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Little People, Big World: State of the Strawweight Division

Vinny Craig



When Strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk beat Carla Esparza in March, the division was put on notice that their champ was here to stay. With the good, comes the bad as it also put the division in limbo as far as title challengers go. The Ultimate Fighter 20 was a season filled with good fights and helped put the division on the map. What it failed to do was produce an abundance of title challengers, as was expected. Any name inside the top 15 could put together a few big wins and get that shot at the champ. On the counter, any big name worthy of a title shot could lose a fight and be out of the immediate title picture.

Next in Line                         

Claudia Gadelha
Title shots don’t always go to the most deserving fighter. With the division being very new, fights are being made by who’s available and not by who wins. With Joanne Calderwood losing, the division’s new number one contender is Claudia Gadelha. Gadelha fought Jedrzejczyk back in December and lost by split decision. After the way ‘Joanna champion’ manhandled the former champ, Claudia’s performance that night in December is given more credibility than ever. Her grappling is what makes the difference in a fight with the champion. An injury has sidelined her, and her fight against Aisling Daly would have answered a multitude of questions.

Jessica Penne
Depending on the timeline when the champ wants to get back in the Octagon, May 30 in Brazil could produce your next title challenger in Jessica Penne. With a good showing on The Ultimate Fighter and a split decision win in her only UFC fight, Penne could be fast tracked to the top contender spot. With so many factors to be put into the decision, a good showing in Brazil could see the former Invicta Atomweight champion get a chance at UFC gold.

In Contention
Jessica Penne
With everything falling on timing and injuries, Penne is more likely to be on the list of contenders for now. She’ll need to beat Juliana Lima at UFC Fight Night: Condit vs. Alves in any scenario ending in her getting a title shot before year’s end. I would put Penne in the category of her next win will put her in title contention.

Carla Esparza
Although she just lost her title, the former Invicta and UFC champion will always be in the talk of title fights. The two round beat down she received from the champ won’t help her case in getting another title shot any time soon. She needs to pick her next fight carefully if she wants to be catapulted into contention. With her impressive showing while on The Ultimate Fighter, it shouldn’t be hard for the former champ to get back to her winning ways. She is at most 2 big wins away.

Joanna Calderwood
The soft-spoken Scotswoman was on her way to a title fight in her home country. She was handed what most thought was a give-me fight to fast track her to title contention. Maryna Moroz would beat Calderwood by submission, and all that title talk was gone. Calderwood has said in the past she wants to keep busy and doesn’t care who she faces. She needs to bounce back after her first professional loss to keep on pace with her weight class. She’ll need two wins in order to get her title shot

Rose Namajunas
Thug Rose made an incredible run on The Ultimate Fighter as the seven seed. She got compliments of being the next Ronda Rousey. Her fight against Esparza was just supposed to be another body in the way of dominance. All that ended that night when she lost by submission. The young fighter was crushed and didn’t even speak to the media until a few weeks ago. With little experience as a pro, there is lots of work to be done. She fights at UFC 187 and needs a win to stay in the eye of the public. Two or three more wins could put her in the talks for a title shot.

Tecia Torres
The ‘Tiny Tornado’ is a known name for women’s MMA. She’s still undefeated in her professional career with a win over fellow competitor Angela Magana at The Ultimate Fighter finale. While she never got a title shot while under the Invicta banner, she has always been on the cusp. She fights Angela Hill at UFC 188 and with a win there, she’ll need one more to be considered in title talks.

On the Outside Looking In

Paige VanZant
An impressive showing over the weekend put the young star on this list at all. She proved she’s not just a pretty face and is a force to be reckoned with. With Team Alpha Male on her side, she can get to where she needs to be quickly. The only way she gets a title shot is if the UFC uses her ‘marketing’ ability to make a big fight for the division. She’s at least three fights away from a legitimate title fight.

Randa Markos
Although she was a semi-finalist on The Ultimate Fighter, her inactivity has faulted her to stay relevant in the division. She fights this weekend at UFC 186 against Aisling Daly, and this will let the UFC see where she stands as far as being a contender goes. While she is closer than most on this list, she’s still two wins away from making it to the contenders list.

Maryna Moroz
Her win over Joanne Calderwood proved beneficial to her as she is now being talked about for a title shot with a few more wins. If she can get big fights and big wins, we could see a new contender in the making. She’ll need some more quality wins on her record to be considered for a title shot. At least three wins away from being considered

Jessica Aguilar
She is the very meaning of the outside looking in. Arguably one of the best Strawweights in the world, she is the WSOF title holder. With the UFC now having a Strawweight division, they’ll look to sign the best in the world. Talks between the UFC brass and Aguilar have been reported before, but nothing of a contract has come up yet. If she is signed by the UFC, look for her to jump right by everyone and be in a contender or title fight.


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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.

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.

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Andrea Lee on USADA Drug Test Failure “You can get Suspended for Anything”

Harry Davies



Andrea Lee vs Heather Bassett

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!

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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.

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.”

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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