Saturday night delivered yet another top notch all-female card for the Kansas City-based Invicta Fighting Championships fight promotion. After six incredible events that had fans and mixed martial arts media pundits alike clamoring at the bit for more ladies action, Invicta president Shannon Knapp and crew put together a seventh spectacular show that both answered and yet left a lot of questions. First things first, let’s break it down from top to bottom.
Flyweight champion Barb Honchak can now change her nickname from “Little Warrior” to “Wire” because there were plenty of sharp objects thrown repeatedly at challenger Leslie Smith, courtesy of the title holder’s hands. This contest was an epic five round war that you’ve come to expect out of Invicta main cards over the last year and Saturday night was no different.
Honchak did a great job of mixing up her crisp strikes with the effective takedowns. Smith tried her best to whether the storm in a hard fought fashion but in the end, it was Honchak’s consistency in the championship rounds that led the Miletich Fight Systems veteran to retain her belt. Knapp announced at the press conference that the bout received fight of the night honors and rightfully so. These ladies alone were worth the $14.95 price of admission.
The co-main event was scheduled to be a strawweight title tilt between champion Carla Esparza and challenger Claudia Gadelha but the “Cookie Monster’s” opponent pulled out of the bout the morning-of due to illness. Thus, Miriam Nakamoto and Lauren Murphy‘s bout to determine the inaugural Invicta Bantamweight Champion was bumped up one spot in its place.
The fight was about what I expected, as Nakamoto was able to latch on her famous Muay Thai clinch and deliver some vicious strikes. Murphy was able to survive and hand out some of her own, one of which actually bloodied “The Queen of Mean’s” nose. Murphy was also able to score some powerful takedowns and control the action on the ground for most of the fight.
The real story however came late in the third round when Murphy attempted and landed a takedown that buckled Nakamoto’s right knee. At the end of the round, she noticeably winced in pain. When she tried to come back for the forth round, unable to support any weight on it, Nakamoto collapsed to the ground as the fight was called 23 seconds in.
Murphy was named the first ever 135-pound champion in company history but it’s safe to say it wasn’t the finish she had hoped for. Invicta commentators speculated that Nakamoto might have torn her MCL but nothing’s been reported as of today. However, it’s safe to say we probably won’t be seeing her in action for a very long time, late next year at the earliest. Nonetheless, a congrats goes to Murphy for playing the hand she was dealt, coming to fight and claiming championship gold.
Tecia Torres came to fight but when it was over, even she was surprised by how dominating her performance was. In fact, the night could’ve very well been hit with the tagline “Don’t Sweat the Tec(h)-nique.” Torres looked powerful, fierce and hungry against Felice Herrig and picked her apart to the tune of a 30-27 unanimous decision across the board.
Thanksgiving is long over but Torres didn’t get the memo as she provided plenty of “stuffing” for Herrig’s takedown attempts. During her post fight interview, Torres admitted that Joanne “JoJo” Calderwood is in front of her for a title shot. Shortly after, Esparza entered the cage to apologize to the fans about the cancellation of her title defense. To Torres’ surpise, Esparza called her back to the cage to issue a formal challenge to “The Tiny Tornado” for next year.
That would definitely be a true test for Torres, as Esparza’s wrestling will keep her plenty busy throughout. Here’s to hoping that the bout happens sooner rather than later. Where that outs Gaudelha remains to be seen but usually when a fighter pulls out of a fight the day of (Ken Shamrock says hello), the injured or ill fighter moves toward the back of the line behind other impressive challengers.
Calderwood proved why her record is unblemished. The Scotland native gave Katja Kankapaa a fierce fight but one that was a little tighter than anticipated. Nonetheless, Calderwoood was able to use crisp strikes to pick up a narrow 29-28 unanimous decision victory. Guest commentator and cage side interviewer Miesha Tate asked Calderwood how close she thought she was to a title shot, a question I actually asked her in the days prior on Facebook.
“JoJo” told Tate that she would fight anyone that Knapp put in front of her but seemed excited at the prospects of her being so close to one. If Esparza and Torres are indeed up next, then I would love to see Calderwood get the winner. If Calderwood is next in line for a shot, then I’d be just as happy.
Other action saw Julia Budd take care of the 6-foot-tall Charmaine Tweet in impressive fashion. Budd won the fight 30-27 in all three cards and picked up a much needed win. To my surprise and many others in attendance, Tate asked Budd if she wanted a crack at featherweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino next. I’m not sure if she’s ready for “Cyborg’s” vicious heavy hands but it would be interesting to see her square off with an opponent that stacks up fairly well physically against the strap holder.
In the opening bout of the pay-per view, Vanessa Porto picked up unanimous decision victory over Zoila Frausto-Gurgel. Porto was able to get the best of her opponent on the ground and do much of the same on the ground. The website had technical difficulties so I actually missed the first two rounds but after looking at the highlights and reading the recaps, Porto pretty much controlled a healthy bulk of the action. It’s a great comeback win from her after dropping the inaugural flyweight title fight to Honchak earlier this year.
Preliminary action saw Tonya Evinger defeat Sara D’Alelio and grinder out a decision win after getting off to a slow start in the first round. She was able to pick up the pace in the latter two, even staving off D’Alelio’s armbar submission attempt in the third.
The night’s first prelim bout saw Nina Ansaroff pick apart Munah Holland with a four-punch combination that sent her flying to the canvas and finish her off in devastating ground and pound fashion at 3:54 in the second round.
The aftermath of another exciting Invicta FC card answered many questions but also left many unanswered. Is Honchak the best 135-pound champion in the world not named Ronda Rousey? What would’ve happened had Nakamoto had a healthy right knee? Does Torres or Calderwood deserve the next title shot and what leverage does Esparza have in picking her next opponent?
All these questions can be answered now or later, depending on the situation and who you ask but one thing’s certain: the all-female MMA promotion once again proved on Saturday night that they deliver time in and time out. This is the first event I’ve seen live since Invicta FC 2 last year and everything from their production to live presentation is a midnight and day improvement.
Here’s to them continuing to put on exciting fights and give more fans a reason to believe in WMMA. Next time, I plan on attending Invicta FC live in person, that’s how much they come to bring it. The possibilities for Knapp and company are endless.