Through the opening two rounds of Friday night’s Invicta FC strawweight championship main event at the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Livia Souza appeared to be on her way to duplicating the effort put forth by her atomweight compatriot Herica Tiburcio, who made her North American debut with an upset win of Michelle Waterson to claim Invicta gold.
Over the first 10 minutes of her fight with reigning titleholder Katja Kankaanpaa, Sao Paulo’s Souza controlled the action, taking the fight to the once-beaten Finnish champion. In each of the first two rounds, Souza was able to take the back and threaten with submissions, forcing Kankaanpaa to fight defensively.
After a close third frame where it appeared that Souza was tiring and the tide was turning in Kankaanpaa’s favor, the Brazilian locked up a triangle choke late in the fourth round to secure the finish and replicate Tiburcio’s feat of winning the Invicta FC title in her initial appearance on American soil.
The 24-year-old Brazilian continued to search for angles and openings from the bottom as Kankaanpaa tried to make up ground from top position in the second and was able to catch the triangle, adjusting her foot positioning behind the knee and pulling down on Kankaanpaa’s head to make “The Killer Bunny” tap.
Long considered one of the deepest divisions on the female side of the sport, Friday’s championship tilt showed just how competitive and compelling the strawweight ranks can be.
Souza advances to 8-0 with the victory and possesses as bright a future as anyone in the division, while Kankaanpaa suffers just the second loss of her career and remains a durable, dangerous member of the 125-pound ranks.
ROXANNE MODAFFERI VS. VANESSA PORTO
A rematch and a potential title eliminator in the Invicta FC flyweight division, Modafferi looked to keep her resurgent run going, while Porto was out to avenge her earlier loss to “The Happy Warrior” and potentially earn a second shot at champion Barb Honchak.
As you would expect with two veteran contenders, this was a closely contested affair that hinged on single takedowns in the first and second. In both frames, Modafferi got put on the canvas after throwing a high knee and ended up spending the majority of the rest of the round hunting for sweeps and submissions off her back.
At range, the TUF 18 alum was able to have some success with her improved striking, but those takedowns and Porto’s control when the fight went to the floor proved to be the deciding factor as the Brazilian earned a trio of 30-27 scorecards to gain a measure of revenge against Modafferi, push her winning streak to three and position herself for a possible rematch with Honchak later this year.
AMANDA BELL VS. FAITH VAN DUIN
This one was all kinds of fun.
Papamoa, New Zealand’s Van Duin stepped into the Invicta FC cage for the first time with a tough assignment against the surging Bell, who has picked up three consecutive stoppage wins after beginning her career with back-to-back losses.
The two combatants went back-and-forth through the opening five minutes, with Van Duin attacking with submission attempts as Bell countered with her trademark brand of feisty offense. Early in the second, Bell crashed home a big kick, but Van Duin used it to score a takedown and quickly lock up a side choke on the Oregon native.
Now 5-1 and back in the win column, the Invicta FC newcomer told Laura Sanko that she’s focused on climbing the divisional ranks and eyeing an opportunity to fight for the title in the future.
EDIANE GOMES VS. RAQUEL PA’ALUHI
Following a three-fight stretch where she suffered losses to Sara McMann, Amanda Nunes and Raquel Pennington, Pa’aluhi carried a two-fight winning streak into the biggest fight of her career against the talented American Top Team representative Gomes.
The improving Hawaiian didn’t back down against the Brazilian veteran, confidently engaging with Gomes on the ground in the first before walking her down, cracking her with clean right hands and dropping her with a knee to the body late in the frame. Though Gomes controlled the action in the third from top position, it was too little, too late.
Pa’aluhi took home the win on the cards, picking up 29-28 scores across the board to move to 5-4 in her young career. With the setback, Gomes drops to 10-4 and finds herself on a two-fight losing streak for the first time in her career.
PEGGY MORGAN VS. LATOYA WALKER
The unbeaten Walker missed weight for her Invicta FC debut against Ultimate Fighter Season 18 alum Morgan, but the difficult cut didn’t seem to impact her performance. Despite giving up a significant amount of height and reach, Walker was the one landing the bigger shots in this featherweight battle.
After connecting on the only real significant strikes of the opening round, the former Texas Golden Gloves winner tagged Morgan with a series of big shots that put “The Daywalker” into a defensive mode. It was more of the same in the final frame as well, with Walker dictating the pace and space, clanging home some heavy shots and picking up a dominant, one-sided victory in her promotional debut.
With the win, “The Black Mamba” moves to 5-0, while Morgan drops to 3-3 with the loss.
LACEY SCHUCKMAN VS. JENNY LIOU
An ultra-active competitor who has faced the likes of Michelle Waterson, Ayaka Hamasaki and Carla Esparza, Schuckman entered this meeting with Liou with six times as many professional appearances to her credit and that experience gap showed here. “The Ladie” needed less than two minutes to pick up a dominant stoppage victory, rocking Liou with strikes early and continuing to connect with bombs until the referee jumped in and stopped the fight.
This victory gets Schuckman back into the win column and the 26-year-old veteran used her post-fight interview time with Laura Sanko to lobby for an opportunity to fight Mizuki Inoue, a matchup that would be fireworks for sure.
DELANEY OWEN VS. SHARON JACOBSON
Coming off a pair of first-round stoppage wins, Jacobson debuted in the Invicta FC cage against the 22-year-old Owen, who posted a 7-2 mark as an amateur before winning three of her first four outings as a professional.
This one started fast and furiously, with Jacobson refusing to touch gloves, offering a right hand right out of the chute instead. Owen stung Jacobson at two different points in the opening frame, dropping her once and leaving her with a sizable mouse under her right eye.
It didn’t stop Jacobson’s aggressiveness though, as she continued to press forward behind her hands and utilize her superior wrestling skills to control Owen along the fence and on the mat. All three judges saw the fight in favor of Jacobson, who scored a clean sweep of the scorecards 30-27 to push her winning streak to three.
SHANNON SINN VS. MAUREEN RIORDON
A pair of Colorado natives that used to train together and were coming off setbacks in their most recent outings met in the second contest of the night in Kansas City. Sinn was on the business end of a one-sided beatdown from Andrea Lee last time out, while Riordan dropped her pro debut to current UFC dark horse contender Marion Reneau under the RFA banner back in July.
Sinn looked demonstratively better in her sophomore appearance in the Invicta FC cage, throwing combinations from the outset and maintaining that approach throughout the 15-minute affair. Though Riordon had her moments and bloodied her former training partner, the 35-year-old Sinn continued to connect with two- and three-punch combinations the whole way.
When the scores were announced, the judges saw it in favor of Sinn, who picked up her first Invicta FC victory with scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
GINA BEGLEY VS. SIJARA EUBANKS
First time professionals Begley and Eubanks kicked off the Invicta FC 12 fight card in the 135-pound division. Representing “The DMV,” Eubanks is a decorated grappler from Team Lloyd Irvin, while 34-year-old Kentucky native Begley took the fight on short notice after posting a 3-2 mark in the amateur ranks.
After the tandem spent the better part of the opening three minutes trading shots in space, Eubanks closed the distance and pulled Begley’s legs out from the clinch. Once it hit the floor, “Sarge” took control, opening up with a barrage of strikes that forced Begley to cover up.
When the 10-second warning sounded, Eubanks picked up the pace, forcing referee John McCarthy to step in and stop the fight just seconds before the horn sounded.