The ladies of Invicta FC are kicking off the New Year on UFC FIGHT PASS this Saturday with a stacked event headlined by two title fights.
Live from The Hangar in Costa Mesa, California, the Invicta FC featherweight and strawweight championships will be up for grabs. In the co-main event, newly crowned Invicta FC strawweight champ Livia Renata Souza will aim to use her renowned grappling skills against the undefeated DeAnna Bennett. In the main event, Russian submission artist Daria Ibragimova will tangle with knockout artist and Invicta FC featherweight queen Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino.
Those battles for the belt will top off an already exciting card featuring rising stars and famed stalwarts. Here’s a fight-by-fight preview of Invicta FC 15: Cyborg vs. Ibragimova.
CRISTIANE “CYBORG” JUSTINO (C) VS. DARIA IBRAGIMOVA – FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
In 2015, the Invicta FC featherweight belt was contested for a grand total of 91 seconds. Actually, that was two successful title defenses, as the former/final Strikeforce women’s featherweight champion and only Invicta FC featherweight champion, Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, decimated her competition last year with back-to-back knockouts. Cyborg has been unstoppable with her power striking, recording four KO wins in her four Invicta FC appearances. Whether it’s a knee, a leg kick, a barrage of punches or ground-and-pound, it seems to be only a matter of time before Justino scores another striking stoppage.
Given the unfortunate task of attempting to not only last one minute with Cyborg, but to potentially defeat her, is grappling ace Daria Ibragimova. With a background in Sambo, freestyle wrestling and having even competed in sumo, it will be no surprise to see Ibragimova aim to take this fight to the floor, where she believes she will have the advantage. Owning a 9-1 pro record, Ibragimova will be making her Invicta FC debut in this highest of high-profile bouts, riding a seven-fight win streak, including six submissions and one TKO. Best of luck to Ibragimova, as Justino is no slouch on the ground, if the fight even gets there. Surviving Cyborg’s stand-up and getting her to the mat will be a war unto itself for Ibragimova.
LIVIA RENATA SOUZA (C) VS. DEANNA BENNETT – STRAWWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
There’s simply nothing better than a battle between two undefeated fighters with a shiny gold belt up for grabs. Last April, a relatively unknown Brazilian made her Invicta FC debut in the main event strawweight title fight and finished the bout with a fourth-round triangle choke. People know who Livia Renata Souza is nowadays, as she is the third woman to wear gold at 115 pounds in Invicta FC. It was a thrilling scrap between Souza and then-champ Katja Kankaanpaa, with a myriad of groundwork from both fighters, but it was the Team Maximo and Atos Jiu-Jitsu product who sunk in the tap-inducing choke with a minute left in the fourth frame.
For her first strawweight title defense, “Livinha” will tangle with another unbeaten rising star in DeAnna Bennett. Most recently at Invicta FC 14, “The Argentine Assassin” earned a unanimous decision win over Kankaanpaa. The Orem, Utah native is a solid success story for Invicta FC, with four straight wins in the organization and her sights firmly set on a championship strap. Thus far, Bennett has shown game ability both offensively and defensively in all areas of the fight. This co-main event should be a wild one, as Souza plays the irresistible force and Bennett plays the immovable object.
RAQUEL PA’ALUHI VS. COLLEEN SCHNEIDER – BANTAMWEIGHT
With back-to-back wins in Invicta FC, Hawaii’s Raquel Pa’aluhi is on a bit of a roll. It wasn’t too long ago that Pa’aluhi was suffering through a rough three-fight losing skid, but times have been a changing. Pa’aluhi earned unanimous decision wins over two veterans who are as hard-nosed as they come in Kaitlin Young and Ediane Gomes. Now, Pa’aluhi has been upping her ground game, but she simply loves to scrap and she’s got a great dance partner in Colleen Schneider. It doesn’t matter if you call her “Thoroughbred,” “Biscuit,” “Thumper” or Schneider, this world traveler comes to fight. With a 9-6 pro record and bouts from Alaska to India, Schneider is as active on the feet with her taekwondo striking as she is on the ground with her Erik Paulson-trained submissions. Expect a bantamweight brawl with a potential Fight of the Night bonus.
