On Saturday, January 16, Invicta Fighting Championships return with their long awaited 15th show. The event takes place at the OC Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa, California, and is headlined by a featherweight title bout between Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino and Daria Ibragimova.
If you’re unsure of what to expect from the eight-fight celebration of women’s MMA, or still deciding whether to tune into UFC Fight Pass to watch the event, let me talk you through the fights and explain all the reasons why Invicta FC 15 is must-see viewing.
Megan Anderson (4-2) vs. Amber Leibrock (1-0)
Two featherweights who experienced very different Invicta debuts clash in the opener. Australian Megan Anderson went in as a favorite against Cindy Dandois at Invicta FC 14 but was submitted in the second round. Less had been expected of Amber Leibrock but she took only 37 seconds to knockout Marina Shafir at Invicta FC 13. This is one of the card’s real sleeper fights. If you are a fan of dull clinch-fests against the cage — which we see plenty of at 145 pounds — look elsewhere.
Anderson remains a top featherweight prospect. She is a mobile fighter who works behind a solid jab and has fast hands when she lets her punches go. Having relocated to the United States following the defeat to Dandois, now training at Glory MMA, Anderson should step into the cage at Invicta FC 15 the most focused and most skilled she has ever been. Now we get to see the real Megan Anderson.
Leibrock has many similar traits and is as important for the future of the 145-pound division as her Australian opponent. Having won her way to an Invicta contract through a Tuff n Uff tournament she entered on only five days notice, Leibrock has seized the opportunities presented thus far. She is an aggressive, heavy-handed, accurate puncher. Speed and power are a mighty fine combination, especially in a division that isn’t packed with great athletes.
If the fight does hit the mat both are more skilled than their previous Invicta performances showed. In Anderson’s case, she was facing arguably the best grappler in the division. In Leibrock’s, she starched Marina Shafir before we got to see the fight hit the ground. If the bulk of the action takes place on the feet, whoever finds a home for their jab, and the right timing with their counters first will be in great shape to win the fight.
Amanda Bell (3-3) vs. Ediane Gomes (10-4)
What do you do when you have two destructive fighters who are both coming off a loss and have no interest in taking easy fights? You match them up, and that is exactly what Invicta FC matchmaker Julie Kedzie has done with Amanda Bell and Ediane Gomes. Bell’s three-fight winning streak was snapped by Faith Van Duin at Invicta FC 12 in April 2015. Gomes’ had an unsuccessful run at bantamweight losing back to back fights against Invicta standouts Tonya Evinger and Raquel Pa’aluhi.
Bell’s 3-3 pro record might not look impressive, but that is women’s MMA. Fewer fighters and fewer places to fight means many are thrown in at the deep end right off the bat. Always aggressive, her wild style forces openings for her heavy hands. Genuine power has always been the sport’s great equalizer and Bell has plenty of it whether that’s standing, or from top position on the ground. On top of that, she has good head movement and is harder to submit than her resume might suggest.
Ediane Gomes presents another step up in competition for a fighter who has already faced two of the featherweight top ten. If Bell is looking to turn this into a war, she is facing the right opponent. Gomes is an excellent grappler who is not afraid to get scrappy and trade on the feet. She is incredibly durable with a strong chin and forces even her toughest opponents to work hard for a victory.
Which fighter can drag the other into their world? Who is more likely to get sucked into the wrong areas? If Gomes comes forward backing her strong chin in a brawl this could get really messy in a hurry. If Bell is able to land with power and drop Gomes, she will need to be mindful of her opponent’s ability to recover and work for submissions off her back.
Lacey Schuckman (11-8) vs. Mizuki Inoue (9-4)
The strawweight division has become the most significant island in Invicta’s land of opportunity. Many of the promotion’s top strawweight were signed for season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter when the division was introduced to the UFC in 2014. Some have been given their opportunity since while others fight knowing that an impressive performance could see them get the call in future. That certainly applies to Lacey Schuckman and Mizuki Inoue, two of Invicta’s most crowd-pleasing strawweight.
Schuckman has never been afraid to test herself against the best in the world, and that is reflected in her 11-8 record. Defeats to Carla Esparza, Michelle Waterson, and Ayaka Hamasaki come with no shame attached. At 27-years-old, with so much great experience to draw on, the training wheels are off. Schuckman has always impressed on the ground, but looked strong on the feet at Invicta FC 12, stopping Jenny Liou. It was Shuckman’s first TKO victory since 2010.
