In 2012, the all-female promotion known as the Invicta Fighting Championships took the MMA world by storm with three of the most thrilling fight cards of the entire year. Despite an unfortunate struggle with the online PPV streaming, President Shannon Knapp and her crew kicked off the year 2013 with another home-run.
Of course, everyone loves to hop on their high horse and zero in on the negatives but I’m going to accentuate the positives and discuss what should be the focal point of the show, the fights themselves.
Here is what I learned from Invicta FC 4.
Veronica Roethenhausler is most dangerous puncher in WMMA
I wasn’t surprised at all that Roethenhausler knocked out Katalina Malungahu in the first round. In fact, I downright expected the Team Alpha Male product to fire off a bomb and drop her opponent like a stack of bricks. It’s not that Malungahu isn’t tough because she most certainly is, it’s just that Roethenhausler is the most devastating puncher in all of women’s MMA.
This was Roethenhausler’s professional debut but she had already established a reputation in the amateur circuit for being a knockout artist. In her last two amateur fights, Roethenhausler scored back-to-back five second KO’s over Ashlee Smith and Noelle Cherry. The knockout over Smith was voted by the fans as the KO of the year in our 2012 women’s MMA awards.
Invicta commentator and bantamweight veteran Julie Kedzie noted during the broadcast last night that the women’s 145-lbs division is making a comeback of sorts. Roethenhausler could be one of the keys to bringing depth and excitement back to the featherweight division.
Rose Namajunas could become a massive superstar
On a night where the first Invicta Strawweight champion was crowned, one of the division’s potential future champions made their professional debut in exciting fashion. Namajunas, girlfriend of UFC heavyweight Pat Barry, put on a clinic against a very game Emily Kagan before submitting her in the third round with a rear naked choke. Namajunas was known for her devastating striking that she put on display throughout her amateur career but she proved that she has much more than just a deadly standup game with her submission win over Jackson-Winkeljohn’s Kagan.
Nicknamed “Thug”, Namajunas received more social media buzz leading up to the event than most of the fighters on the card despite it being her pro debut and a preliminary bout. Of course, being Barry’s girl helped a little bit in that department but soon enough Barry might be known as Namajunas’ boyfriend rather than the other way around. Joking aside though, I was incredibly impressed with Namajunas. Typically an amateur fighter does not look as technicaly sound as Namajunas did in her pro debut.
It’s going to be interesting to see who Invicta matchmaker Janet Martin pairs Namajunas up with next. A fight with Paige VanZant or Kaiyana Rain makes the most sense to me as they are both similar in experience level.
Joanne Calderwood and Bec Hyatt need to fight
Calderwood and Hyatt were originally supposed to square off on this card and I believe this should still be the next fight for both of them moving forward. Hyatt was bumped into the main event title bout with Esparza and, despite losing a unanimous decision, rocked Esparza a few times and came incredibly close to finsihing her in the fifth round. Meanwhile, earlier in the night, the undefeated Calderwood put on a beautiful striking clinic against late replacement Livia Von Plettenberg.
Stylistically this would be a fight that would produce either a brutal knockout, a breathtaking standup war or both. I am going on record now and saying that if and when these two meet in the cage we will see one of the greatest female fights of all time. Calderwood wants to prove that she should be the top contender and Hyatt wants another crack at Esparza with a full camp. This fight just makes sense on so many levels for the development of the strawweight division.
Ediane Gomes is a champion in the making
Gomes is the kind of fighter that could probably step in there with some of the male featherweights and give them a thrashing in the cage. This super powerful Brazilian is the scariest female fighter since Christiane “Cyborg” Santos and with her current four fight win streak she is well on her way to becoming the first Invicta FC featherweight champion. Hiroko Yamanaka is one of the best fighters in the division and Gomes made it look easy tossing Yamanaka around like a rag roll en route to a unanimous decision win.
Gomes’ only losses are to Ronda Rousey and Amanda Nunes. Everyone is losing to Rousey so there’s no shame there and I believe she would avenge her loss to Nunes if they were to rematch. I would match Gomes up with Sarah D’Alelio or Julia Budd next but there are several matchmaking options for her.
Sarah D’Alelio deserves more recognition
Speaking of D’Alelio, this is a fighter that deserves much more respect and media attention than she is currently receiving. Her submission victory over Vanessa Porto at Invicta FC 2 last year was nothing short of incredible yet very few people voted it as submission of the year in the BJPenn.com 2012 Women’s MMA Awards. That surprised me, I realize she isn’t exactly a big star but she’s super tough and submitting a black belt like Porto should have elevated her status in the media.
