DENVER — On Wednesday, Jan. 18, Invicta Fighting Championships hosted Invicta FC 51: Tennant vs. Bernardo from ReelWorks Denver.
Brazil’s Talita Bernardo earned her third straight win in the Invicta cage, dethroning titleholder Taneisha Tennant in the process. Tennant opened with a low kick and Bernardo answered with a calf kick of her own. The Brazilian again went to the calf to try and slow Tennant’s movement. Tennant pumped her jab before attempting a front kick. Bernardo caught the kick and chased her to the ground. She immediately moved to Tennant’s back and began working for a rear-naked choke. Tennant fought the hands as Bernardo tried to soften her up with punches. Bernardo transitioned to a body triangle and continued to search for a choke. Tennant sat up to break the body triangle, but she could not escape the grasp of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. Bernardo fired short right hands to the body of Tennant and applied a face crank, but could not get the opening-round finish. Tennant flicked her jab in round two and pressured Bernardo to the cage. A stiff right from Tennant popped the head of Bernardo, prompting her to latch onto a leg and drag Tennant to the ground. It was brief as Tennant bounced back to her feet. Bernardo stuck with it, dragging Tennant to the mat with a body lock. She took the back and flattened out Tennant, but the American was able to escape. Despite the opportunity to stand, Tennant followed Bernardo back to the ground. She was able to control the position briefly and return to the feet. Bernardo scored with a late throw as the round expired. The bantamweight delivered calf kicks to one another’s lead legs in the third frame. Bernardo changed levels and dragged Tennant on top of her. She attacked with a leg lock, but absorbed an onslaught of punches from Tennant. The pair scrambled and Bernardo slammed Tennant to the ground. Bernardo passed from side control to mount and began to look for an arm-triangle choke. She abandoned the choke attempt to drop punches from the dominant position. Bernardo briefly attacked with a straight armbar, which Tennant quickly defended. Tennant again was saved by the round expiring. Bernardo’s assault on Tennant’s calf continued, but she largely sat back and waited for Tennant to come forward. Tennant fired kicks to the knee. Bernardo changed levels and secured a body lock. Tennant used the fence to stay upright. She leaned on Bernardo from the clinch and offered a series of knees to the Brazilian’s thigh. Tennant grabbed a single and Bernardo actually helped her bring the fight to the ground. Bernardo went for a kneebar, which Tennant defended with a fence grab. The fight was dead even heading to the final round. Bernardo put her mark on the round quickly, lifting Tennant above her head and slamming her violently to the ground. Tennant attempted to stop the takedown by grabbing the fence again and was deducted a point. The Brazilian passed to north-south and maintained top position. Bernardo tried to stay busy from the top as Tennant aimed to tie her up from the bottom. Tennant briefly caught Bernardo in a triangle, but the Brazilian was wise to it and delivered short body shots. The judges were called upon for the final time of the evening and Bernardo was announced as the new bantamweight champion. She is the first Brazilian to hold the 135-pound strap under the Invicta banner.
There’s a new flyweight champion as Brazilian Ketlen Souza proved to be too much for veteran Kristina Williams over five rounds. The two combatants traded kicks as they looked to find their range. A massive overhand right from Souza cracked Williams on the jaw, but the American took it well. Williams countered a kick from Souza and flurried forward into the clinch. Souza shrugged her off for a moment before Williams tied her up and tripped her to the ground. Williams stayed heavy on top, keeping the Brazilian with her back to the mat. She looked to pass to mount, but it allowed Souza to recover her guard. Souza scrambled hard and latched onto one of the legs of Williams to get back to her feet. They returned to the clinch late in the round and exchanged knees. A looping right from Souza again clipped Williams early in round two. Williams was unfazed and returned fire with kicks. A wheel kick from Souza was blocked by the American despite the oohs from the crowd. Souza’s aggression cost her as she was off balance and allowed Williams to gain top position against the cage. Williams postured up, but the Brazilian controlled her wrists from the bottom. Williams settled for the full guard and Souza tried to tie her up. After the referee stood the fight up, Williams caught a kick and dumped Souza to the ground again. Souza went for an armbar as the round expired. A calf kick from Williams sent Souza backpedaling to open the third stanza. A heavy right hand from Williams found the jaw of Souza and the Brazilian responded with a takedown. It was short-lived as Williams sprung to her feet. Another right from Souza landed clean, but Williams again acted as if nothing happened. Souza pinned Williams to the cage and fired short right hands. The pair jostled for position and Souza landed on top. She peppered right hands to the body of Williams. A big elbow from Souza found the mark and Williams leaked from a big cut above her right eye. The doctor’s inspected Williams between rounds and the fight was allowed to continue into the championship rounds. A front kick from Souza caught Williams in the mouth, but she still marched forward into the clinch. Souza missed with a spinning attack and was content to stay at range. Williams brought the fight to the clinch with a minute left in the round, but could not generate any offense. Williams changed levels with her punches in the fifth frame. She followed with low kicks and tried to cut off the cage as Souza bounced around the outside. Williams fired combinations against the fence and Souza showed off her speed and head movement to evade the punches. There was little doubt after 25 minutes as Souza claimed the decision victory and the 125-pound belt.
