Opinion | The most must-see upcoming MMA event isn’t one of the UFC’s

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If we take a quick glance at the upcoming MMA schedule, there is always an event or collection of fights that will stand out above the rest. And as we head into the mid-way point of 2019, that remains true. Crazy to think that the year is already half-way over, isn’t it?

Even if you’re the most hardcore of hardcore fan, it’s still hard to deny that the best upcoming event is probably always going to be a UFC event. And that’s no matter what time of year it is. Right now, that is still an accurate statement to make. Especially as International Fight Week’s big UFC 239 event quickly approaches. And wildly enough, that card isn’t even completed yet.

However, when it comes to the most must-see MMA event on the horizon, that has to be Invicta FC’s Phoenix Rising series event which takes place on May 3 in Kansas City, Kansas.

If we look at the format of MMA these days, there is something that is completely lacking compared to when the sport first started growing. And that’s the tournament style.

If you’re thinking; “But wait… We’ve seen organizations like Bellator, RIZIN, and ONE Championship all put on multiple Grand Prix’s within the span of the last five years. Hell, the UFC even did a tournament to kick off the flyweight division!” First of all, you would be completely right and secondly, the flyweight division was actually created seven years ago but you were close!

The difference is, none of those tournaments have been held exclusively on one night as the Phoenix Rising events will be. And that’s just how the UFC started things off 25 years ago.

The Phoneix Rising strawweight tournament is the perfect modernized homage to the building blocks of MMA and that alone is enough to garner a fan’s attention, whether old or new. But that aforementioned modernized style is what adds that extra element of intrigue to it that should make it a big success.

Commentated by the always wonderfully insightful, Jimmy Smith and Laura Sanko, the Invicta Phoenix Rising series tournaments will feature eight fighters with two reserve bout match-ups also on the card in case of injury.

Eight fighters equal out to four quarter-final bouts. All of which will be only one five minute round, as will the two semi-final bouts. The finals then being three five minute rounds. The reason for this being because, in America, most if not all athletic commissions do not allow for fighters to compete for more than twenty-five minutes in one night. Meaning that this is literally the best way to do a one-night tournament in the modern era opposed to the time limitless old school days.

In addition to this modernized format, there is no bracket. Just yesterday, the opening quarter-final round fights were decided via a random draw. To advance forward, there will be some incentive to waste no time…

Monetary bonuses will go to the winners that pick up finishes in the first round. Whoever gets the fastest finish in the quarter-final match-ups will also then get to take their pick at who they want to fight in the semis. And if there happen to be no finishes, the semis will be decided by another random draw.

It doesn’t really matter who gets thrown into a fighting format like this, it should capture interest from anyone who likes combat sports. It’s just a bonus that we get to see things kicked off with a talented group of strawweights. Some of which have the potential to go on and do bigger things in other organizations like former title challengers, Mizuki Inoue, and Janaisa Morandin. While others have already tried their hands in the UFC such as Juliana Lima, Kailin Curran, and Danielle Taylor.

And that’s not to exclude Sharon Jacobson and the top prospects in Brianna Van Buren and Iceland’s favorite fighting daughter, Sunna Davidsdottir. Puns… I’ve got ’em.

If things couldn’t get any more exciting about the tournament, it was originally announced just as is. Meaning that it was expected for the winner of it all to go on and challenge the reigning undefeated champion, Virna Jandiroba. Instead, the champion has since rightfully (and finally) been signed to the UFC where she’ll make her promotional debut at UFC Fort Lauderdale next weekend opposite Carla Esparza.

And with the title now vacant, we’ll see the winner of the historic Phoenix Rising event make their dreams come true by hoisting the gold. What more can one ask for from a mixed martial arts event?

With Invicta planning for the Phoenix Rising tournament style to be more than just a one-time event, it could be just a matter of time before other organizations end up adopting such an exciting event format. Therefore making it the one upcoming event that demands the most of a fight fan’s attention.

This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 4/17/2019