Alexa Grasso vs Jodie Esquibel Headlines Invicta FC 18 CardUndefeated strawweight rising star Alexa Grasso makes her long-awaited return to action on July 29th at Invicta Fighting Championships 18 in Kansas City, Missouri. Grasso is set to face off against The Ultimate Fighter 23 contestant Jodie Esquibel in the featured 115-pound main event.

Grasso has been sidelined due to injuries and has not fought since scoring her biggest victory to date over Deep Jewels champion Mizuki Inoue at Invicta FC 11, while Esquibel has won back-to-back bouts. In the Invicta FC 18 bantamweight co-feature, Irene Aldana takes on unbeaten Taila Santos.

Grasso (7-0-0) appeared to be on the fast track to an Invicta FC strawweight title shot after winning her third straight fight for the promotion, a Unanimous Decision verdict over Inoue, in February 2015. However, injuries in training kept Grasso on the sidelines and repeatedly scrapped plans for a title fight between her and then-champion Livia Renata “Livinha” Souza. Now healthy again, 22-year-old Grasso hopes to regain her contender status with a key win next month. The Mexican standout has knocked out four opponents to date and she is one of the premier female strikers at 115 pounds.

Esquibel (5-1-0) continues her campaign at strawweight next month after recently moving up in weight to compete on TUF 23. As an atomweight, Esquibel went 3-1 under the Invicta FC banner with three decision victories. Two of those wins came in the form of controversial Split Decisions over “Lightning” Liz McCarthy and Jinh Yu Frey, but Esquibel’s most recent Invicta FC victory saw her dominate Nicdali “The Night Queen” Rivera-Calanoc for three rounds at Invicta FC 9. Next month’s main event battle marks a fresh start for Esquibel as she begins her climb towards a 115-pound title shot.


Aldana (6-2-0), much like her teammate Grasso, has become a favourite among the Invicta FC audience thanks to her devastating knockout power and entertaining fights. The heavy-handed bantamweight showcased her underrated ground game by submitting back-to-back opponents for Invicta FC, but her momentum was halted in a one-sided loss to Invicta FC Bantamweight Champion Tonya “Triple Threat” Evinger in July. Aldana got back on track with a first-round stoppage win in March and now finds herself one victory away from a second shot at Evinger’s title.

Santos (13-0-0) has long been regarded as one of the top bantamweight prospects not signed to a major promotion. The 23-year-old has torn through her opposition in Brazil, knocking out nine of 13 foes and keeping her unblemished record intact. She takes a significant step up in competition for her Invicta FC debut, however, and faces arguably her toughest test to date when she squares off against Aldana. Santos won nine fights in 2015, but she has not fought since November and ring rust could play a factor next month when she competes for an Invicta FC title shot.


In featured flyweight action, undefeated Polish prospect Agnieszka “Kuma” Niedźwiedź (7-0-0) clashes with Brazilian finisher Claudia Rey (6-0-0), who also makes her Invicta FC debut. Niedźwiedź sat out for all of 2015 after giving birth to her first child, but the 21-year-old has racked up six stoppage wins in seven fights and is one of Europe’s most highly-touted female fighters. Standing in her way is Rey, who has knocked out or submitted all six of her foes to date. The Brazilian also returns following a lengthy layoff that dates back to a quick submission win in April 2015.

At bantamweight, judoka Cindy “Battlecat” Dandois (6-2-0) meets TUF 18 alum Jessamyn “The Gun” Duke (3-4-0, 1 NC). While Dandois’s striking skills remain incredibly basic, her formidable ground game recently propelled her to a dominant second-round submission victory at Invicta FC 14. She returns to bantamweight to face the struggling Duke, who has dropped four straight fights since earning a decision victory at The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale in late 2013. In spite of her recent setbacks, Duke will hold a massive advantage over Dandois if she is able to keep the fight on the feet.


Rounding out the card, Megan Anderson (6-2-0) aims to continue her streak of impressive finishes when she takes on Peggy “The Daywalker” Morgan (4-3-0) in featherweight action. Manjit Kolekar (9-0-0) makes her Invicta FC debut against returning veteran Lynn “Lights Out” Alvarez (6-3-0) at strawweight. In the bantamweight card opener, Sijara “Sarj” Eubanks (1-1-0) squares off against multi-time amateur champion AmberLynn “ALO” Orr (11-1-0 amateur), who makes her pro debut.

Invicta Fighting Championships 18 takes place on July 29th at the Kansas City Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Missouri. The event streams live on UFC Fight Pass.

Update: Card complete with addition of atomweight bout between Tessa “The Typhoon” Simpson (4-1-0) and Simona Soukupova (5-3-1), and bantamweight bout between Aspen Ladd (3-0-0) and Jessica “Bakan” Hoy (1-0-0).



(Photo Credit: Invicta Fighting Championships)