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Megan Anderson vs. Amber Leibrock – Invicta FC 15’s Fight to Watch

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Megan Anderson Invicta

It is safe to say that Megan Anderson’s Invicta debut did not go to plan in September when she was out-grappled and eventually submitted by Cindy Dandois. There were mitigating circumstances, not only because this was Anderson’s first time fighting outside of Australia, but because it was a massive step up in competition against a more experienced and desperately underrated opponent.

There was definite disrespect towards Dandois, never from Anderson herself, but from her fast-growing fan base. They had all but written the W onto Anderson’s record, already talking about matching her up with Cris Cyborg after she secured what was being touted as a routine victory.

Having won four straight in Australia and installed as a significant betting favorite, Anderson has admitted to being overconfident going into the fight. Against lesser opposition that might not have cost her the win. Against a fighter in Dandois, who already held wins over Marloes Coenen and Daria Ibragimova, it turned an already difficult task into an impossible one. Dandois submitted Anderson by triangle choke approaching the halfway point in round two.

It was a pivotal moment in Anderson’s young career. Her reaction to what must have been a devastating defeat could not have been better. Opting to stay and relocate to the United States, Anderson now trains at Glory MMA. Already a fighter with good footwork and mobility, who works behind a strong jab and has fast hands and combinations, all signs point towards us seeing the best version of Anderson we have seen yet when she steps into the Invicta cage January 16.

Anderson faces Amber Leibrock in the opening bout at Invicta FC 15, and the above is part of what makes it such an intriguing contest. Leibrock, like Anderson, is a natural 145 pounder who looks in great fighting shape at the weight. On top of that, like Anderson, Leibrock is at a developmental point in her career where we should be seeing significant improvements every time she steps into the cage.

The Bay Area Fight Academy prospect made her Invicta debut in July against the Fourth of the Horsewomen, Marina Shafir. In stark contrast to Anderson’s first foray into the Invicta cage, all of the hype was on Leibrock’s opponent. Shafir was known not only for her association with Ronda Rousey but for an impressive run of six first round submissions — five amateur contests and her professional debut — which had seen her earmarked as most people’s top prospect at 145 pounds.

Amanda Bell had knocked Shafir out in August 2014, but it still hadn’t tempered the level of expectation attached to her. In fact, we were told in the build-up to the fight that the defeat had only made Shafir stronger and refocused her desire to build a career at the top level. This was supposed to be the start of a new chapter that saw the fighter cruise to the summit of the 145-pound mountain.

It took Leibrock only 37 seconds to knock Shafir out. Reading the result in isolation you could be forgiven for thinking this was a flash knockout, but it wasn’t. Leibrock had already found a home for her lead left and her aggressive combinations when Shafir was forced to back up in a straight line eating punches. A solid right hand dropped her, and more of them once Shafir hit the mat turned the lights out.

The bout between Anderson and Leibrock might be tucked away neatly as the first of nine on the Invicta FC 15 card, but it is a great fight between two evenly matched featherweights. Both are comfortable fighting at range; both have accurate jabs and lead punches; both have fast hands and know when to see an opening and let them go; both are great athletes who are mobile around the cage; both are underrated on the ground.

The featherweight talent pool is fractured, with the best in the world split between Bellator and Invicta. That has amplified the perception that featherweight is the most shallow of the five major women’s weight classes. It is also not a weight class packed with great athletes. To see two 145 pound fighters who are this mobile colliding is exactly what is needed at an awkward time for the division.

More than that, for Anderson this is a chance to show the world the fighter we hoped to see against Cindy Dandois in September last year. And now, maybe even a better one than that.

For Leibrock, a second win against another top prospect would show her to be excelling among her peers and cement her status as the next big thing at 145 pounds.

Don’t log onto Fight Pass late on January 16. You’ll miss a fight with genuine show-stealing potential. One, or perhaps both of the fighters involved, will walk out of the Invicta FC 15 cage having sent a message to the rest of the featherweight division that they are here to stay as a major threat.

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Pannie Kianzad on Becoming a Full-Time Fighter

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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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Christine Ferea Hopes Tiffany van Soest is the Girl to Give Her a War

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Christine Ferea Invicta FC

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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Forget Cormier vs. Jones – Cyborg vs. Megan Anderson Should Headline UFC 214

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Cris Cyborg UFC

Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones II is all but confirmed for UFC 214 in Anaheim, California on July 29. Despite the magnitude of the light-heavyweight championship rematch, the UFC would do well to look elsewhere for their UFC 214 main event — namely in the direction of Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino and Megan Anderson.

The UFC’s schedule for the first half of 2017 is largely booked as of now. Fight announcements for July are coming in daily but there is still no clue as to who might headline UFC 213, the promotion’s International Fight Week pay-per-view offering. Jon Jones is expected to make his long-awaited return in July however not for 213.

UFC President Dana White has stated that Jones will not be eligible to compete during International Fight Week due to his suspension, making UFC 214 in late July the most likely option. White also insisted that Jones cannot be trusted to headline an event due to his past transgressions.

