Main event participants Sara McMann and Shayna “The Queen of Spades” Baszler each received an additional $1500 for Fight of the Night on Saturday at Invicta Fighting Championships 2 in Kansas City, Kansas. Both fighters spoke with MMARising.com following their three-round bantamweight bout.
McMann narrowly edged out Baszler on the judges’ scorecards in a close and action-packed fight. She remains unbeaten in her MMA career. Some observers felt that Baszler had done enough to win, but both fighters will surely factor heavily in Invicta FC’s future plans for the 135-pound division.
McMann (6-0-0) pressed the action early on with punches, but it was Baszler who was most effective with her counter kicks and combinations. McMann eventually began to land with her right hook and she followed with uppercuts in close. Baszler kept the fight on her feet and punches were exchanged in the clinch. Baszler worked for a kneebar and an armbar on the ground in round two and appeared to win the round despite a late striking rally from McMann.
It was McMann who again pressed forward with her punches in the final round and Baszler countered from a distance once more. McMann scored a pair of takedowns and she landed some hard left hands as Baszler scrambled back to her feet against the cage. McMann stayed active with leg kicks in the final minute, but she was rocked by a right hook from Baszler just before the final bell.
Judges Henry Gueary, David Clifton and Victoria Miller-Pence awarded a Unanimous Decision victory to McMann with scores of 30-27 and 29-28 twice, but the close nature of the fight could potentially lead to a rematch somewhere down the line. For now, McMann will shift her focus to October 6th when she competes for the Invicta FC bantamweight title at Invicta Fighting Championships 3.
“I felt that it was a really good fight and I gained a lot of good experience on my feet,” McMann told MMARising.com. “I’m always trying to stay on my feet for as long as I can. To go the full first round on my feet, that’s just going to reveal so many things that I need to fix and grow on. I think that [Baszler's] very tough on the ground, so it was very important for me to follow a game plan and to be able to execute it. My takedowns come instinctually, so I sometimes battle with that. There are some fights that I want on the feet rather than on the ground.
“I think [Baszler] is a lot more comfortable on the ground than she is on her feet, typically, but she had clearly invested a lot of time [training] on her feet also. That’s what made it such a knock-out, drag-out fight. She’s done a lot of great things on the ground, so I have total respect for her skills, and I thought that the smartest route on this was to keep it standing and then secure a takedown to win the round.”
McMann recognised the close nature of her fight with Baszler, and while she believes that she won the fight, she also feels that MMA judging would benefit from having scores displayed after each round and a more precise scoring criteria.
“To be honest, every time I watch MMA fights I’m like, ‘Oh, I thought it went this way’ and then the judges call it another way. I’m really confused and I wish they’d have a point system or put up who won each round [during the fight]. It seems to be very ambiguous. If you’re a Shayna fan, you probably thought that Shayna did great. If you’re a Sara fan, you probably thought that Sara clearly won. That just means that both of us went out there and put everything on the line and did the best that we could.
“My striking coach is going to be really proud of me for keeping it on the feet as long as I did,” McMann adds. “I chose to keep it on the feet and I wanted the fight to be there. I wanted to be the one to initiate the strikes and the combinations, and to keep mixing it up by using my wrestling to keep her off-balance. Takedowns for me come fairly easily in MMA. It’s a lot harder for me to try to stand. I could have tried to take her down and hold her and be like a typical wrestler, but I chose to branch out and that created a closer fight.”
McMann will return to Invicta FC for the October title fight, but she does not care whom she faces on the card. She would prefer to face an opponent who is ranked higher than she is, if possible, but feels that the bantamweight division is so close and competitive that she would continue to grow and improve as a fighter no matter who stands across from her in the Invicta cage.
While she did not get her hand raised on Saturday, Baszler put on one of the best performances of her career in defeat and attributes that to an excellent fight camp leading up to the bout. However, she admits that the outcome was disappointing and was particularly puzzled by the 30-27 scorecard in McMann’s favour.
“Honestly, this was the best I’ve ever felt,” Baszler told MMARising.com after the fight. “I didn’t feel tired at all during the fight and I thought that I won. Especially when they said 30-27. I was like, ‘Oh, for sure that’s mine,’ but that’s what happens when you leave it in the hands of the judges. I had a couple of opportunities to finish her and it just didn’t happen. The judges were watching from a different perspective than I was, I guess, so it’s tough, but I think this [fight] right here was your title match. So I’m just glad we put on a good fight, and if I’m going to lose, I guess that’s a good fight to lose if you can say there’s such a thing as that.
“I thought the first round was even,” Baszler recalled of the fight, “but here’s the thing and here’s my indication. Josh [Barnett], my coach, is a hard-ass, and he came to the corner smiling and telling me that I was doing great. He’s not normally very complimentary in situations like that, so when he was saying that stuff I felt good. I felt like I saw everything that [McMann] was throwing. My training partners are really quick and ninja-like, so it just seemed slow-motion compared to what I’ve been training with, striking-wise.
“I felt on. I felt really on. The round I had the kneebar in, I felt I won just because when she did take me down, I was attacking from the guard and reversing position. I put her in trouble for a long time and I thought that [round] was mine for sure. In the third round, I thought I stole it at the end when I knocked her silly, but I don’t know. Like I said, when they said 30-27, I thought for sure all three rounds were mine so I started raising my hand, but I can’t take anything away from Sara.”
Baszler will likely not be a part of the Invicta title fight in October, but she hopes that her performance on Saturday warrants a return to the top ten in the bantamweight division. She believes that McMann will become the first Invicta Bantamweight Champion and plans to take the belt from her if a rematch is booked down the line.
“I want a rematch with her and to win the title off of her,” Baszler says. “I think that we put on an epic enough match that we can do it again. Whoever it is [next], I’ve been doing this so long that I really don’t care who is in front of me. I’ve been doing this enough that I just love to fight. It’s fun. I was relaxed. I finally figured everything out and I wound up losing in some kind of crazy way.
“At the end of the second round, Josh said that [McMann] was going to come out and press the action because we thought that the first round was really close. We knew that she was going to come out more aggressive and we thought that she’d go for the takedown sooner. I wasn’t tired and I think I was answering and countering and landing the better, cleaner shots. I’ll have to watch it back and see what I would have changed. After the fight, Josh said, ‘Hang your head high because this was not a loss.’ For him to say something like that really meant a lot.”
(Photo Credit: Sherdog.com)