Saturday night’s Invicta FC 14 main event at the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri was supposed to be for Tonya Evinger’s bantamweight title, but after challenger Pannie Kianziad missed weight, the bout was shifted to a five-round non-title affair instead, but that didn’t change the veteran Evinger’s approach.
Right out of the gate, the resurgent titleholder closed the distance and took the fight to the canvas, attacking Kianziad with a wave of strikes before taking her back and threatening with a rear naked choke. While the choke wasn’t there, Evinger continued to unload strikes and search for an armbar through a dominant first frame that left the challenger bloodied in her corner.
After dropping Kianziad with a right hand to start the second, it was more of the same from Evinger, who continued to land a non-stop barrage of punches and elbows while controlling things on the mat and generally manhandling Kianziad at every turn. Mounted with 90 seconds remaining in the round, Evinger kept firing and forced referee John McCarthy to stop the bout, giving “Triple Threat” her eighth straight victory and fifth consecutive inside the Invicta FC cage.
Now 17-5 in her career with her last three setbacks coming to UFC fighters Sara McMann and Alexis Davis twice, Evinger has become of the most intriguing figures in the women’s 135-pound ranks. She has dominated the competition in Invicta FC, finishing four straight to solidify her place atop the division, and would be an interesting addition to the UFC ranks if the organization wanted to head in that direction.
Either way, it’s been a tremendous return to form for the 34-year-old Houston resident, who has now earned back-to-back impressive stoppage victories over highly regarded up-and-comers.
Katja Kankaanpaa vs. DeAnna Bennett
Returning for the first time since losing the strawweight title, Kankaanpaa looked to get back into the title picture by handing the unbeaten Bennett the first loss of her career. While Alexa Grasso is already next in line to face reigning champion Livia Souza, the winner of this one will be near the top of the division going forward.
Bennett, who holds a victory over TUF 18 winner Julianna Pena, missed weight for this engagement, but didn’t show any negative impact from the weight cut, moving fluidly and pressing the action throughout the first five minutes. Kankaanpaa, whose only other loss prior to dropping the title came to UFC standout Joanne Calderwood, pressed the action in the second, but Bennett was able to counter the pressure and threaten the former champion with quality scrambles and a couple guillotine attempts in the second.
In the third, “The Killer Bunny” attacked Bennett early, dragging the fight to the ground and threatening with a head-and-arm choke before transitioning to back mount momentarily and continuing to attack on the mat. Though she wasn’t able to find a finish, Kankaanpaa controlled the action through the horn, earning the sole clear round of the contest.
When the scores were read, there were some surprised parties in the audience as the judges awarded the verdict 29-28 across the board to Bennett, who remains undefeated. Given her struggles to make the strawweight limit – and her previous success higher up in weight – it will be interesting to see where Bennett wants to fight going forward and whether the Invicta FC brass prompts her to move back up.
Regardless, “The Argentine Assassin” remained unbeaten and a championship contender no matter where she competes next time out.
Roxanne Modafferi vs. Mariana Morais
It was a battle of one of the pioneers on the female side of the sport and an Invicta FC newcomer in this one, as Modafferi stepped into the cage for the 30th time in her career against the 19-year-old Brazilian Morais.
The first was a grappling clinic from Modafferi, who bided her time to find and entry, but pounced on the first opening to put Morais on the canvas. For the majority of the next four minutes, “The Happy Warrior” alternated between peppering with strikes from top position and looking to pass as Morais had no real answer off her back.
After half a round of give-and-take on the feet to start the second, Modafferi completed a slick head-and-arm throw, landing in quarter mount and transitioning to full mount soon after, once again dominating her young, inexperienced opponent on the mat. As the clock wound down in the second, referee John McCarthy continued to take a closer look, but Morais was able to survive to the horn.
Morais dove on a deep guillotine choke to start the final round, but the veteran Modafferi stayed calm and fought her way out, controlling the action on the canvas from top position before finally piling up enough unanswered strikes to earn the stoppage in the final 30 seconds of the fight.
The victory moves Modafferi to 3-1 under the Invicta FC banter, while Morais drops to 9-3 with the loss.
Rachael Ostovich vs. Andrea Lee
Looking to rebound from a split decision loss to Roxanne Modefferi last time out, “KGB” Lee returned to the Invicta FC cage to square off with Hawaiian up-and-comer Ostovich in a battle of flyweight prospects.
This was all Lee from the outset, as the 26-year-old Louisiana native showcased her superior striking, punishing Ostovich to the body, starting with an axe kick through the guard on the ground as well as more late shots to the midsection along the fence. While the pace slowed a little in the second, Lee cranked up the action in the final two minutes, hurting Ostovich once more and again finishing the round with back mount looking to finish.
Though Ostovich showed a ton of heart, battling through a nasty cut early in the third, Lee was relentless throughout, piling up the significant strikes and delivering her most dominant performance to date, finally securing the finish in the final seconds of the third round to solidify herself as one of the top emerging talents on the Invicta FC roster.
