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Marisa Messer-Belenchia Replaces Katie Saull in Phoenix Tournament Lineup

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The lineup for Invicta FC Phoenix Tournament: Atomweights has undergone a late change.

Global travel restrictions has forced Canada’s “Queen of the North” Katie Saull (3-4) out of the event. Replacing Saull is fellow Invicta veteran Marisa “Spider Monkey” Messer-Belenchia (3-1).

Connecticut’s Messer-Belenchia is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt who has battled fellow tournament athletes Linda Mihalec and Jillian DeCoursey over her professional and amateur careers.

A shot at reigning Invicta FC atomweight champion Alesha Zappitella is on the line as the fastest-paced format in combat sports returns this Friday, June 11. The event takes place from Memorial Hall in Kansas City and airs live on AXS TV in the United States and will be available worldwide on Invicta FC’s YouTube Channel. To find how to watch the action in your area, click here.

For the first time in MMA history, online fan voting will determine the match-ups for the quarterfinal stage of the tournament. Fans can visit the Phoenix Tournament Voting Portal and vote for the four quarterfinal bouts they want to see.

Phoenix Tournament: Atomweight Participants
Jéssica Delboni
Jillian DeCoursey
Katie Perez
Lindsey VanZandt
Linda Mihalec
Marisa Messer-Belenchia
Paulina Granados
Tabatha Watkins


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.

Fans to Determine Phoenix Tournament Quarterfinal Match-Ups

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – In yet another fan-friendly innovation from Invicta Fighting Championships, the world’s premier all-women MMA promotion is empowering fans to become matchmakers for Invicta FC Phoenix Tournament: Atomweights which takes place Friday, June 11.

Eight atomweight contenders will step into the Invicta cage with one emerging as the new No. 1 contender – but who they fight in the first of potentially three fights in one explosive night will be decided by the fans!

For the first time in MMA history, online fan voting will determine the match-ups for the quarterfinal stage of the tournament. In the previous three Phoenix events, a random draw was used to determine the fighter pairings.

Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp said, “Invicta continues to innovate with the introduction of a fan-matchmaking element for our next Phoenix Tournament. Playing fantasy matchmaker is a big part of MMA fandom, and we’re giving fans the chance to weigh-in on the opening round of a one-night tournament that will crown the new No. 1 Invicta atomweight contender.”

Much like when Invicta experimented with open scoring back in 2019 before committing to it, the promotion is adopting a ‘look-and-see’ approach to the fan voting component for the Phoenix Tournament.

She said, “The Phoenix Tournament format itself is perhaps the biggest MMA innovation in years: the return of single-night tournaments, open scoring, five-minute fights in the quarters and semis before the two finalists meet in a three-rounder. It is a unique format and having fans vote on the initial bracketing is just another wrinkle to what we feel is the most exciting format in combat sports.”

HOW DOES VOTING WORK?

Fans can visit the Phoenix Tournament Voting Portal and vote for the four quarterfinal bouts they want to see. Whichever pairings receive the most votes will be the opening four fights of the tournament, comprising the entire quarterfinal round. Fans can vote multiple times for their favorite match-ups.

For the semifinals, whichever athlete scores the fastest finish in the quarterfinals will get to decide who she faces. As with previous Phoenix Tournaments, if there are no stoppages in the quarterfinals, a random draw will decide which winners face off in the semis.

Voting will be open until one hour before the event’s ceremonial weigh-ins on Thursday, June 10.

WHAT HAPPENS IF THERE’S A LAST-MINUTE WITHDRAWAL?

In the case of an athlete dropping out of the competition before she has a chance to compete, an alternate will take her place in both the tournament and the voting portal. 

ANY CONCERNS FIGHTERS/CAMPS WILL TRY TO INFLUENCE VOTE?

No. Every athlete who accepts an invitation to compete in a Phoenix Tournament is agreeing to fight three times in one night – that is absolute proof these women will fight anyone, short notice or not. Even if they have a preferred opponent in the quarterfinals, there’s no way influence who wins the fights and makes it to the semifinals and, ultimately, the final. The tournament winner will have to beat three opponents on June 11.

WHAT DOES THE TOURNAMENT WINNER GET?

The winner of the atomweight tournament will wins not only a Phoenix Trophy, but a cash prize and, most importantly, a guaranteed shot at reigning Invicta FC atomweight champion Alesha Zappitella.

HOW CAN I WATCH THE ACTION?

The event will be broadcast on U.S. cable network AXS TV, the Fight Network in Canada and also stream worldwide on Invicta FC’s YouTube Channel.

Phoenix Tournament: Atomweight Athletes
Jéssica Delboni
Jillian DeCoursey
Katie Perez
Katie Saull
Lindsey VanZandt
Linda Mihalec
Paulina Granados
Tabatha Watkins


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.