If White holds true to his word it’ll be a bizarre and unfortunate set of circumstances to promote the most important rematch in the history of the UFC. Many titleholders are booked for the moment, so the Cormier vs. Jones rerun would seem the most logical choice. However, as has been the norm in the past two years of UFC promotion an interim title can be slapped on to any semi-interesting match.

Countless arguments are made about how interim titles are senseless and harmful to the actual titleholder but those arguments although valid, are not much more than gripes.

The absence of sanctioning bodies in mixed martial arts are a contentious point of debate in the MMA community and combat sports in general but sanctioning bodies in regard to titles are almost always a nuisance in the world of boxing.

Any educated fan knows who the real champion is. Even in the rare instance where the interim titleholder is held in higher regard or more popular than the actual champion as was the case with Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo, nothing was done to diminish the value of the featherweight belt.

The notion that a title fight must headline a card may be antiquated but it seems that is the manner that the UFC will continue to handle business for the foreseeable future. Five rounds are seldom a negative in high-level MMA and an interim belt would be most justified if a match is made between former Invicta featherweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino and current champion Megan Anderson.

If Cormier vs. Jones will play second fiddle to another fight, an interim featherweight title fight between “Cyborg” and Anderson would be a sensible headliner for UFC 214. Given the lack of options and the current featherweight champion’s fighting future in doubt, the fight would merit its headlining spot.

Jones in a co-headliner may seem strange business wise. It is rare for Dana White to put morale ahead of dollar signs but if it is the case it may be for the better. An alpha male like Jones doesn’t want to be second to anyone. The very fact that the marquee will say Cormier vs. Jones instead of Jones vs. Cormier most likely rankles with the superstar.

Yet the promotion of Jones is more intriguing now than it ever has been. Jones reportedly pulled in right under 500,000 buys for UFC 197. Not too shabby for a 15-month layoff with a lukewarm undercard.

Moreover, a fight with the magnitude of Cormier Vs. Jones will be heavily promoted under any circumstance. ESPN, TMZ, Deadspin, will all be pulled towards covering the event, so the co-main event placing may not be that big of a deal. The benefits that the Cormier/Jones rematch can provide for the women’s featherweight division are substantial.

..that the fight itself was between a 135 pounder who had lost her last two and a fringe top 10 bantamweight didn’t make matters any better.

UFC 208 was the official introduction of the featherweight division in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and it wasn’t loved by many spectators. Germaine de Randamie outpointed Holly Holm in a 25-minute striking affair.

Technically, the fight was brilliant but provided not a single awe-inspiring moment. The fact that there was controversy regarding some illegal blows, a contested decision, and that the fight itself was between a 135 pounder who had lost her last two and a fringe top 10 bantamweight didn’t make matters any better.

The great thing about a Cyborg/Anderson fight is that both women really want the fight and also happen to be great kickboxers that have genuine horsepower. “Cyborg” trounced Leslie Smith in less than a round and utterly pummeled Lina Lansberg in just over five minutes. Anderson is young and still relatively raw but has some exceptional power at featherweight.

The desire to improve is also not lost on the talented Aussie. Her Invicta FC debut was an embarrassingly one-sided loss to notorious overachieving veteran Cindy Dandois.

Grappling is an aspect of MMA that Anderson hasn’t fully grasped as of yet but is miles ahead of where she was in 2015. Anderson’s 2016 was outstanding with three knockouts in a row and she showed her artistic side as she used Charmaine Tweet’s blood to splatter the canvas red like a deranged college activist student.

There was a USADA flagging for “Cyborg” after her last win that was retroactively cleared. Unfortunate and badly timed, it ended up rekindling an old hatred that some in the MMA community have had for the Brazilian since her first positive test in 2011.

“Cyborg” is a respectful competitor and her fighting style is barbaric but her past with PEDs rubs some fans the wrong way, making her a lightning rod for controversy. More often than not, controversy sells.

In the skills and experience department “Cyborg” will hold a distinct advantage, however, Anderson is not lacking in confidence and may be the first fighter that can match “Cyborg’s” power. Anderson also happens to be a fan favourite in Invicta and isn’t shy about trash talking when the opportunity calls for it.

Justino vs. Anderson would not only be a well-matched and entertaining scrap, it would possess something many women’s MMA fights are too commonly missing, intrigue.

Ronda Rousey is unlikely to come back and that leaves the UFC looking for ways to create a new female star. This bout would seem like the most probable one to do that.

Rousey had a great home backing in Southern California from early on in her career and it might be time for “Cyborg” to take some of those fans as she has been a SoCal native for years. Anaheim is only a few miles from “Cyborg’s” hometown of Huntington Beach and it shares an ocean with The Land Down Under.

If a sacrifice is made by the UFC to prove a point, then let it be one that carries some positive possibilities for other athletes who are hungry and deserving of the spotlight. Step aside Jones, and let the ladies handle this one.

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