Cindy Dandois vs. Megan Anderson
Contested in the featherweight ranks, Dandois returned to action following a loss to bantamweight champ Tonya Evinger to welcome Australia’s Anderson to the Invicta FC cage for the first time.
Less than a minute into the bout, Dandois was able to trip Anderson to the canvas, advancing to mount just 90 seconds in. When the Aussie tried to buck and sweep, Dandois transitioned to an armbar attempt, shifting to a triangle off her back with two minutes remaining in the round.
To her credit, Anderson managed to survive and land a clean right hand down the pipe just before the horn in the first, but in the second, she fell back into another triangle attempt in the center of the cage and Dandois refused to let get, collecting the tap at 2:41 of the middle stanza to pull off the upset victory.
Jamie Moyle vs. Sharon Jacobson
Three-for-three as a pro with all three wins coming inside the Invicta FC cage, Moyle has quickly established herself as someone to watch in the strawweight ranks. After losing her pro debut to Invicta FC contender DeAnna Bennett, Jacobson has rebounded with three straight wins of her own, including a one-sided decision win over Delaney Owen last time out.
Approaching the midway point of the fight, Jacobson appeared to be in control, as the two-time National champion used her wrestling to control the clinch and land some heavy blows in close, but the gutsy Moyle countered with a right hand and a series of follow-ups that rocked Jacobson and kept this fight ultra-close heading into the third round.
Over the final five minutes, Jacobson played the aggressor, coming forward and dumping Moyle with a pair of scoop takedowns, but the unbeaten Las Vegas native countered well, keeping this one tight. Down the stretch, the 32-year-old Jacobson used her superior strength keep Moyle’s back on the cage, leaving this one in the hands of the judges.
When the tens and nines were tallied, two judges saw it 30-27 while the third had it 29-28, all in favor of “The Dreamcatcher” Sharon Jacobson, who runs her winning streak to three while handing Moyle the first setback of her pro career.
Jinh Yu Frey vs. Liz McCarthy
A pair of Invicta FC veterans with aspirations of climbing the atomweight ladder collided in this one, with Frey returning for the first time since her December submission win over Cassie Robb opposite McCarthy, who came out on the wrong side of a split decision result against current No. 1 contender Amber Brown in her last appearance.
Frey’s varied attacks were the difference in this one, as the lefthander mixed things up from start to finish, alternating between battering McCarthy’s lead leg, crashing lefts home down the pipe and driving through timely takedowns. Though McCarthy turned up the tempo in the third, it was a case of too little too late as all three judges scored this one in favor of Frey.
With consecutive victories in under the Invicta FC banner and her lone setback coming against current contender Jodie Esquibel, Frey has put herself in the thick of the title conversation going forward, while McCarthy continues to prove she’s a tough out in the 105-pound weight class.
J.J. Aldrich vs. Rosa Acevedo
Making her third trip into the Invicta FC cage, Aldrich looked to get back into the win column after coming out on the wrong side of the results against Jamie Moyle last time out, while Acevedo debuted under the Invicta FC banner on a two-fight winning streak and sporting a cat-face singlet.
While Acevedo won the battle of the ring attire, Aldrich won the fight in decisive fashion, sending the Invicta FC newcomer collapsing to the canvas with a series of nasty knees to the body and the head along the cage in the closing stages of the first round. This was a brilliant showing for the 23-year-old Aldrich, who holds an amateur win over current UFC strawweight Kailin Curran.
Aspen Ladd vs. Amanda Bobby Cooper
After earning in first-round TKO victory in her professional debut under the Invicta FC banner back in February, the 20-year-old Ladd returned against Cooper, a Michigan native who has been out of action since February 2014 following a submission win in her initial pro bout.
Things were back-and-forth in the first as both battled for dominance in the clinch before Ladd countered a takedown attempt and landed on top. While the California native worked from top position, Cooper was able to answer with a pair of slick sweeps and a tricky armbar attempt that put Ladd on the defensive momentarily.
Early in the second, Ladd drove through a takedown after eating a right hand, threatening with a keylock before transitioning to the back, flattening out Cooper. A rear naked choke attempt gave way to brutal elbows from mount before Ladd was able to latch onto an arm and force Cooper to tap late in the second.
This was an impressive showing for Ladd, one of the top young talents in the flyweight ranks, who continues to showcase her well-rounded offensive arsenal as she makes her way up the divisional ladder.
Rachel Wiley vs. Felicia Spencer
First-time pros kicked off the festivities in Kansas City as the Muay Thai stylist and Topeka, Kansas native Wiley squared off with Tuff-N-Uff tournament winner Spencer in this lightweight affair.
An accidental clash of heads produced a hematoma on Wiley’s head and a series of elbows from Spencer targeted the welt as the Canadian dominated the action from top position almost immediately. When the barrage of punishment didn’t let up, referee Mike England jumped in to wave things off just passed the midway point of the opening round.
Though Wiley shook her head in disagreement with the decision, she was stuck on bottom and Spencer was unrelenting, picking up an impressive finish in her first professional outing.