History was made on Friday night as Invicta FC revived an old school MMA tradition but with a modernized twist. A one-night tournament that saw the winner take home the vacant strawweight title.
The ruleset was unique yet simple. The quarter and semifinal rounds were all one five minute round with the finals being three five minute rounds as most – if not all US commissions do not permit fighters to fight for more than 25 minutes in one night.
This tournament had no bracket, so whoever scored the fastest finish in the quarterfinal round would get to choose their semifinal opponent. Oh, the finishers also got monetary bonuses. In the case of no finishes, the semifinal bouts would be decided via a random draw.
The first quarterfinal bout of the Phoenix Rising series saw the undefeated returning “Tsunami” Sunna Davidsdottir taking on the promotional debutant, UFC veteran, Kailin Curran.
Curran started out looking more ready and pushing the pace faster before engaging in the clinch. Not much came from it but after a break, Curran would land a big right that knocked Davidsdottir down leading to a rear-naked choke attempt from Curran. Davidsdottir would escape and prevent a trip from Curran leading to her landing in mount. Ground and pound would follow.
Curran would find her way back up, score another knockdown but find herself on the bottom late as the fight ended.
Result: Curran def Davidsdottir via split decision (10-9, 9-10, 10-9)
Up next was the second quarterfinal bout that saw two more UFC vets go at it as Juliana Lima took on Danielle Taylor.
Taylor finds the clinch almost immediately after an early front kick to the body from Lima. Being backed to the cage, the two jockeyed for position which quickly went in Lima’s favor. Two minutes in and Taylor was able to flip position. Lima wound up swapping position again to land some knees and body punches in tight before another Taylor reversal.
Taylor attempted to break away but Lima’s Thai clinch wasn’t having it as Taylor ate a knee before coming back in tight. Fight ends.
Result: Lima def Taylor via split decision (9-10, 10-9, 10-9)
Halfway through the opening round of the Phoenix Rising tournament and it was onto Manjit Kolekar vs Brianna Van Buren.
Clashing right away, each traded punches. Each moved lightly on their feet until Van Buren rushed in for a huge double leg that she turned into a slam against the cage. After controlling for a bit and threatening with an americana, Van Buren would find mount and then take Kolekar’s back where she would drop some non-stop ground and pound.
Kolekar would walk her way up but only for a moment as Van Buren took her down again landing in the mount before she whipped out an armbar that forced the tap.
Result: Van Buren def Kolekar via first-round submission (armbar) at 3:20
The last quarterfinal Phoenix Rising bout saw the strong wrestler in Sharon Jacobson facing off with Amber Brown.
Brown hits Jacobson hard and fast but Jacobson catches a kick to hit a trip. Brown quickly went for a leg lock that gets her on top before the two scramble up seeing them fight in the clinch trading knees.
Jacobson looks for an outside trip to no avail as Brown reverses with a beautiful hip toss to land in half guard. Brown looked to set up an arm triangle but couldn’t quite get it as she passed positions. Jacobson would find a sweep in Brown’s top transitions. She would end up on Brown’s back as they stood up with Jacobson pushing Brown against the cage before dragging her opponent down to the ground.
Working from Brown’s back, Jacobson would start to land plenty of punches from behind. Brown would roll into mount as Jacobson continued to hold her position on top as the fight came to an end.
Result: Jacobson def Brown via unanimous decision (10-9 all)
As the lone finisher of the opening round, Van Buren would get to choose her semifinals opponent and she would go with Lima. Meaning that Curran will face Jacobson to see who goes to the finals.
In the first Phoenix Rising semifinal bout, we would see “The Bull” Van Buren vs “Ju-Thai” Lima.
Lima would attack first with some strong body and leg kicks. Van Buren countered with an overhand right that found a home. She would follow it up quickly with another power double like in her first fight with Kolekar. Van Buran began to work from half.
Lima would find her way out of the position late in the round and get back up but Van Buren hits another huge takedown. With Lima locked up, Van Buren would end the fight on top.