Mizuki Inoue holds a similar record. Competitive defeats to Ayaka Hamasaki, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, and Alexa Grasso are mixed with wins over Alex Chambers, Bec Rawlings and Emi Fujino. Inoue has tight boxing skills, both offensively and defensively. While Alexa Grasso had plenty of success against her on the feet the last time we saw Inoue in an Invicta cage, the Japanese fighter should find it easier to avoid damage here.
The real strength for both fighters is their ability on the ground. Schuckman has scored six of her 11 career wins by submission while Inoue has six from nine. The question is whether we get to see three rounds of high-level grappling or their comparable strengths on the mat see both fighters looking to gain an advantage on the feet. Wherever this one goes, it seems guaranteed to bring the excitement.
Angela Hill (2-2) vs. Alida Gray (4-2)
For most fighters the chance to fight in the UFC is an opportunity that can’t be turned down, so it’s easy to see why Angela Hill wanted to be a part of season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter. As a new weight class for the UFC, strawweight was then, and remains now, a small division. Its fighters are not afforded the same time to develop that prospects in the — 3-times-larger — lightweight and welterweight divisions are. Perhaps Hill was a victim of her own ability, as she looked outstanding in defeating Emily Kagan at the TUF 20 Finale. That saw Hill, with her 2-0 record, matched up with Tecia Torres and Rose Namajunas. Back to back defeats against two of the best at 115 pounds saw her cut from the UFC.
At her best, Hill is a skilled striker who comes forward relentlessly, attacking with a variety of kicks, destructive knees, and a hard right hand. Against stronger competition in the UFC, Hill was more tentative against both Tecia Torres and Rose Namajunas, held down for three rounds by the former, and submitted early by the latter. Trading the octagon for Invicta’s hexagonal cage should give Hill more time to develop the weaker aspects of her game while giving her the confidence to really open up with her strikes again.
This was another bout hit by the injury bug, with Hill originally scheduled to face Jodie Esquibel before Alida Gray stepped in as the replacement opponent. Gray had won four straight before a huge step up in competition saw her suffer back to back losses against Jessica Aguilar and Alexa Grasso. A judoka who achieved two-second places at the U.S. judo championships in the mid-90s, Gray has shown a willingness to stand and trade on the feet with previous opponents.
With UFC exposure, the story for most fans here will be what version of Angela Hill we see. Is it the vicious pressure-striker we last saw back in December 2014 against Emily Kagan? If not, Alida Gray has all the tools necessary to make this an awkward night for the former UFC strawweight.
Colleen Schneider (9-6) vs. Raquel Pa’aluhi (5-4)
Another bout changed due to injury — and yes there’s more to come — sees two of Invicta’s best bantamweights fighting for a probable title shot. With Tonya Evinger mauling the rest of the promotion’s 135-pound fighters at a pace, the division could use a new contender. Whoever gets their arm raised in this one will move straight to the top of the list.
Schneider replaces Irene Aldana with plenty of notice, and will step into the cage following excellent 2015. After opening the year with a defeat to Aldana, Schneider won three straight against decent competition and has now gone 8-2 in her last 10 fights. A skilled striker at range, Schneider mixes her kicks up well to control distance and break down her opponents. She also has varied weapons to take the fight to the mat if things aren’t going her way on the feet, utilizing trips from the clinch, and an underrated double-leg takedown when the opportunity is there.
Pa’aluhi is a very different fighter but finds herself in a similar position at 135 pounds. One of the best in the division outside of the UFC, she has now won three straight which included back to back Invicta wins over Kaitlin Young and Ediane Gomes. Pa’aluhi never stops coming forward, looking to slow her opponents with inside leg kicks and walk them down while throwing looping hooks and power punches. She has also shown continuous improvement in her grappling, having no problem hanging with BJJ black belt Ediane Gomes on the mat last time out.
If Schneider can stay mobile and utilize her varied kicking game, Pa’aluhi should have a hard time walking her down. Schneider has all the tools necessary to break opponents from range and slow their advances, but Pa’aluhi is a very difficult fighter to break down. Kaitlin Young landed consistently against Pa’aluhi at Invicta FC 9 and it didn’t stop her wading forward looking to land hard punches and work her way into the clinch. Whoever walks out of the cage with the win will have earned their shot at Tonya Evinger’s bantamweight title.
Amber Brown (5-1) vs. Shino VanHoose (4-3)
We were told after Amber Brown’s impressive first round submission of Catherine Costigan in July last year that she would be getting an atom weight title shot against Ayaka Hamasaki. Sadly, that is not the fight we are getting here. Nor is it the initially scheduled bout between Brown and TUF 20 alumni Lisa Ellis. Instead, Shino VanHoose has stepped in on short notice to replace Ellis against arguably the most physically imposing atom weight in the world.
