On Friday night, Invicta Fighting Championships return to the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Missouri for their 19th event.
The eight-fight card airs live on UFC Fight Pass at 8pm ET, with the often fun weigh-ins — especially for cosplay junkies — also airing live at 8pm ET Thursday night.
With two title fights at the top of the bill, it is another stellar 2016 offering from the all-female promotion. Invicta FC 19 makes it five events for the year so far. With at least one more expected before 2016 is out, the company are well on their way to putting a disappointing 2015 behind them.
In 2015 Invicta only promoted four events, with licensing and venue issues forcing a number of the company’s promises to go unfulfilled at the back end of the year. In stark contrast, not only has a regular output on UFC Fight Pass contributed to removing some of the company’s fragility in terms of scheduling and promotion, but we have seen the level of competition continue to grow.
Championship bouts pitting Jennifer Maia against Vanessa Porto, and Angela Hill against Livia Renata Souza, have been arguably the two best women’s title fights seen anywhere in 2016. Only Angela Lee vs Mei Yamaguchi, Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs Claudia Gadelha, and Holly Holm vs Miesha Tate come close.
We have seen the emergence of new contenders in each of the promotion’s five weight classes, and a number of future stars given the opportunity to develop in front of a larger audience. Friday night’s card is another perfect example of everything Invicta have done well in 2016.
MAIN EVENT BREAKDOWN – MAIA vs. MODAFFERI
In the main event reigning flyweight champion Jennifer Maia makes the first defence of her strap against MMA’s classiest pioneer, Roxanne Modafferi.
“The Happy Warrior” made her professional debut almost 13 years ago and has traded wins and losses with some of the best fighters in the history of the sport. Marloes Coenen, Tara LaRosa and Barb Honchak all find themselves listed on Modafferi’s resume.
Yet what has been even more impressive than the fighter’s wins over LaRosa and Coenen, is her resurgence after a heartbreaking six fight losing streak through 2010-13. Her final defeat during that run was a loss to Raquel Pennington at The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale, which saw her UFC career end before it had begun.
It was the sort of run that can push a fighter towards retirement, but Modafferi refocused at flyweight and has not looked back since. Four wins from five, against top 125-pound competition such as Tara LaRosa, Andrea “KGB” Lee, and DeAnna Bennett have earned her a title shot and the chance to become the best 125-pound fighter on the planet.
Standing in Modafferi’s way is a Brazilian muay thai warrior who has rounded out the other aspects of her game to find the best form of her career. Long considered a top 10 flyweight, Jennifer Maia has now won four straight, including a career-best performance last time out to beat Vanessa Porto and become Invicta’s number one flyweight.
The championship bout between two of the division’s more unique characters poses a number of questions. Modafferi struggled in defeat against Vanessa Porto in April 2015, has she made the necessary improvements since to be able to beat Maia on Friday?
Was Maia finally putting it all together in that emotional championship victory at Invicta FC 16 an indication of what’s to come, or an outlier on a record packed with highs and lows?
With former Invicta FC champion Barb Honchak out of the picture, and President Shannon Knapp confirming that Maia is now the legitimate 125-pound title holder, whoever gets their hand raised on Friday will be able to call themselves the best flyweight on the planet.
CO-MAIN EVENT BREAKDOWN – HAMASAKI vs. FREY
In the co-main event pound-for-pound great Ayaka Hamasaki makes the second defense of her Invicta FC atomweight title against Jinh Yu Frey. It is a fight every bit as compelling as the main event.
Hamasaki’s fourteen fight career has seen her win gold in Japan and the United States, consistently facing — and almost always defeating — the very best in the world. With notable wins over MIZUKI, Seo Hee Ham, Naho Sugiyama and Mei Yamaguchi in her back pocket, Hamasaki defeated Herica Tiburcio in July 2015 to add Invicta gold to the Jewels Lightweight Queen championship she held previously.