AMBER BROWN VS. SHINO VANHOOSE – ATOMWEIGHT
Originally, The Ultimate Fighter 20’s Lisa Ellis was scheduled to make both her atomweight and Invicta FC debut, but she was forced to withdraw. Thankfully, Japan’s Shino VanHoose stepped up to keep this fight on the card. The 20-year-old submission specialist owns a 4-3 pro record with three sub stoppages, including the ultra rare Ezekiel choke. In only her second fight in the U.S., VanHoose will be a massive underdog to Albuquerque’s Amber “The Bully” Brown. The Fit NHB product with a 5-1 pro record delivered an absolute beatdown of highly regarded Irish prospect Catherine Costigan at Invicta FC 13. “The Bully” lived up to her moniker and then some with takedowns, ground-and-pound and a fight-ending rear naked choke only 3:34 into the first round. Look for Brown to continue her impressive streak in Invicta FC or VanHoose to become an immediate star with a big upset win.
ALIDA GRAY VS. ANGELA HILL – STRAWWEIGHT
When a fighter has their back against the wall, they tend to be at their most dangerous. Both Alida Gray and Angela Hill are coming off two losses each, but they were two losses against very tough opponents. Nevertheless, two losses is a bad thing and they will do everything in their power to make sure it isn’t three. UFC fans should be quite familiar with TUF 20’s “Overkill” Hill, who nabbed a unanimous decision win in her Octagon debut before dropping her next couple. Meanwhile, El Paso, Texas’ Gray scored four straight finishes in local leagues before losing to two big name prospects in Jessica Aguilar and Alexa Grasso. Both are hungry for a win, so expect proverbial fireworks as Hill and Gray aim for a much needed stoppage victory.
MIZUKI INOUE VS. LACEY SCHUCKMAN – STRAWWEIGHT
These are two of the baddest women on this card. Remember when I said Pa’aluhi vs. Schneider had Fight of the Night potential? It does, but this strawweight struggle has triple that potential because they own three Invicta FC Fight of the Night bonuses between them. First, there’s “The Ladie,” Lacey Schuckman, who has been a consummate hard-headed and action-packed fighter regardless of what she weighs in at. Not to mention, this will be Schuckman’s seven-year anniversary in the sport and she is coming off a powerful first-round knockout win at Invicta FC 12. On the other side of this scrap, Mizuki Inoue is a straight-up warrior. A defending champion in her native Japan, this 21-year-old wunderkind has delivered back-to-back Fight of the Night slugfests in Invicta FC against top-flight competition – Alexa Grasso and Karolina Kowalkiewicz – and many believe the judges got those decisions wrong. Both of these women throw down with the best of them and there’s no doubt this clash will be a crowd-pleaser.
AMANDA BELL VS. EDIANE GOMES – FEATHERWEIGHT
With the featherweight title as the headliner, there is rightfully a pair of great matchups in the same division with fighters hoping to make themselves stand out from the pack. In her first two Invicta FC outings, Ediane Gomes rattled off two nice wins at 145 pounds. With the rise in popularity of the bantamweight division, the American Top Team product dropped down and suffered a pair of losses in Invicta FC. Seemingly back to her proper weight class, Gomes is looking to improve her 10-4 pro record against “The Lady Killer” Amanda Bell. Generally speaking, it’s a classic “striker vs. grappler” clash, with Bell happily playing the knockout-friendly striker. The Lady Killer became internet famous with her 37-second KO of Marina Shafir in August 2014 and then doubled down on that reputation with a first-round KO of Maria Hougaar Djursaa at Invicta FC 9 that November. After taking a submission loss this past April at Invicta FC 12, both Bell and Gomes will be giving it their all to get back on the winning track.
MEGAN ANDERSON VS. AMBER LEIBROCK – FEATHERWEIGHT
One is six-feet tall, the other is basically six-feet tall and we’re all winners because we get to watch these women go to war. Invicta FC has shown that Australia is a hotbed for exciting women’s MMA stars, with Megan Anderson being the most recent discovery. Sure, Anderson lost her Invicta FC debut, but the 25-year-old showed a lot of explosiveness and toughness against the gritty and submission-savvy Cindy Dandois. Now, Anderson will aim to improve her 4-2 pro record by tangling with Amber Leibrock. In her Invicta FC and pro debut, fans did not get to see too much of Leibrock outside of her scoring a 37-second knockout of the highly touted Marina Shafir. Obviously, Leibrock is very young in this sport, but the confidence she’ll take into this matchup should be enormous. Expect to see a lot of long arms and legs flying in fast succession at each other.