Brown is a big, strong 105 pounder who would pose a significant threat to Hamasaki if an eventual title fight can be made. She’s capable of overpowering opponents in the clinch and has great trips from that position. Against Costigan, a really skillful, technical fighter, Brown took her down straight into mount. She is a stifling, claustrophobic grappler from a top position who gives her opponents little room to move. On the feet, Brown will pressure with kicks and straight punches to get up close and personal and impose her will.
VanHoose is only 20-years-old despite making her debut back in 2011. She returned to action in October 2015, submitting Jody Lynn Reicher by armbar. That snapped a three-fight losing streak against strong competition in Korea and Japan. In defeat, VanHoose has taken both Kikuyo Ishikawa and Seo Hee Ham the distance and is experienced way beyond her age.
Backing anyone not named Ayaka Hamasaki against Amber Brown would be tough at this point, and VanHoose has so many hurdles to overcome in this fight. She comes in on short notice, has only fought twice in a cage, only once in the United States, and is facing one of the most physical atom weights in the world. Brown is ranked in the top five in the division for a reason, so if VanHoose can overcome all that and walk away with the win it will be an incredible achievement.
Livia Renata Souza (8-0) vs. DeAnna Bennett (8-0) – Invicta FC Strawweight Title
When Brazilian strawweight Livia Renata Souza defeated Katja Kankaanpaa in April of last year to win the Invicta championship, we had expected to see her make her first defense of the title against Alexa Grasso. Constant injury concerns have stopped that fight from ever happening, but that cloud has a silver lining. While Grasso may be the fighter with a greater hype train behind her — one she has justified with excellent in-cage performances — DeAnna Bennett is an even tougher opponent.
Souza took a giant leap in competition when she entered the Invicta FC cage for the first time in 2015. Katja Kankaanpaa was the reigning Invicta champion with a 10-1-1 record. By comparison, Souza’s previous three opponents had a combined record of 9-7 at the time they faced her. The Brazilian rose to the occasion, eventually submitting Kankaanpaa in the fourth round to claim Invicta gold.
A black belt in both Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo, Souza is fast around the cage, throwing quick leg kicks and rapid punches whether she’s trying to move into range or fight her way out of trouble. Souza’s style and technique on the feet are not the most refined, yet, but it does create openings. Whether she’s on top or on the bottom, Souza is an active grappler constantly working to improve her position and work for submissions.
Bennett has progressively moved down through the weight classes throughout her career, now settled at strawweight. She holds impressive wins over Julianna Pena, Colleen Schneider, Jennifer Maia and the aforementioned Katja Kankaanpaa. Last time out, Bennett did enough to win the first two rounds against Kankaanpaa en route to a unanimous decision victory that earned her this title shot.
One of the most well-rounded fighters in the division, Bennett uses jabs and front kicks to control distance, before pushing forward with flurries when openings are presented. She is strong in the clinch and often backs opponents up against the cage before dropping for double-leg takedowns from there. Bennett scrambles well, and while she hasn’t been a submission machine results-wise throughout her career, she will look for guillotines and keep opponents guessing with submission attempts off her back.
This is an incredibly well-matched title fight. Bennett has faced stronger opposition over a longer period of time, but Souza made a two-year jump in her development with the win over Kankaanpaa last year. Souza is not a big strawweight, and Bennett will have definite physical advantages, but over the course of a five-round fight that could work in Souza’s favor in the championship rounds. This is not an easy weight cut for Bennett, who failed to hit the 116-pound mark when she faced Kankaanpaa. For Bennett to have long-term success in this fight, she has to start strong and take enough out of the champion to stop her pushing the same relentless pace in the later rounds.
Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (14-1) vs. Daria Ibragimova (9-1) – Invicta FC Featherweight Title
Before Invicta FC 15 was officially announced this was not the fight we were expecting. There was a time last year when Ronda Rousey was the reigning Queen of MMA. Remember that? The idea of a Rousey vs Cyborg super fight was still hyped as a distant possibility. In an unrealistic attempt to make 135 pounds and secure the bout with Rousey, Cyborg would have fought at 140 pounds on this card as part of a preposterous charade. Now the landscape of women’s MMA has changed, courtesy of one and a half rounds of sensational mixed martial arts from Holly Holm, and Cyborg has refocused on being the best featherweight on the planet. A fact she will be looking to remind us of when she defends the Invicta title against Daria Ibragimova.