She had a minor set back at Invicta FC 3, losing via submission to Shayna Baszler but bounced back last night with a unanimous decision victory over a dangerous Nunes. It wasn’t the most exciting fight of the night but it was a flawless victory over a fighter that gives most bantamweights a ton of problems.
I’m not saying you should talk about her the same way you talk about Rousey or Miesha Tate but following her on Twitter would be nice. @SarahDAlelio
Leslie Smith is mean, nasty, and super exciting to watch
Call me crazy but I love the meanness and borderline-evilness that Smith puts on display in her pre-fight interviews. I have yet to hear her do an interview without discussing the various ways she plans on hurting her opponent. Don’t get me wrong, the last thing I want to see is a fighter get seriously hurt but the confidence that Smith has about inflicting violence makes you want to watch her fight just about anyone in the world.
Leading up to her fight with former teammate Raquel Pennington, Smith said that she has never been more excited to hurt someone than she is to hurt Pennington. After losing both the first round and part of her top in a wardrobe malfunction, The Cesar Gracie-trained Smith came out super aggressive in the second and third round to pick up the unanimous decision win. It was a thrilling performance and that is something that Smith is becoming known for. Her insane battle with Kaitlin Young at Invicta FC 1 was one of the craziest fights ever and she finished Young in their rematch at Invicta 2 in another great fight.
Smith was supposed to fight Sarah Kaufman before Kaufman pulled out with an injury and I’m hoping they make that fight happen next.
Alexis Davis could be next for Ronda Rousey in the UFC
Following a “Fight of the Year” worthy performance against Shayna Baszler, Davis has set herself up for a potential title shot against Rousey if the Bronze Medalist gets past Liz Carmouche at UFC 157. Initially losing a close decision to Baszler in 2010, Davis proved how much she has evolved by choking the grappling wizard unconscious with a rear naked choke in the third round after a spectacular battle.
Unless “Cyborg” Santos finds a way to cut down to 135-lbs, Davis would be the best logical opponent for Rousey considering her recent run and improvements. Davis, who is a BJJ black belt and part of the Cesar Gracie fight team, would be a tough stylistic matchup for Rousey and it would be interesting to see if Rousey will struggle with securing the armbar this time.
Hyatt’s heart wins over thousands of fans
She didn’t win the championship but there is one thing that Hyatt did win and that is the hearts of every Invicta fan out there. Hyatt was called up to fight Esparza on 10 days’ notice and not only did she jump at the opportunity but she gave it everything she had and then some. With only five professional fights and zero experience against top contenders, few people expected Hyatt to make it past the first few rounds but she went the distance and almost finished Esparza in the final round.
Prior to the bout, Hyatt launched a massive social media campaign. She did interviews with all of the top MMA media outlets and grew her Twitter fan base exponentially. We also featured her on last week’s episode of BJPenn.com Radio.
She is not only tough but a very intelligent woman that launched herself into an overnight sensation. Her emotional post-fight speech with Kedzie pretty much sealed the deal for Hyatt as one of the most beloved fighters in all of WMMA right now.
Carla Esparza is champion but not yet the undisputed Queen of Strawweights
Esparza looked like a miniature Georges St-Pierre with her dominant decision victory over Hyatt. It’s clear that her wrestling is on a much higher level than any strawweight out there right now and she continues to elevate her game with every fight. I couldn’t have picked a better person to represent Invicta as a champion than Esparza but at the same time I wouldn’t yet consider her the best 115-pounder in the world.
She’s definitely the best in Invicta right now but there are two fighters outside of the organization that are ahead of her and coincidentally they are the only two fighters to beat “Cookie Monster” Esparza, Jessica Aguilar and Megumi Fujii.
Don’t get me wrong, Esparza has evolved and is a better fighter than she was when she lost those fights but until she either avenges the losses or both Aguilar and Fujii go on losing streaks, it’s tough to rank her as the best in the division. It would be great if Invicta could sign them both but it looks like they are tied down to their obligations with Bellator for the time being.
Esparza will likely defend her crown against original challenger Claudia Gadelha or Akaya Hamasaki at some point this year. I expect her to win both of those matchups and keep her strawweight crown going into 2014. Like I said, Esparza is the perfect role model and representative for women’s MMA and will be a great champion for Invicta.Tags: Alexis Davis, bec hyatt, carla esparza, Ediane Gomes, invicta fc, invicta fc 4, leslie smith, Rose Namajunas, Shannon Knapp, Shayna Baszler, Veronica Roethenhausler