Invicta Fighting Championships crowned two new champions on Friday night at the Ameristar Casino Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri. In the Invicta FC 5 main event, Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson upset reigning champion Jessica Penne to claim the Invicta FC Atomweight Championship.
In Friday’s co-feature, Barb “Little Warrior” Honchak earned a competitive Unanimous Decision victory over Brazilian veteran Vanessa Porto to capture the inaugural Invicta FC Flyweight Championship, and former Strikeforce champ Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino stopped late replacement Fiona Muxlow.
Waterson (11-3-0) spent much of the opening round working for submissions on the ground. Penne (10-2-0) defended well, but Waterson remained active with armbar and triangle choke attempts, and she later transitioned to an omoplata. Waterson was even more dominant in round two and she controlled the fight on the mat from top position with elbows and punches from mount. Penne attempted a gogoplata, but Waterson escaped and landed hammerfists before the end of the round.
Things changed in round three and it was Penne who took the fight to the ground. She quickly passed to mount and pinned down Waterson’s arm, then punished her with punches for an extended period of time. Penne eventually took Waterson’s back and landed two hard elbows, then locked on an armbar. Waterson’s arm was bent back at an awkward angle, but she refused to submit and even tried for an armbar of her own.
A takedown attempt from Penne was unsuccessful in round four and Waterson wound up on top. The fighters stood up soon after and Waterson sprawled out to stuff a takedown. She took Penne’s back on the ground and transitioned to an armbar. Penne could not escape and tapped out at the 2:31 mark of round one.
Waterson stated after the fight that she knew that she had been seen as an underdog, but she had wanted to prove that she was more than just hype. She said that her arm had not been damaged by the Penne armbar in round four and she had known that she needed to persevere and make it to the next round. Having now won nine of her past ten fights, Waterson’s journey from reality show competitor to world champion is complete, and she is the second woman to hold the Invicta FC Atomweight Championship.
Friday’s co-main event between Honchak (8-2-0) and Porto (15-6-0) was a closely-contested fight that was spent entirely on the feet. Porto had success with leg kicks throughout the fight, but Honchak’s crisp punching combinations and quick footwork kept her a step ahead in the exchanges.
Honchak appeared to hold a slight edge in round one and she landed some nice flurries that kept Porto on the defensive. Porto picked up the pace with her leg kicks in rounds two and three and managed to avoid many of Honchak’s counterpunches. Honchak was game, however, and she landed kicks of her own when opportunities presented themselves.
In the final two rounds, Honchak began to time Porto’s kicks and she countered effectively with right hooks and jabs. She mixed things up in the final round and targeted the body with kicks and punches. While all five rounds were close, Honchak’s aggression and strong finish in the later rounds proved to be enough to earn her the victory and the 125-pound title. Scores were 50-45, 49-46 and 48-47, all in Honchak’s favour. The veteran fighter has won seven straight fights and is now the first Invicta FC Flyweight Champion.
Following the fight, Honchak credited her training at Miletich Fighting Systems for her continued success. She stated that the MFS gym, which was once one of MMA’s premier stables of fighters, would once again become a dominant team and that her title victory was only the beginning of great things to come for MFS.
Justino (11-1-0, 1 ND), as she often does, overwhelmed short-notice opponent Muxlow (6-3-0), who stepped into the fight after Ediane “India” Gomes withdrew due to an injury. Justino dropped Muxlow right away and swarmed with punches, but Muxlow held on and battled back to her feet. Justino continued to tee off with punches and Muxlow tried in vain to get the fight to the ground. She could not do so and Justino punished her with more big shots.
As the first round progressed, Justino’s offence began to slow down slightly, but she rocked Muxlow with two big knees and followed with a barrage of punches. Referee John McCarthy had seen enough and intervened for the TKO stoppage at the 3:46 mark of round one.
Justino will now move on to face Marloes “Rumina” Coenen in a rematch for the inaugural Invicta FC Featherweight Championship at Invicta FC 6, which is targeted for late June or early July. The former Strikeforce champions first met in January 2010 and both had high praise for the other when discussing the upcoming rematch.
In an action-packed three-round war, former Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Champion Sarah Kaufman (16-2-0) narrowly got past rising star Leslie “The Peacemaker” Smith (5-3-1) via a close and contentious Split Decision. Smith fought at a measured pace in the opening round and forced Kaufman to come to her. For her part, Kaufman landed some nice combinations and seemed to control the striking exchanges until Smith picked up the pace with 90 seconds to go. Smith mixed up her strikes with punches and a variety of kicks that were enough to earn her the round in the eyes of some observers.
Smith floored Kaufman with a head kick in round two and dove in with punches on the ground, but Kaufman recovered and eventually worked back to her feet after eating some solid shots from Smith. After Smith stood, Kaufman followed and she landed three right hooks. Smith continued to score with head kicks and punches, though Kaufman kept her right hand up to block some of the kicks.
Smith remained effective with her varied attacks in the final round and she targeted the head and body with kicks. Kaufman landed jabs and right crosses, then shot in for a takedown. Smith kicked her off, but Kaufman landed a series of punches on the feet and tried for another takedown. She punched over the top and closed out the fight with more punches.