Cyborg has returned from her 2012 suspension — the result of testing positive for stanozolol — in emphatic fashion. Crushing defeats of Fiona Muxlow, Charmaine Tweet, and Faith Van Duin have told us little more than we already knew. The brutality with which she dispatched all three opponents made for almost uncomfortable viewing. I have spoken to many fans and MMA writers who sheepishly admit to finding Cyborg fights tough to watch, such is the destructive violence she inflicts on her opponents.
But we knew this about her already.
In July 2013 against Marloes Coenen, Cyborg showed us something new and it was a worrying discovery for anyone who, like Coenen, might have the ability to offer Cyborg greater resistance. She is actually a better fighter now than she was before she was banned. The power is still there, the murderous intent with which she throws strikes remains, but against Coenen, Cyborg was more measured and methodical than ever. She was smarter. There was no overcommitment through aggression.
When she felt uncomfortable on top in Coenen’s guard she stepped up out of it. Cyborg picked her shots. She executed a gameplan and increased her level of output with each passing round. Coenen had managed to drag Cyborg into the championship rounds when most opponents struggled to make it out of the first, but what she found when she did was that Cyborg was only getting stronger. It wasn’t until the third round that Cyborg started to really pour it on, before opening up even more in the fourth and eventually finishing the fight.
While it would be disrespectful to ignore that Cyborg has an opponent on Saturday, it would be disingenuous to pretend that Daria Ibragimova has more than the “anything can happen in MMA” chance. That slim percentage reserved for overmatched opponents when they face the sport’s true greats.
The hope is that Ibragimova will be strong enough mentally to believe she can win this fight. The Russian has won seven straight against questionable opposition, however, she has done what good fighters are supposed to do when they are facing a stream of lesser opponents. She has finished them all, and quickly too. Ibragimova’s only career defeat came against Cindy Dandois in 2010, and she has submitted six of her seven opponents since. The other — Yulia Drukteynite — was stopped with punches.
In previous appearances Ibragimova has largely come forward, punching her way into range to instigate clinches and take the fight to the mat. Overwhelming opponents, less violently than Cyborg, and submitting them as quickly as possible. It’s hard to see how that tactic will work against Cyborg, or what Ibragimova’s alternative game plan will be as she’s not been pushed hard enough for us to see it used.
All of that isn’t to say that Ibragimova isn’t a good fighter or a good featherweight. It’s just that Cris Cyborg is a great one. Truly great fighters so often make good ones look like they are far worse than that. Daria Ibragimova will have a really hard time avoiding that same fate on Saturday night.
2017 IMMAF World Championships set to be streamed live on IOS and Android app
This years IMMAF World Championships in Bahrain is only 4 days away now and competitors from around the world are preparing themselves for what will be an extraordinary event and opportunity to make themselves known. The prestigious event is being hosted by the BMMAF under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
For fans around the world good news came today as they will be able to watch their favourite amateur athlete take to the cage in the Khalifa Sports City Arena via an app. The BahrainTV app will be streaming all of the fights live for fans to watch at home or even on the go on their phone. You can also keep up to date via MyNextMatch.com for all relevant info for the event.
The links for the BahrainTV app are as follows:
*Live Updates* UFC Gdsank Official Results
The UFC hosted their second event in the country of Poland, as UFC Gdsank took place at the Ergo Arena. The card was headlined by a welterweight fight between Donald Cerrone and Darren Till.
Cerrone (32-9) was coming off a close unanimous decision loss to former 170-pound champion Robbie Lawler in July. It was the only time in “Cowboy’s” MMA career that he had suffered consecutive losses.
Till (15-0-1) improved his undefeated record in September, defeating Bojan Veličković by unanimous decision. It was a case of old school vs. new school in this headliner, as the up and comer Till hoped to secure the biggest win of his career over Cerrone.
MAIN CARD – UFC Fight Pass – 8PM BST
- Donald Cerrone (32-9) vs. Darren Till (15-0-1) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Darren Till def. Donald Cerrone via TKO (punches) Round 1 – 4:20
- Karolina Kowalkiewicz (11-2) vs. Jodie Esquibel (6-3) – Women’s strawweight bout
- Result: Karolina Kowalkiewicz def. Jodie Esquibel via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Jan Blachowicz (20-7) vs. Devin Clark (8-2) – Light heavyweight bout
- Result: Jan Błachowicz def. Devin Clark via SUB (rear-naked choke) Round 2 – 3:02
- Oskar Piechota (10-0) vs. Jonathan Wilson (7-3) – Middleweight bout
- Result: Oskar Piechota def. Jonathan Wilson via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results
Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.
Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.
Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)
Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)
Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)
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