Former title challenger Olga Rubin got back in the win column after three rounds with Serena DeJesus. Rubin threw a variety of kicks to find her range. DeJesus walked through the strikes and fired heavy punches. A big flurry from DeJesus backed Rubin to the fence, but she responded with a combination of her own. Rubin shot for a takedown and then summersaulted when she missed the target. DeJesus’s aggression was used against her as Rubin countered through the hands of the Las Vegas fighter. A stiff jab from Rubin popped the head of DeJesus like a pez dispenser and drew a smile from DeJesus. Rubin secured a body lock, but DeJesus powered free late in the round. DeJesus just marched Rubin down with punches in round two. Rubin answered with another power jab that stunned DeJesus for a moment. DeJesus landed a clean uppercut, which allowed her to push Rubin against the fence. She exited with an elbow on the break and was quickly countered by a left hand from Rubin. DeJesus pinned Rubin to the fence before absorbing an elbow from Rubin. A spinning backfist from Rubin drew a reaction from the crowd. A left straight put DeJesus on rubber legs and Rubin flurried for a finish, but DeJesus was saved by the bell. DeJesus appeared to have recovered in the third frame, firing power punches and marching toward Rubin. The bantamweights exchanged uppercuts from the single-collar tie before separating. A counter left from Rubin stunned DeJesus yet again. The toughness of DeJesus was on full display as she absorbed the punishment from Rubin and never went down. The judges awarded Rubin the decision nod to snap the winning streak of DeJesus.
Denver bantamweight Claire Guthrie stayed in the win column, defeating a very tough Auttumn Norton after three, hard-fought rounds. Norton fired multiple kicks to start and Guthrie capitalized by catching one and driving her the canvas. After a brief scramble, Guthrie settled into half guard and stayed heavy on top. Norton was able to recover her guard, shrimp to the fence and return to the feet. The pair hung on one another against the cage before briefly separating and allowing Guthrie to slam Norton to the ground once more. Norton sprung back to her feet and the fight stayed upright for the remainder of the frame. A head kick from Guthrie greeted Norton to open round two. Guthrie used a right hand to set up a level change, but Norton shrugged her off. A cut opened under the right eye of Guthrie halfway through the round. Norton stalked Guthrie around the cage before being driven to the mat with a power double. Guthrie stuck to Norton like glue along the fence. The pair traded body kicks to close the stanza. In round three, Guthrie walked through a right hand to attempt a takedown, but Norton stuffed the shot. A big body kick from Guthrie found its mark to back up Norton and slow her advance. Guthrie landed a combination before slipping and falling to the mat. Norton could not take advantage as Guthrie got back to her feet and cracked Norton with a right hand. A slapping head kick from Guthrie landed late in the fight as the pace slowed. It was a clean sweep on the scorecards for Guthrie, who earned her fourth straight win.
More atomweights were in action as veteran Marisa Messer-Belenchia welcomed Elisandra “Lili” Ferreira to the Invicta cage. Ferreira cracked Messer-Belenchia with a series of right hands immediately to open the bout. Messer-Belenchia clinched and the two jockeyed for position along the cage. The American scored with short right hands and knees, but Ferreira was able to toss her to the ground. Even after Messer-Belenchia secured her full guard, Ferreira dropped heavy punches to the head and body. Messer-Belenchia looked for a butterfly sweep and then an armbar. Ferreira slammed free of the submission attempt and continued to batter the face of Messer-Belenchia until the round came to a conclusion. A crisp right from Ferreira stunned Messer-Belenchia and she followed with a head kick. Messer-Belenchia took the shots and returned the fight to the clinch. An onslaught of short punches from Messer-Belenchia connected against the fence. Ferreira tried to spin Messer-Belenchia to the cage and fired a big elbow. Messer-Belenchia stayed glued to the Brazilian, giving her no space to work. Ferreira broke free in the round’s final minute and she threw heavy strikes, again forcing Messer-Belenchia to clinch. A late takedown saw Ferreira take Messer-Belenchia’s back, but she did not have time to secure a rear-naked choke. Ferreira remained the aggressor in the third round, firing big punches from distance. Messer-Belenchia returned to the same strategy of clinching along the fence. She laced a leg and attempted to trip Ferreira, but the Brazilian defended to stay upright. Ferreira threw Messer-Belenchia to the ground and attempted an arm-in guillotine which Messer-Belenchia easily escaped. The grueling clinch work of Messer-Belenchia continued until moments before the final bell when both fighters threw with reckless abandon. Messer-Belenchia’s efforts were in vain as the judges scored the contest for Ferreira.