Hamasaki’s only career defeat came with no shame attached, against the much larger Claudia Gadelha at strawweight in July 2013. Her most recent outing was an impressive submission of 105-pound powerhouse Amber Brown at Invicta FC 16 back in March.
Yet for all the varied opponents Hamasaki has faced so far in her seven-year career, she has not faced anyone quite like Jinh Yu Frey.
Frey is only six fights and little more than three years into her professional mixed martial arts career, but has already defeated one of the best atomweights on the planet in her most recent fight. The same night that Hamasaki defended her title against Brown, Frey played spoiler against Herica Tiburcio, defeating her by unanimous decision and crushing any hope of a Hamasaki vs Tiburcio rematch down the line.
Frey is an awkward style match for anyone at 105, with a great ability to control distance and land with fight-altering power. Just ask Darla Harris.
Much like Amber Brown before her, Frey will step into the cage on Friday night giving up a significant experience edge to her Japanese opponent. Frey has never fought for a major title, nor ever competed in a five round fight.
This title fight is a product of an opportunity seized. Against Tiburcio, Frey forced herself into a title picture that nobody really considered her to be in before the fight. Well ahead of schedule, she will be looking to seize an even bigger one against Hamasaki on Friday night.
FIGHTERS TO WATCH
Elsewhere on the card there are a number of exciting prospects to look out for. Amber Leibrock is only two fights into her professional career, but looks capable of becoming a major force at 145 pounds if given the time to develop. Leibrock starched Marina Shafir in her pro debut, before coming up short against Megan Anderson in her second Invicta FC outing.
Now Leibrock looks to get back on track against Amy Coleman, hoping to display the sort of power and accuracy that switched Shafir’s brain off momentarily and had Anderson rocked badly in the first round at Invicta FC 15.
Tiffany van Soest’s transition to mixed martial arts comes with plenty of excitement too. The decorated muay thai standout has held Lion Fight titles in two different weight classes and made a successful Glory debut earlier this year.
“Time Bomb” makes her professional MMA debut against U.S. Marine Corps vet Kalyn Schwartz on Friday. Schwartz will also be making her professional debut, but impressed during her amateur career, including two King of the Cage wins in 2015.
After losing four of her first seven pro fights, Kaline Medeiros took some time to settle into winning ways, but what has followed has been spectacular. Promotion hopping through Bellator, Legacy and Invicta FC, Medeiros has now won four straight including impressive finishes of Sarah Payant and Alline Serio. Look for more ferocity when she welcomes undefeated Indian prospect Manjit Kolekar to the Invicta cage on Friday night.
Flyweight Title: Jennifer Maia (13-4-1) vs. Roxanne Modafferi (19-12)
Atomweight Title: Ayaka Hamasaki (13-1) vs. Jinh Yu Frey (5-1)
Bantamweight: Irene Aldana (5-2) vs. Faith Van Duin (6-2)
Strawweight: Manjit Kolekar (9-0) vs. Kaline Medeiros (7-4)
Strawweight: Tiffany Van Soest (0-0) vs. Kalyn Schwartz (0-0)
Atomweight: Julia Jones (4-0) vs. Stephanie Skinner (4-5)
Featherweight: Amber Leibrock (1-1) vs. Amy Coleman (2-0)
Strawweight: Ashley Greenway (1-0) vs. Sunna Rannveig Davidsdottir (0-0)
Mackenzie Dern victorious in Invicta debut
Late Friday night, Mackenzie Dern (5-0, 1-0 Invicta FC) won her co-main event booking, defeating Kaline Medieros (8-6, 2-2 Invicta FC), at Invicta FC 26: Maia vs. Niedzwiedz, via submission (armbar) with only fifteen seconds remaining in the fight.