Result: Van Buren def Lima via unanimous decision (10-9 all)
Now it was time to decide who would fight for the title against Van Buren in the first ever Phoenix Rising finals as Jacobson and Curran fought in the semifinals.
Curran utilizes her quick footwork early as she lands shots while moving away from Jacobson. Curran sprawls a deep shot from the wrestler leading to a clinch exchange on the cage. Takedown defense was on point for Curran as she would reverse another attempt into a big toss similarly to what Brown did in the opening round. Curran landed some solid ground and pound before Jacobson worked her way back up to land body punches and knees in the clinch.
Jacobson eventually hit a takedown that dropped Curran into somewhat of a crucifix. Brief ground and pound was landed before Curran got herself up and backed to the cage. On the break, Curran would land some big punches that got Jacobson’s attention before hitting a late takedown. Fight ends.
Result: Curran def Jacobson via unanimous decision (10-9 all)
Prior to the strawweight championship finals, we got a fun co-main event match-up between Invicta favorite, Kay Hansen and the top Czech prospect, Magdalena Sormova.
Like every Hansen fight, this one started off fast as she got in close to go for the head and arm throw within 20 seconds. She couldn’t quite get it as they fought for clinch control. Hansen would find a leg and get the takedown. Shortly after, Hansen would have to slam her way out of an armbar attempt followed by some wild up-kicks.
Landing some good ground and pound, Hansen would find herself attacked by a reverse triangle of sorts which Hansen defended by standing up. Dropping down looking to do more work, Hansen continued finding herself trying to avoid up kicks. Round one ends with Hansen controlling.
As soon as round two starts, Hansen immediately hits a single leg takedown. Finding herself trapped in a potential triangle, Hansen pulls Sormova right up to her feet to get out of any possible danger. Up against the cage goes Sormova.
Trying to hit another throw, Hansen wouldn’t quite get it and Sormova would get onto her opponent’s back and get her own takedown. Sormova in half guard now. Hansen would manage to transition to full guard real quick but Sormova would make her way to side control soon after. With a minute left, Sormova was searching for mount but Hansen wasn’t having it. Bell sounds with Hansen back on top after a kneebar attempt to escape.
Strong leg kick from Hansen opens the final round as she ends up going for another head and arm throw to no avail, Sormova takes the back against the cage landing shots. Sormova begins to slowly work for a rear-naked choke with both hooks in. Sormova gives it up and begins to work ground and pound. Looking for armbars now, and Sormova transitions to side before back to Hansen’s back. Another armbar attempt gets Sormova on bottom.
Hansen works her way into mount but struggles to find any solid offense. Attempting to get on Sormova’s back, Hansen is trying for a rear-naked but can’t quite find it. Bell sounds with Hansen seeking a deep armbar.
Result: Sormova def Hansen via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Following that close fight, it was time to decide a new champion as Curran and Van Buren made the walks for their third bouts of the night.
Each fighter traded big kicks right away. Quickly following was an uppercut from Van Buren who ate a strong right at the same time. Once again, Van Buren set up her takedowns beautifully with the strikes as she powered through Curran to get things to the mat. Van Buren would start to drop elbows that Curran found herself get away from by standing briefly before Van Buren nailed an inside trip to get things back where she wanted.
Dropping big punches now, Van Buren was controlling nicely from half guard. More elbows rained down. Curran found her way up at the end of the round but it was still all The Bull.
Round two starts with a pair of head kicks from Van Buren before hitting a body lock takedown that gets her into mount. Van Buren just continued to dominate and drop punches that opened up a rear-naked choke. Curran would survive it but still take uncomfortable shots. Another rear-naked attempt from Van Buren would seal the deal. A new champion has been crowned after the first Phoenix Rising series one-night tournament.
Result: Van Buren def Curran via second-round submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:49
See the rest of the night’s results below.
Strawweight – 115lbs: Reserve bout – Alyssa Krahn def Itzel Esquivel via split decision (9-10, 10-9, 10-9)
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 5/3/2019