Phoenix Tournament to Crown New Atomweight Contender on June 11

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – A shot at reigning Invicta FC atomweight champion Alesha Zappitella is on the line as the fastest-paced format in combat sports – The Phoenix Tournament – returns next Friday, June 11. The fourth installment of Invicta FC’s Phoenix Tournament will emanate from Memorial Hall in Kansas City, as eight atomweight contenders will try to win three fights in one explosive night.

Invicta FC Phoenix Tournament©: Atomweights will air live on AXS TV in the United States and will be available worldwide on Invicta FC’s YouTube Channel. To find how to watch the action in your area, click here.

“The Phoenix Tournament is a unique set of challenges to our athletes,” said Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp. “The rapid-fire pace of the one-round quarter- and semifinal matches is totally different to anything else in mixed martial arts. Having to peak not once, not twice but potentially three times against three different opponents is the kind of mental stress only a handful of fighters in MMA history have overcome.

“Whichever fighter comes out victorious on June 11 will have truly earned her shot at the Invicta FC world title.”

Perhaps the favorite to do that is Jéssica Delboni (10-3), who – incredibly – will be back in action just three weeks after pushing the champion Zappitella to split decision. The Brazilian feels she defeated Zappitella and is prepared to fight her way through three other contenders in order to get another crack at the 105-pound queen.

Joining Delboni in the Phoenix Tournament is a pair of New Yorkers in Lindsey “Damsel” VanZandt (7-4) and Jillian “Lionheart” DeCoursey (4-3). The 27-year-old VanZandt – who now trains in Arizona – will be making her fifth Invicta appearance, having battled both Zappitella and Delboni previously. DeCoursey steps into the Invicta cage for the sixth time.

Rounding out the group of promotional veterans, Linda “F109” Mihalec (2-1) and Canada’s “Queen of the North” Katie Saull (3-4) each look to slingshot their way to the top of the 105-pound ladder.

A trio of newcomers complete the tournament athletes as Paulina “Firefox” Granados (4-4), Tabatha “Batgirl” Watkins (3-3) and Katie “Maquina Asesina” Perez (2-1) look to make a name for themselves in their promotional debuts.

As with the previous Phoenix Tournament events, the single-elimination format will feature one-round fights in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, with the tournament final being a three-round affair to determine the champion. The eight participants will be matched up during a random draw prior to the event.

Quarterfinal fighters will have plenty of incentive to finish their fights. Each finish will earn the winning fighter a monetary bonus, but more importantly, the fastest finisher in the quarterfinal round will have the luxury of picking their opponent for the semifinals based on the remaining three combatants. If there are no finishes in the quarterfinals, the semifinal match-ups will again be determined by random draw.

The event will be overseen by the Kansas Athletic Commission and will feature open scoring. With the ongoing pandemic, the fights will take place behind closed doors — sans fans — but will be open to a limited number of media. As with any Invicta event, the safety of its athletes, their corners, its staff and commission officials is of the utmost priority. All participants will be tested for COVID-19 prior to the event.

Tournament reserve match-ups will be announced prior to the event.

Phoenix Tournament: Atomweight Participants
Jéssica Delboni
Jillian DeCoursey
Katie Perez
Katie Saull
Lindsey VanZandt
Linda Mihalec
Paulina Granados
Tabatha Watkins

Vote


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.

Katie Saull Steps In For Anastasia Nikolakakos, Faces Alyse Anderson at Invicta FC 36

Kansas City, Mo. — The lineup for Invicta FC 36, which takes place Friday, Aug. 9 at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan., has undergone a last-minute change.

Undefeated atomweight Anastasia Nikolakakos has been forced out of her match-up with Alyse Anderson. Stepping in on short notice is promotional newcomer Katie Saull (3-3). The 31-year-old Canadian fighter trains out of SBG Ireland in Dublin and has shared the cage with Invicta veterans Cassie Robb and Lindsey VanZandt.

Additionally, the return of Phoenix Rising tournament finalist Kailin Curran has been pushed back to a later date.

Invicta FC 36 streams live and exclusively on UFC Fight Pass at 7 p.m. CT and will be headlined by a featherweight title tilt between Minnesotans Pam “Bam” Sorenson (7-3) and “The Striking Viking” Kaitlin Young (10-9-1).

The updated Invicta FC 36 fight card can be found below:

Featherweight Title: Pam Sorenson vs. Kaitlin Young
Strawweight: Janaisa Morandin vs. Emily Ducote
Atomweight: Jéssica Delboni vs. Lindsey VanZandt
Flyweight: Stephanie Geltmacher vs. Victoria Leonardo
Atomweight: Alyse Anderson vs. Katie Saull
Flyweight: Chantel Coates vs. Caitlin Sammons
Bantamweight: Erin Harpe vs. Auttumn Norton
Bantamweight: Megan Cawley vs. Julia Ottolino

Tickets for Invicta FC 36 can be purchased through Eventbrite.


About Invicta FC:

Invicta Fighting Championships 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 (Facebook.com/InvictaFights), and Instagram (@InvictaFC) for all the latest information.