The second fight of the night featured Brazilian newcomer Rayanne dos Santos opposite Canadian Katie Saull in an atomweight contest. Dos Santos fired a variety of kicks against the southpaw Saull. A head kick from Saull was blocked late by the Brazilian. A counter right from dos Santos found the mark, but Saull was able to roll with it. The pair traded kicks from range and looked to draw the other into boxing range. Both fighters wore welts from the strikes that connected. Dos Santos looked for a late trip, but the round expired. In the middle frame, Saull changed levels with her kicks and attacked the midsection of dos Santos. Dos Santos was undeterred, assaulting the lead leg of Saull with low kicks. The Brazilian tried to flurry, but Saull used her footwork to evade the attack. Saull slipped on a head kick midway through the round and dos Santos pounced with hammerfists. Saull was able to secure her guard and then return to her feet. Saull shot for a late takedown and dos Santos sprawled. A right hand from dos Santos stunned Saull with seconds left in the round and she went for the finish, but the horn saved the Canadian. Round three opened with a body kick from Saull, which dos Santos turned into a takedown. Saull countered with an armbar attempt from the bottom and forced dos Santos to defend. Dos Santos calmly escaped and secured top position. She attempted to pass Saull’s guard, but it was largely a stalemate. An errant strike from dos Santos landed to the back of Saull’s head and the referee took the position away. Ultimately, the scorecards were needed and it was dos Santos who was rewarded the decision victory.
In the night’s opening match-up grappling ace Fatima Kline remained undefeated after outworking wrestling stalwart Laura Gallardo. A looping right hand from Kline caught Gallardo clean and sent her to the mat early in the contest. Gallardo recovered and the pair exchanged low kicks. Kline used her reach well to keep Gallardo at range. Gallardo entered the pocket and looked to clinch, but Kline was able to separate. The southpaw Gallardo capitalized on Kline switching stances and landed a slapping low kick. Kline countered with a heavy body kick. Gallardo fired a head kick, but Kline evaded the strike. Late in the round, Kline changed levels and secured a double. She lifted Gallardo above her head and slammed her to the ground. Kline tried to posture up as the round came to a close. Round two began with another stiff right hand from Kline and she immediately clinched. Gallardo broke free and shot for a takedown. She latched onto a single and dragged Kline to the mat, but could not keep her there. Kline delivered an overhand left as she continued to switch her stance. A heavy right from Kline wobbled Gallardo and Kline chased her to the canvas. Kline passed to mount and rained strikes. Gallardo scrambled hard and escaped to her feet. Kline transitioned to her back and peppered Gallardo with short knees. Gallardo desperately tried to get the fight to the ground, but Kline showcased great takedown defense to control the action until the round’s end. The final stanza saw Gallardo look for a takedown and Kline countered with a kimura attempt and sweep. Kline landed with regularity from distance, frustrating Gallardo with every strike. Gallardo countered a body kick by holding onto Kline’s leg, but it was Kline who threw The Ultimate Fighter veteran to the ground with a thunderous slam. A head kick from Kline connected late in the fight as she imposed her will on Gallardo. The fight went the distance and all three judges scored the fight for Kline.
Talita Bernardo def. Taneisha Tennant by unanimous decision (48-46 x3) – for bantamweight title
Ketlen Souza def. Kristina Williams by unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 48-47) – for flyweight title
Olga Rubin def. Serena DeJesus by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Claire Guthrie def. Auttumn Norton by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Elisandra “Lili” Ferreira def. Marisa Messer-Belenchia by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)
Rayanne dos Santos def. Katie Saull by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Fatima Kline def. Laura Gallardo by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
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 global multi-platform media company with offices and studios in Los Angeles, Denver, Nashville, New York, Kansas City, Cleveland and Toronto. Anthem’s portfolio includes AXS TV, a leading music, entertainment and lifestyle television channel and digital media company; global film distribution company Gravitas Ventures; 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.