After claiming championship gold in her last appearance, Ayaka Hamasaki returned to the Invicta FC cage on Friday night and picked up her first successful defense of the atomweight title with a third-round submission win over a game and gutsy Amber Brown at Trinidad Pavillion in Tropicana Las Vegas.
The opening round was one of the best rounds of 2016, with Hamasaki hitting an explosive double in space early, posturing up to rain down shots on Brown before the Albuquerque native threw up a triangle choke and put the champion at risk. After defending and escaping, Hamasaki attacked with a submission of her own, connecting her hands on a keylock, but this time it was Brown’s turn to defend and counter, rolling through and ending the frame in full mount.
It was more give-and-take from these two in the second. Early in the frame, Brown dragged Hamasaki to the canvas and threatened to the take the back before the atomweight ruler reversed position and attacked with a kimura. But Brown continued to show unexpected savvy off her back, once again lacing up a triangle that forced Hamasaki to defend and hold out until the horn.
At the outset of the third, Brown pressed forward, looking for the takedown, but lost position, with Hamasaki ending up on top and again attacking the shoulder and arm. This time, the Japanese veteran was able to adjust, switching to an armbar, hyper-extending the elbow and forcing Brown to tap, bringing this outstanding championship fight to a close.
In the co-main event of the evening, Brazilian veterans Vanessa Porto and Jennifer Maia renewed acquaintances in a clash for the interim flyweight championship. The two faced off more than four years ago, with Porto picking up a submission win, and Saturday night, Maia got her revenge
Porto dropped Maia with a clean right hand early in the opening round, but the Curitiba native defended the follow-up attack and recovered, maintaining distance and mainly staying out of trouble for the remainder of the frame.
Roughly a minute into the second, Maia connected with a stiff right of her own that instantly drew blood, but also prompted Porto to turn to her grappling, as she slammed Maia to the mat and attacked an armbar. After a brief stoppage following an illegal upkick, Porto once again dumped Maia to the canvas, moving directly into mount and threating again through the final horn.
The third saw a pair of sharp, powerful exchanges between the two, both landing with force. Each time, Porto initiated takedowns, dragging Maia to the mat, where the battered and bloodied Porto seemed content to hang out and conserve energy, handing the frame to Maia on the scorecards.
Brimming with confidence after having success in the third, Maia went on the offensive in the fourth, out-striking Porto in space and locking up a deep armbar when Porto took the fight to the mat. Inexplicably, referee Mark Smith stood the fighters out of the submission, giving Maia a minute to continue outworking Porto on the feet and leveling the contest heading into the final round.
In the fifth, the tired Porto continued working for takedowns, but Maia made her pay each time, peppering her with strikes as they were in space and threatening with a guillotine over the final 90 seconds. While Porto was on top, she seemed happy to hang out and offer no offense, while Maia continued searching for openings through to the horn.
When the cards were read, it was Maia who earned the decision and the interim flyweight championship with scores of 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47.
STEPHANIE EGGINK VS. ANGELA HILL
Hill tagged in on short notice to welcome Eggink back to the cage for the first time in 18 months and showed that she is definitely a prospect to keep tabs on going forward by blistering the former title challenger to pick up her second consecutive victory in the Invicta FC cage.
After receiving a baptism by fire with fights against Top 5 strawweights (and Invicta FC alums) Rose Namajunas and Tecia Torres, Hill followed up her impressive promotional debut with an even more stunning stoppage win here. Midway through the second, Hill thumped Eggink with a huge overhand right to the jaw that sent her crashing to the canvas, chasing her to the ground and forcing referee Kim Winslow to step in to stop the fight.
With consecutive finishes against veteran competition, “Overkill” could be on the fast track to title contention in the Invicta FC 115-pound ranks.
Official Result: Angela Hill def. Stephanie Eggink by Technical Knockout (Strikes) at 2:36 of Round 2.
IRENE ALDANA VS. JESSAMYN DUKE
Returning to Invicta FC following a four-fight run in the Octagon after a stint on Season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter, Duke jumps into the deep end of the bantamweight division in a matchup with Aldana, who battled Tonya Evinger in a championship clash last time out.
This was a straight-up mugging from Jump Street as Aldana came forward and started connecting early and often. The Lobo Gym rep showcased her smooth hands and nasty power, never allowing Duke to get comfortable before backing her up with a crisp right hand to the dome.
Sensing her opponent was in trouble, Aldana turned up the volume, burying stiff hooks to the body before dropping “The Gun” with big shots along the fence. Aldana couldn’t have put together a more impressive return performance after coming up short in her title bid in July and proved once again that she is a force in the bantamweight ranks.
Official Result: Irene Aldana def. Jessamyn Duke by Technical Knockout (Strikes) at 3:08 of Round 1.
DEANNA BENNETT VS. ROXANNE MODAFFERI
After facing Livia Renata Souza for the strawweight title last time out, Bennett returned to the flyweight ranks looking to get back into the win column in a showdown with “The Happy Warrior,” one of the most experienced fighters on the female side of the sport.
