Invicta’s audience is nothing if not passionate and dedicated.
Anyone who has been to an Invicta event in Kansas City will attest to the fact that the same familiar faces and “superfans” are on hand at most of the events. Even watching at home from the comfort of my oversized, shocking-pink beanbag, I’ve spotted Candy Arellano and crew enjoying the action at all but one of the past 10 or so events.
That core group of fervent Invicta admirers who have helped the all women’s promotion gain a measure of stability, would never dream of missing one of the eight fights on offer at Invicta FC 21 on Saturday.
Yet when the cage door closes behind Rachael Ostovich and Christine Ferea and the opening bout begins, there will be a handful of stragglers still taking their seats in the Scottish Rite Temple. Some might even dare to miss the opening bout altogether. That would be a mistake, because the show opener has the potential to turn into a barnburner.
Rachael Ostovich has not yet been involved in a dull fight, nor has she put in a disappointing performance inside the Invicta cage. Win or lose, the Hawaiian’s brand of flashy grappling and fearless striking has made for compelling viewing.
Training out of her Father’s Jesus is Lord gym in Honolulu, Hawaii, fighting in a Wonder Woman styled singlet for no other reason than she loves the powerful superhero, Ostovich is a unique fighter. Often pigeonholed as an extravagant grappler capable of highlight reel takedowns, reversals, and submission attempts, the 25-year-old is plenty more than that.
While the judo and wrestling background is there, Ostovich has proven herself competitive on the feet against top strikers. That has been both a credit to her growing ability, and a curse.
Against Andrea “KGB” Lee at Invicta FC 14 last year, Ostovich was drawn into a kickboxing fight that she could not win. Last time out against Ariel Beck, who has four professional boxing bouts on her resume, Ostovich seemed happy to stand with her opponent in the first round when taking the fight to the mat would have given her a significant advantage.
But how can you criticise any fighter willing to throw, and skilful enough to land, spinning back fists and superwoman punches off the cage against Andrea Lee? Even “KGB” paused to give her the thumbs up in their bout when one such attack landed cleanly.
The positive sign in all of that is how coachable the fighter appears to be. Improvements made not only from fight to fight, but from round to round. When Ostovich was struggling to find success in the clinch against Ariel Beck in May, where her judo had worked for her so often in the past, she came out in the second round with a different tact. A heavily thrown overhand right led to a level change and a perfectly timed takedown. It was a big moment in a fight that could have slipped away.
That level of adaptation could be key on Saturday, because for all Ostovich’s clean one-two combinations, smooth head movement, and ability to circle away and create space when under pressure, Christine Ferea is ferocious on the feet. Being dragged into Ferea’s type of fight could spell defeat in a hurry.
Ferea has legitimate power in her hands. Just ask Jamie Herod who crumbled beneath Ferea in 2012 when a cutting right hand ploughed through her chin.
An aggressive Muay Thai warrior who throws chopping leg kicks and brutal knees, Ferea has spent time at Xtreme Couture and Syndicate MMA to round out her MMA game.
Based on what we have seen inside MMA cages during Ferea’s amateur career — the bout with Ostovich will be Ferea’s pro MMA debut — the 34-year-old can be taken down. Once there she is energetic, hips constantly moving from side to side, even sweeping her way out from under Jeana Pinelli’s mount in their 2013 contest. We’ve just not seen a whole lot of offence from Ferea when put on her back.
But this is all based on fights that took place years ago. Ferea has not been involved in an MMA bout since February 2015, and that only lasted 22 seconds as Ferea finished Dianna Rodriguez quickly. Prior to that we are looking at fights from 2013 and earlier. And that’s what makes this Invicta FC 21 opener so interesting.
Ferea is a wrecking ball on the feet, that is without question. She has secured two of her three amateur MMA wins by first round stoppage. Not to mention the many Muay Thai wins that Ferea has earned, including a fourth round demolition of Calie Cutler at LionFight 22 in 2015.
What is in question, is Ferea’s ability to avoid being taken down by Ostovich. She has had a lot of time to work on her takedown defence and her grappling since we last saw it truly tested in her lone amateur defeat to Jeana Pinelli in 2013.
Just how good is Christine Ferea at this point? We are left guessing, and wondering whether Ostovich might be good enough to shut her down regardless of any improvements that have been made.
Or does Ferea come out hard and fast and land with something fight-altering, potentially fight-finishing, that renders everything else meaningless?
On Saturday night those questions get answered.
Invicta FC 21 takes place Saturday, January 14, at the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Missouri. The event is headlined by an interim featherweight title bout between Charmaine Tweet and Megan Anderson.
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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