Much of the fight was controlled by Dern. The heralded prospect displayed her power, visibly damaging her opponent with multiple overhand rights. Striking is an under-developed aspect of her attack, only when compared to the twenty-four-year-olds black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Above all, she showed a progression of her striking skills. Dern looked to be bigger and physically stronger than her veteran opponent. She utilized forward pressure and found the proper timing for her overhand right throughout.
— UFC Fight Pass (@UFCFightPass) December 9, 2017
The veteran Medeiros showed her toughness throughout the fight. She defended and scrambled out of some bad positions during the grappling exchanges. Ultimately, she tapped when caught in a deeply planted armbar. While Medeiros did earn a few hard trip takedowns, it factored minimally in the result as she refused to follow Dern to the mat. The Boston native suffered her second straight loss, Friday night. Her first was to, former Invicta strawweight champion, Angela Hill.
Dern made her professional debut in July of 2016 with Legacy Fighting Alliance (previously: Legacy Fighting Championship). In her debut, she defeated Kenia Rosas by unanimous decision. The Phoenix-born fighter won her next three bouts. Before her MMA career began, Dern won the ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) championship at 60 kg. She was the first American born female to become champion at the weight. Her grappling resume boasts many more incredible accomplishments. Justifiably, a growing spotlight now hangs over her, her skills, and potential in the sport of MMA.
Elsewhere on the Invicta 26 card, Jennifer Maia defeated Agnieszka Niedzweidz by unanimous decision. Maia retained her Invicta flyweight belt, defending it for the second time. Invicta FC 26: Maia vs. Niedzweidz, took place at the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Missouri.
Andrea Lee on USADA Drug Test Failure “You can get Suspended for Anything”
MMA Latest spoke to recently signed UFC flyweight Andrea “KGB” Lee about her delayed UFC debut, and potential opponents on this season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Lee (8-2) signed with the UFC in September, and was set to make her promotional debut just a few weeks after at UFC 216. However, “KGB” was quickly pulled from her scheduled fight with Kalindra Faria, due to fighters with previous USADA violations having to serve a six-month period in the testing pool before fighting.
Q: I’m interested to get your thoughts on how things are going on The Ultimate Fighter: Season 26, have you been watching closely?
I have! I’m still glad I didn’t sign up for TUF, I’m happy I stayed home so I could watch from afar and continue to get my own training in. I’ve been keeping up with it, trying to study my future opponents I’ve already got my eye on some I would like to compete against.
Q: You decided to fight Liz Tracey instead of committing to the tryouts for TUF 26, but you said you don’t regret that, why?
I had already injured my back, so going into the house at that time with an injury wouldn’t have been smart. Secondly, I felt like I was already established enough as a fighter, most fighters on the show need help to be seen, but I already feel like I have a good following. I was comfortable fighting with Invicta and LFA until I got the call-up for the UFC.
Q: Can you please clear up why you failed a USADA test back in 2016, I believe it was revealed you took a diuretic, but you were unaware it was on the banned list?
Firstly, I’ve never taken steroids, I didn’t fail the test because of steroids and I was not aware that fluid pills (diuretics) were used as a masking agent.
People need to be aware that you can get suspended for anything.
I used the fluid pills because I swell and bloat a lot, it’s very uncomfortable. I didn’t realise people use them for masking steroids. If in competition you can get suspended for like ibuprofen and sleep aids, they’re always changing the banned substance list.
Q: You tested positive for the diuretic after you loss to Sarah D’Alelio, was the weight cut for this fight rough and did it hinder your performance on the night?
I took it for the weight cut for that fight yes, but I don’t think it hindered my performance. I was paranoid and thinking that I needed it in that moment, because I was bloating and retaining water. I didn’t think twice about it and took it thinking it would help my period and the fact that I was bloated.
Q: When will your six month suspension be over, and are you eyeing any specific dates/opponents for your UFC debut?
I’ll be done at the end of March next year, I joined the USADA testing pool right as I signed my UFC contract in September. I think April is when I may fight, we don’t have an opponent in mind yet, we’re waiting to see how TUF 26 plays out.