Round one was largely about control, as Bennett was able to close the distance, clasp her hands and slam Modafferi to the mat. But once they were on the ground, the veteran was able to nullify a lot of Bennett’s offense by constantly shifting her hips and searching for openings.
The second was more of a stalemate, as Modafferi controlled the range and turned aside a couple different takedown attempts, but Bennett was still able to land the better strikes over the middle five minutes, making the final five minutes crucial to determining the outcome of this one.
In the third, Modafferi continued to be the one pressing forward, keeping Bennett’s back against the cage as she drew blood with a series of clean, crisp strikes. While Bennett tried to open up in the closing seconds of the round, it was too little, too late as the continually improving women’s MMA pioneer earned the victory.
Official Result: Roxanne Modafferi def. DeAnna Bennett by Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
JINH YU FREY VS. HERICA TIBURCIO
Fighting for the first time since losing the atomweight title in July, Tiburcio returned to action against the surging Frey, who closed out 2015 with a one-sided decision win over Liz McCarthy at Invicta FC 14.
Range dictated the action in the opening round, as Frey was able to keep the shorter Tiburcio outside and on the end of several heavy strikes. While the Brazilian was able to pick with low kicks, the American closed out the frame by connecting with the more decisive, powerful shots of the first.
Tiburcio found her mark earlier in the second, countering several of Frey’s offerings with stringing right hands while continuing to color her lead leg with inside kicks. But just as the bell sounded to end the round, Frey connected with a clean left hand down the pipe that dropped Tiburcio and had her staggering back to her corner.
As the third kicked off, Tiburcio came forward looking to find the mark, continuing to land low kicks and press the pace, while Frey was content to circle out and snipe counter lefts. After dropping the former champion to close the second, the more cautious approach could have been costly as this one went the distance and the decision fell into the hands of the judges.
While Tiburcio screamed and climbed the cage in celebration after the final horn, it was for naught, as Frey rightfully got the nod from all three ringside officials.
Official Result: Jinh Yu Frey def. Herica Tiburcio by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
SARAH D’ALELIO VS. ANDREA LEE
It was a battle of “experience vs. upside” in the flyweight division as the veteran D’Alelio squared off with the prospect Lee.
In the first, it was Lee’s striking that led the way as the 27-year-old was able to attack D’Alelio’s lead leg with sharp kicks and open a cut on the bridge of her nose with a sharp Muay Thai elbow in the clinch. The middle round was a complete 180, as D’Alelio controlled large portions of the frame with her grappling, taking Lee down and making “KGB” pay for an ill-advised ankle pick.
Likely even through two, Lee emerged as the fresher of the two, slinging leather and stinging D’Alelio early in the deciding round, only to have “The Monster” twist her to the ground and claim top position. Returning to the feet, Lee completed a high amplitude throw, but the veteran was able to turn to the tables and attack, threatening with a kimura before flattening Lee out from back mount with a minute to go.
And in the waning seconds of the frame, D’Alelio managed to fish her arm under the chin and force Lee to tap.
Official Result: Sarah D’Alelio def. Andrea Lee by Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) at 4:21 of Round 3.
KELLY MCGILL VS. ASPEN LADD
A pair of promising upstarts locked up in the Invicta FC cage in this one as the 21-year-old Ladd squared off against the returning McGill, who has been on the shelf since beating Maegan Goodwin in November 2014 following knee surgery.
Despite taking the fight on short notice and stepping up a division, Ladd looked dominant, spinning McGill to the ground from a body lock early, controlling the action on the canvas for the duration of the opening five minutes. While not as smothering, Ladd controlled throughout the second as well, making McGill pay for a pair of head-and-arm throw attempts by punishing her on the mat.
In the third, Ladd once again gained control on the ground and this time, she opened up with the offense, unleashing a torrent of elbows and punches that prompted referee to step in and stop the bout. Jumping up in weight to fight at bantamweight for the first time and getting the call at the start of the week, this was a breakout, statement-making performance for the undefeated Ladd, who has the makings of a future contender.
Official Result: Aspen Ladd def. Kelly McGill by Technical Knockout (Strikes) at 1:47 of Round 3.
SARAH CLICK VS. ASHLEY GREENWAY
The night at the Tropicana kicked off with a battle between fighters with extensive amateur backgrounds making their professional debut, as the 8-4 Greenway, who trains alongside UFC title challenger Sara McMann, squared off with the 5-2 Click, a 24-year-old Team Sityodtong representative.
After two rounds of back and forth striking where neither fighter landed anything with too much jam, the action hit the ground in the third, as Greenway initiated a takedown and went on the offensive. Hunting for a triangle and shifting to an armbar, the South Carolina native threatened throughout and dominated the frame on the canvas.
While Click defended and survived, Greenway did enough over the 15-minute affair to get the nod in her pro debut.
Official Decision: Ashley Greenway def. Sarah Click by Unanimous Decision (30-26, 29-28, 29-28)