Invicta FC 22 takes place this Saturday from the organisation’s traditional home of the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Missouri. Main eventing the card will be Invicta FC bantamweight champion Tonya Evinger, as she looks to set the record straight against Yana Kunitskaya following a controversial first meeting between the two last November. Joining me in previewing the week’s action is current Invicta FC star, Pannie Kianzad.
The first three bouts on the undercard feature 6 fighters who are all in possession of 1 – 0 records. In the featherweight, Felicia Spencer takes on Madison McElhaney, while at strawweight, Kal Holliday faces Miranda Maverick and Iceland’s Sunna Davíðsdóttir makes her second Invicta appearance opposite Mallory Martin. It is a chance for all 6 to lay down a marker and make a statement that they are prospects to watch in their division.
Felicia Spencer vs Madison McElhaney
- Pannie Kianzad (PK) pick – Felicia Spencer – Felicia fought on the same card as me in her debut, she fought really well and won pretty quickly so I’m picking her to win.
- Keefe McKenna (KM) pick – Felicia Spencer
Kal Holliday vs Miranda Maverick
- PK pick – Kal Holliday
- KM pick – Kal Holliday – I was really impressed with Halliday in her first Invicta fight, convincingly beating Tiffany van Soest. She looks to have a bright future.
Sunna Davíðsdóttir vs Mallory Martin
- PK pick – Sunna Davíðsdóttir
- KM pick – Sunna Davíðsdóttir – Like Halliday, Davíðsdóttir looked like a great prospect in her debut, and training with people like Gunnar Nelson and the coaches at Mjölnir MMA can only make her better.
Amber Brown vs Ashley Cummins
Next in line is another strawweight bout which features former Invicta FC atomweight title challenger Amber Brown facing off against Ashley Cummins. Brown surged her way to an ultimately unsuccessful Invicta FC atomweight title shot against Ayaka Hamasaki following 3 wins in her first 3 fights for the promotion, 2 of which came by submission. Brown made the jump to strawweight following that loss, only to suffer another defeat to Ashley Yoder. Making her return to atomweight, Brown is aiming at earning another shot at Invicta gold. Cummins holds an MMA record of 4 – 3, with all three losses coming in Invicta, albeit against top contenders. Following a brief stint on The Ultimate Fighter season 23, Cummins returned to action at Bellator 157 last June, submitting Nicole Smith in the second round. Cummins will be looking to carry over the momentum gained in that win into her fifth Invicta bout.
- PK pick – Amber Brown – This is a really good fight, but I think Brown will win.
- KM pick – Amber Brown – I think Brown returning to 105 pounds is the best move for her, and I think it will result in a good performance and a big win for her.
Jinh Yu Frey vs Janaisa Morandin
Fresh from an atomweight title shot of her own, Jinh Yu Frey returns to the Invicta cage to take on the much talked about Brazilian Janaisa “Evil Princess” Morandin. Prior to her controversially stopped loss to Ayaka Hamasaki last September, Frey was riding a 3-fight winning streak which included a hugely impressive decision win over former Invicta champion Herica Tiburcio. The manner in which she was denied the opportunity to claim the Invicta atomweight title last time out means that Frey will certainly be champing at the bit to get back into contention, and a win over Morandin could do just that. For Morandin, who boasts an unbeaten 9 – 0 record, this is a big chance to forge a name for herself. For a debut, she could scarcely be awarded a tougher fight than Frey, but with 6 finishes in her 9 professional fights to date, she is certainly a dangerous opponent for any 105 pounder.
- PK pick – Jinh Yu Frey – “Jinh’s last fight was stopped for no reason – the cut was nothing. I think she wins this fight”
- KM pick – Jinh Yu Frey – “Morandin’s record shows she is clearly a dangerous fighter, but I have reservations about the strength of the opponents she’s faced considering 4 of them have no professional wins. I have to side with Frey.”
Jodie Esquibel vs DeAnna Bennett
In a strawweight bout original scheduled for Invicta FC 21, Jodie Esquibel and DeAnna Bennett will collide in what should be a crowd-friendly fight. Esquibel is another who had a stint on The Ultimate Fighter season 23, and subsequently found herself back in the Invicta cage, losing a decision to Alexa Grasso at Invicta FC 18 which snapped her 2-fight winning run. Her opponent, DeAnna Bennett, is also looking to get back to winning ways following back to back losses against Roxanne Modafferi and Livia Renata Souza in a strawweight title bout in January of 2016. Having seen their bout cancelled last time out, both fighters will be raring to go and the end result should be an entertaining fight.
- PK pick – DeAnna Bennett – Oh don’t make me pick this one! I like both girls! Okay, if I have to pick ………. I’m gonna go with……….. DeAnna.
- KM pick – Jodie Esquibel – This is my fight of the night pick. I’m just leaning slightly towards Esquibel.