Kaufman’s early success in the close first round proved to be the difference maker on two of the judges’ scorecards. Both saw it 29-28 for Kaufman, while a third had it 29-28 for Smith. The decision was met with a chorus of boos from the sold-out crowd in attendance, but the opening round was a close one and the decision could have gone either way.
Following the fight, Kaufman stated that she felt that she had definitely done enough to win round one, but Smith clearly saw things differently. Kaufman will move on to the UFC for her next bout, though Smith questioned how happy the Zuffa-run promotion would be about promoting Kaufman following such a contentious victory.
Brazilian prospect Jennifer Maia (7-2-1) spoiled the Invicta FC debut of former Bellator 115-pound women’s champion Zoila “The Warrior Princess” Frausto Gurgel in a featured flyweight matchup. The opening round was very close and neither fighter was able to mount much offence. In round two, Maia’s clinch control began to play a factor and she landed short knees and elbows. It was more of the same in the final round and Maia took advantage of a failed takedown by striking from the top. Scores were 30-27 and 29-28 twice for Maia, who earned her biggest victory to date.
Late replacement Lauren Taylor (6-0-0) picked up an impressive win over bantamweight veteran Kaitlin Young (7-8-1) in a three-round battle. Young started strong with kicks and punches and she took Taylor down straight into mount. She nearly secured a rear-naked choke and an armbar on the ground, but Taylor defended well and escaped. The tide turned in round two and it was Taylor who dominated the action on the mat. She landed punches and threatened with a rear-naked choke of her own. Taylor remained aggressive in round three and she once again pinned Young down on the ground with punches. Her strong finish to the fight earned her the win on the scorecards, as all three judges saw the fight 29-28 in Taylor’s favour.
Featherweight standout Julia “The Jewel” Budd (5-2-0) made it three-for-three under the Invicta FC banner by submitting late replacement “Miss” Mollie Estes (1-2-0). Budd mauled Estes on the ground with vicious ground and pound from mount in the first two rounds, but Estes refused to give in and she even managed to secure a sweep in round two. In the final stanza, Budd caught a knee from Estes and took her down. She secured back control and locked on a no-hooks rear-naked choke for the tapout victory at the 1:04 mark of round three.
Opening up the main card, ultra-popular Australian prospect Bec “Rowdy” Hyatt (5-2-0) earned a first-round stoppage victory over rival Jasminka “Impressive” Cive (5-1-0) of Austria. Hyatt landed big punches early in the fight and took Cive down into mount. She rained down dozens of punches and elbows and eventually spun into an armbar. Cive had nowhere to go and tapped out at the 3:30 mark of round one. The victory got Hyatt back on track after a competitive decision loss to Carla “Cookie Monster” Esparza for the Invicta FC Strawweight Championship in January.
Headlining the preliminary card, England’s Simona Soukupova (4-2-1) made a successful Invicta FC atomweight debut by submitting “Sassy” Cassie Rodish (4-4-0). Soukupova targeted the body with knees in the opening round and reversed a takedown, but Rodish countered with armbar attempts from the bottom. Soukupova punched her way free and appeared to narrowly take round one. In round two, Soukupova landed a series of knees and tried for a standing guillotine choke. Rodish took her down and landed punches, but Soukupova returned to her feet. Soon after, she locked on another standing guillotine choke and Rodish tapped out at the 3:20 mark of round two.
Multi-time Muay Thai champion “The Queen of Mean” Miriam Nakamoto (2-0-0) kicked off her Invicta FC career with a big win over Jessamyn “The Gun” Duke (2-1-0). Nakamoto countered Duke’s attempts to take the fight to the mat by landing knees in the clinch. She landed one big knee that dropped Duke and followed with another one as referee John McCarthy intervened to rescue Duke. The second knee appeared to be illegal, but McCarthy ruled that the first knee had done the damage and Nakamoto was awarded the knockout victory at the 2:20 mark of round one.
Finnish rising star Katja “Killer Bunny” Kankaanpää (8-0-1) kept her unbeaten record intact with a Unanimous Decision victory over Juliana “Ju Thai” Carneiro Lima (5-1-0). Kankaanpää controlled the fight on the ground with punches and submission attempts and she did well to stifle the offence of the striking-minded Carneiro Lima. It was Carneiro Lima who attempted takedowns in the final round, but Kankaanpää stayed up and she continued to slowly pick her opponent apart with strikes in the clinch. Scores were 29-28 and 30-27 twice for Kankaanpää, who is a top prospect at 115 pounds.
Another top strawweight prospect, “Thug” Rose Namajunas (2-0-0), needed just 12 seconds to score a highlight-reel submission victory over Kathina “Kill Switch” Catron (2-2-0). After an early clinch, Namajunas jumped into a flying armbar and used it to pull Catron to the mat. Catron immediately tapped out and an elated Namajunas celebrated as the crowd gave her a standing ovation.
In the opening fight on the card, Australia’s Alex “Astro Girl” Chambers (4-1-0) proved that she is just as dangerous in the atomweight division as she was at her former home of 115 pounds. Chambers handed Jackson’s MMA fighter Jodie Esquibel (3-1-0) the first defeat of her career in quick fashion. After an exchange of strikes, Chambers took Esquibel’s back and dragged her to the mat. She quickly locked on a rear-naked choke and adjusted her grip, and Esquibel tapped out at the 1:35 mark of round one.
Full play-by-play for all of the Invicta FC 5 bouts can be found here.