the next round.
Jillian “Lionheart” DeCoursey and Linda “F109” Mihalec met in a rematch of their Invicta FC 39 clash in the night’s third tournament pairing. The pair traded combinations early before DeCoursey caught a leg kick and earned a brief takedown. Mihalec sprung back to her feet and peppered DeCoursey with jabs and inside leg kicks. A big right hand from DeCoursey found its mark. The volume of Mihalec was the difference as she busted the nose of DeCoursey. The judges were split in their verdict, but it was Mihalec who got revenge and earned a trip to the semifinals.
The final quarterfinal bout featured the Invicta debut of Paulina “Firefox” Granados who took on Connecticut’s Marisa “Spider Monkey” Messer-Belenchia. The pace was fast and furious to start the contest as Messer-Belenchia barreled forward and secured the clinch. Granados was able to power into top position, but Messer-Belenchia swept and secured top position. She then transitioned to the back of Granados and looked for a rear-naked choke. Granados was able to defend and work back to her feet. Once back on the feet, both fighters went for broke, landing heavy punches. A right hand from Messer-Belenchia sent Granados to the mat at one point, but Granados was able to recover. The judges were again split in their scores, with Messer-Belenchia claiming the final slot in the semifinals.
In the lone tournament reserve bout, Samantha Seff edged fellow newcomer Kara Vislosky via split decision. Seff marched forward and latched onto Vislosky. She secured a single leg and laced it to bring the fight to the mat. Once on top, Seff was smothering. She stayed busy with short punches to keep Vislosky on her back. Eventually Vislosky was able to return to the feet, but she was unable to mount any significant offense. Seff’s grappling was the difference as she claimed the decision victory.
The semifinals opened with Lindsey VanZandt and Linda Mihalec after VanZandt was able to pick her opponent following her quarterfinal armbar finish. VanZandt was very aggressive, spamming high kicks from both sides to keep Mihalec at range. The variety of techniques made Mihalec tentative and it allowed VanZandt to unload with combinations. As the round progressed, VanZandt found more and more success. Mihalec was desperate for a takedown in the final minute, as she changed levels multiple times. VanZandt easily evaded the attempts and nearly landed a highlight-reel flying knee late in the frame. There was little doubt about the result as VanZandt swept the scorecards and advanced to the tournament final.
Jéssica Delboni inched one step closer to another title shot in the semifinals as she outworked Marisa Messer-Belenchia. Delboni was patient on the outside, landing heavy kicks to the lead leg of Messer-Belenchia. They took their toll as Messer-Belenchia was limited in her movement. Delboni was methodical in her combinations, preventing Messer-Belenchia from generating any striking output. The nose of Messer-Belenchia bled profusely from the steady shots from the Brazilian. Messer-Belenchia looked to clinch late, but it was too little, too late. Delboni punched her ticket to the final with the unanimous-decision win.
In the tournament final, Jéssica Delboni and Lindsey VanZandt faced off for a second time. The pair met at Invicta FC 36 with the Brazilian Delboni winning via split decision. This time, however, the stakes were much higher. The rematch began with Delboni marching forward, but VanZandt scored with strikes from range. Delboni flurried with combinations and backed VanZandt to the fence. VanZandt countered by attacking the body with kicks and punches. The second round was razor-close as both fighters landed with regularity. VanZandt did well to counter off the back foot, hurting Delboni to the body. In the last stanza, it was Delboni who dug deep and pushed the pace. She caught VanZandt with a series of punches along the cage that forced VanZandt to cover up. VanZandt sought a late takedown, but Delboni kept the fight upright. The judges were called upon for a final time and they rewarded Delboni for her efforts, setting up a title rematch with Zappitella.
Jéssica Delboni def. Lindsey VanZandt by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) – atomweight tournament final
Jéssica Delboni def. Marisa Messer-Belenchia by unanimous decision (10-9 x3) – atomweight tournament semifinal
Lindsey VanZandt def. Linda Mihalec by unanimous decision (10-9 x3) – atomweight tournament semifinal
Samantha Seff def. Kara Vislosky by split decision (9-10, 10-9, 10-9) – atomweight tournament reserve bout
Marisa Messer-Belenchia def. Paulina Granados by split decision (10-9, 9-10, 10-9) – atomweight tournament quarterfinal
Linda Mihalec def. Jillian DeCoursey by split decision (9-10, 10-9, 10-9) – atomweight tournament quarterfinal
Lindsey VanZandt def. Katie Perez by submission (armbar). Round 1, 3:10 – atomweight tournament quarterfinal
Jéssica Delboni def. Tabatha Watkins by unanimous decision (10-9 x3) – atomweight tournament quarterfinal
About Invicta FC:
Invicta Fighting Championships (invictafc.com) is a world championship, all-pro mixed martial arts (MMA) fight series dedicated to providing female athletes with a major platform to hone their skills on a consistent basis. Founded in 2012 by longtime MMA executive Shannon Knapp, Invicta is committed to pioneering the future growth of women’s MMA by promoting the best possible match-ups between female competitors and identifying and developing future superstars of the sport. Follow Invicta on Twitter (@InvictaFights), Facebook (InvictaFights) and Instagram (@InvictaFC) for all the latest information.
About Anthem Sports & Entertainment, Inc.
Anthem Sports & Entertainment Inc. is a globally integrated multi-platform media company with offices and studios in Los Angeles, Denver, Nashville, New York, Kansas City and Toronto. Anthem’s portfolio includes AXS TV, a leading music, entertainment and lifestyle television channel and digital media company; Fight Network, the world’s premier combat sports channel; IMPACT Wrestling, one of the world’s leading wrestling organizations specializing in original programming and live events; Invicta Fighting Championships, the world’s premier all-women mixed martial arts promotion; Game+, the leader in Esports and gaming content; GameTV, the home of game shows and competition-based reality series; and HDNet Movies, which features theatrically released films and documentaries. Anthem also has a significant ownership interest in Pursuit Channel, one of the top outdoor channels in the U.S.