Who would you like to see Andrea Lee face in her UFC debut? Let us know below!
Pannie Kianzad on Becoming a Full-Time Fighter
Invicta FC bantamweight Pannie Kianzad recently shared some exciting personal news – that she is now able to devote herself full-time to her fighting career. Speaking to MMA Latest, Kianzad explained how her new full-time status came about.
— PannieBanzaiKianzad (@PannieKianzad) May 29, 2017
“Me and my boyfriend have been talking about this for a long time,” the Swede began. “I’ve always wanted to do this since I got into MMA and to have the time to put everything into it. Since I’ve signed with Invicta, it’s even more important because I’m fighting against the best in the world. Ilaz moved down from Stockholm and moved in with me, he said ‘when I get a full-time job and everything is good, then you can quit your job’. So now he is working for a really good company and I only work one, maybe two days, just to pay for my train card to get to the gym.”
There are, of course, a plethora of benefits for a fighter who is able to enjoy full-time status, but, for Kianzad, the biggest difference is not the extra time to train, rather the after-training aspects. “I still train the same amount,” she explained. “I still do one or two classes a day, like I did when I was working full-time, but now I get my recovery time, which is just fucking amazing. I get to sleep! But not only that, I get to work on my own things and what I want to do for the future too.”
One such project that the 25-year old will get to work on is brand of fight and training apparel. “I have my brand – Kianzad gear,” she began. “Everything is fine, I just don’t have the money yet to go full in on it. The design work and what I want to create is done and the samples are all really good. That’s one thing I’m working on – saving up and looking for sponsors for that.”
Logo for Kianzad Wear
Anyone who follows “Banzai” on social media will know that she recently returned from America, where she took the chance to train at Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas, as well as spend time with one of the biggest names in women’s MMA. “The main reason I went to Vegas was for the TUF tryouts,” Kianzad revealed. “I didn’t tell anyone about that. I was trying out for the 135 category, which got cancelled three weeks beforehand – So that sucked! We were thinking whether or not to go, but then I was like ‘this is our only vacation time’ so we took the opportunity to go anyway.”
“I talked to my friend Ray Elbe and was going to train with Cris (Cyborg), but she had to fly out to Brazil for a commercial or something, but she missed her flight. So we drove down to Huntington Beach and had lunch with them. It was nice talking to a female fighter who is at the top. She motivates me a lot and has always been one of my favourite fighters, but she is a really good person too.”
— #UFC214 #LetsGoChamp (@criscyborg) May 27, 2017
Something that always seems to shine through with Invicta FC fighters like Kianzad is the great relationship and affinity they have towards the organisation, as well as the owner, Shannon Knapp. This is refreshing to see given the current climate of public disputes between fighters and promoters. “Shannon believes in us,” Kianzad explaned. “It doesn’t matter what we look like, if we win or if we lose, she respects us as professional athletes. That is the biggest reason. And fighters in all organisations should be respected because we fight and train hard, but we don’t make that much money.”
Kianzad recently made her professional wrestling debut at a show in her native Sweden. While her immediate focus is on her MMA career, Kianzad enjoyed the change of scenery. “It was so much fun,” she smiled. “The whole experience was really fun because I didn’t have this huge pressure on my shoulders to win. It was just about having fun, and the pro-wrestling crowd are amazing. It was a huge adrenaline rush and I would love to do it again, because apparently I had a really good debut and not many do.”
As for when fans can expect to see her back in the cage, Kianzad has most certainly got a date in mind and, now injury free, she wants her appearances on cards to become a more regular occurence. “I am hoping for the July Invicta card – And I know my fans are asking for me to be on that card too. I like to fight often if I am healthy, which I am now, I am in great shape. So when I am healthy I prefer to have 3, maybe 4 fights per year.”
With her new status as a full-time MMA fighter, fans can expect to see much more of Pannie Kianzad as well as continued improvements from the young prospect.
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