Invicta FC has lost two consecutive bantamweight champions to the UFC. And they will both have left to fight for the UFC featherweight crown against Cris Cyborg(who happens to be a former Invicta champ herself).
First, it was the dominant, Tonya Evinger who finally made her UFC debut at UFC 214 as she fought for the vacant 145-pound title. Cyborg would end up walking away with the title then go on to make her first title defense against Holly Holm at UFC 219 just roughly three months ago.
Now enters the top Russian bantamweight who has fought most of her career at featherweight, Yana “Foxy” Kunitskaya.
Despite being a champion at 135-pounds, Yana always knew her and Cyborg would cross paths eventually as she told MMAJunkie:
“I don’t feel any pressure. Everyone has weaknesses, and her last fight with Holly [Holm], it was five rounds, and it showed a lot. I was getting ready for everything and find holes everywhere, in stand-up and the ground in wrestling. I’m trying to get ready for everything.
Since she started fighting in Strikeforce [I’ve been thinking about fighting her]. I wanted to fight in Strikeforce, but I couldn’t get a visa, an American visa. After she was fighting in Invicta and then in UFC. All my career I was thinking about this. One day I would fight her. I’m happy this is happening in big show in the UFC, and it’s a good chance for me.
I know that she’s strong, but I don’t think she has that strong of knockout power. She has no clean knockouts where girls go down, like Holly [Holm] has. But yes, she’s very tough. She finishes all the fights by technical knockout. I think I’m strong too, strong enough to compare with her.”
Initially, the plan for Yana was to enter the UFC as a bantamweight as she was booked to take on Sara McMann at last week’s UFC on Fox 28 card in Orlando, Florida. However, McMann would wind up pulling out to go fill in for the previously mentioned Evinger against Marion Reneau. Yana would go through several opponent changes after this before eventually settling with Leah Letson at featherweight.
Then just a day later…another change occurred and she got the Cyborg fight that she had been calling for during all the changes.
“I was in my camp for a couple months and was getting ready, and the UFC kept changing everything for me. Dates, weight class, girls. So I was just training very hard and was ready for any moment. Three weeks before they told me Cris Cyborg, so I was excited and kept training hard.
It’s amazing to be a UFC champion, and it’s a lot of things. First time [in the octagon], first Russian girl to be fighting for a belt, and first genuine Russian who won the title. But for me, it’s more important that I can win against Cris Cyborg. It’s more exciting.”
Will Yana be able to pull off the huge upset this Saturday?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 2/28/2018.