Ayaka Hamasaki vs Livia Renata Souza
The co-main event sees Invicta FC atomweight champion Ayaka Hamasaki move up to strawweight where she will meet the division’s former champion, Livia Renata Souza. Since her only career loss to Claudia Gadelha at Invicta FC 6, Hamasaki has gone on a reeled off 5 straight wins, including capturing the Invicta atomweight title and defending it twice. In moving up to 115lbs, it appears as if her intentions are to earn a UFC contract, and beating the former champion could see her achieve that sooner rather than later. For Souza, this is her chance to erase the memory of losing her title, and unbeaten record, to Angela Hill last time out. “Livinha” is dead set on winning back the title she lost and a win over Hamasaki would likely get her that shot, but would also certainly be the biggest victory of the 26-year-old’s career.
- PK pick – Ayaka Hamasaki – I’m going Ayaka. She’s really good, I think she wins this fight.
- KM pick – Livia Renata Souza – Livia has a size advantage, and I think that’ll be the big difference, especially in the grappling exchanges.
Tonya Evinger vs Yana Kunitskaya
In a rematch of their Invicta FC 20 main event, Tonya Evinger and Yana Kunitskaya meet to settle the score once and for all with the Invicta FC bantamweight title on the line. Kunitskaya left the cage with the belt following an armbar submission last time out, but the belt was returned to Evinger and the result changed to a no contest following an appeal from Evinger, due to the fact that referee Mike England incorrectly stopped Evinger from standing on Kunitskaya’s face to defend the submission, which is actually legal. The outcome left Invicta no real option but to make the rematch and it takes place in the main event on Saturday.
- PK pick – Tonya Evinger – I picked Tonya last time, but I don’t know, Yana looked good in the first fight. I think Tonya should win though.
- KM pick – Tonya Evinger – Yana is aggressive and dangerous, but I believe Tonya is the better fighter and finishes it in the second or third.
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.
Christine Ferea Hopes Tiffany van Soest is the Girl to Give Her a War
Christine Ferea is no stranger to playing spoiler. In her professional MMA debut in January, the 34-year-old battered Invicta FC fan favourite Rachael Ostovich until much-maligned referee Mike England eventually, mercifully, stopped the bout.
That fight opened the show at Invicta FC 21 and set the tone for an action-packed night at the Scottish Rite Temple. It also had Invicta fans clamouring for a sophomore appearance, one which they will get at Invicta FC 23 on Saturday.
This time decorated Muay Thai champion Tiffany van Soest provides the opposition. In van Soest’s Invicta FC debut she was womanhandled by powerful wrestler Kal Holliday before being submitted in the second round.
There is a reason that van Soest, whose transition to MMA was met with excitement from combat sports fans, is facing Ferea on Saturday, and it has a lot to do with that submission loss. Given her own Muay Thai background, it seems unlikely that Christine Ferea will be tossing van Soest around like a ragdoll when she has the chance to punch her in the face instead.
“Dude, this is the shit. I’m like, ‘yes, a striker, I can open up'” Ferea told Cage Side Submissions on Sunday when asked if she was excited to be fighting another Muay Thai warrior in the Invicta cage.
“I’m in good shape. I’m getting down to a weight class that is probably the weight class I should have been in my whole career. I just have to be really strict with my diet, that’s all. There’s no cheating, that’s it. It’s not like some gruelling f—–g cut. It’s just a super, super athlete diet.”
Ferea had previously fought at flyweight, both as an amateur and in that professional debut against Ostovich back in January. The fighter does not envisage any problems making the strawweight limit for the first time against van Soest, and believes this is the fight she has been waiting for.
“This is gonna be a badass fight. I think it’s the war that I’ve always wanted as a fighter because I’m always going into fights and I’m like, ‘I want a f—–g war, I want to see who I am’. I want someone to push me to where I’m like, ‘holy shit’. I hope this is the girl.”
If it’s a standup war that Ferea wants against a fighter that can offer plenty of pushback then her wish will likely be granted. Ferea’s roots are set firmly in the world of Muay Thai. It is the world in which Tiffany van Soest is a star. Lion Fight and Glory Kickboxing championships take pride of place on van Soest’s impressive resume. It seems a given that these two will bring the fire once the cage door closes.
At 34 Ferea is a completely different person to the cocky 20-something who had fought her way up from the streets to the gym. That is something she puts down to becoming a fighter.
“I grew up a fighter on the streets a little bit. We fought, my guy friends they fought a lot and I got in a lot of trouble growing up that I finally got out of. I was like, ‘ok I’m done with this lifestyle, there’s something else out there for me’.
“Then I started going to the gym trying to get fit, get healthy, and there was a fight gym in there. I was like, ‘I could beat these bitches up, they ain’t s–t’. So I go to the gym and they beat the living s–t out of me. 115-pound girls just kicking me to the face, sweeping me, catching my kicks and sweeping me, throwing me in the air. I’m like, ‘holy s–t, I wanna know how to do that.’
“After many concussions. After many ass beatings, it taught me a lot of control. My temper, my patience levels, just everything. I stuck to it because it improved my life in so many different areas. I didn’t get in it for that. I thought it would be fun, but then I realised how much it does for you on different levels and I’m like, ‘wow it just made me a healthy person in so many different areas.'”
On Saturday Ferea hopes to channel all those experiences into another impressive showing. With the Invicta strawweight division currently without a champion, every win matters that little bit more. A victory in Kansas City on Saturday would turn Ferea into a serious Invicta contender at 115 pounds.
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