Why Invicta FC Is A Must Watch

By The Way - Weekly Columns


By Jody Jamieson When the UFC purchased Strikeforce in 2011 they were posed with an interesting conundrum. Dana White had famously said that women would never fight in the UFC, but in acquiring Strikeforce, they now had some potential female stars under their control. While Strikeforce continued on for a couple of years under the Zuffa banner, many of their top male stars were moved onto the UFC roster. With big names such as Cris Cyborg, Julie Kedzie, Sarah Kaufman and Marloes Coenen on the roster, you’d think Dana would finally relent and create a women’s division. But he stayed characteristically stubborn. For a while at least. Miesha Tate would take the title from Coenen, and then drop it in her first defence to the undefeated Ronda Rousey. Heads began to turn as two young impressive marketable stars began a rivalry that could shape women’s MMA for years to come. Rousey would then defeat Kaufman via armbar in less than a minute. A star was officially born, and Dana couldn’t resist anymore. Rousey was awarded the inaugural UFC women’s bantamweight title, and just a month after Strikeforce was officially dissolved, defeated Liz Carmouche in the main event of UFC 157 in February 2013. An incredible fight which Carmouche nearly won when she took Rousey’s back and got a face crank on before Rousey shook her off. You do wonder how the next few years would have panned out if Rousey had lost that night. While all this was happening, Shannon Knapp was creating a revolution of her own. Invicta FC held their first ever event in April 2012. Marlos Coenen defeated Romy Ruyssen in the main event. Future UFC title challengers Jessica Penne and Carmouche would pick up wins on the main card. Leslie Smith and Kaitlyn Young had a memorable bout that ended in a rare split draw which was rerun a few months later. In the almost six years since that first event, Invicta became many things to many people. It became a place where many women made their pro debuts, including current UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas. It became a place where Cris Cyborg could fight in the US while UFC figured out what to do with her. Some may argue they still haven’t. It became a place where Tonya Evinger ran roughshod through a parade of 135 pounders. It became a place where fighters from Europe and South America could make a name for themselves in North America. It became a place where you could fight anywhere from atomweight (105 lbs) to featherweight (145 lbs) and there were divisions and championships that other major promotions lacked. It became a place where kickboxing star Tiffany van Soest could transition to MMA, and not without trouble, putting up a 1-1 record early in her MMA journey. Most importantly though, it became a place where women could showcase their skills and make a living as a pro mixed martial artist. The legacy of Invicta cannot be overstated. Three of the four current UFC champions stopped off in Invicta before moving onto glory in the UFC. Interestingly both Namajunas and Amanda Nunes hold losses inside the Invicta cage. A large chunk of the Top 15 contenders in every division cut their teeth in Invicta. The first ever Bellator featherweight title fight was between two Invicta alums as Coenen lost to Julia Budd. Mackenzie Dern, touted as potentially the best jiu-jitsu player in women’s MMA history, signed with the UFC last week after a victory over Kaline Medeiros on Invicta 26 last month. The promotion is always dealing with churn. As some veterans wrap up their careers and the best prospects consistently being snapped up, Invicta continues to roll on with regularly entertaining cards. Very few promotions could withstand losing their champions and top contenders with such regularity and sometimes on very short notice, yet Invicta never feels like it’s going backwards. That it continues to overproduce and overachieve can be put down to a number of factors. The fact that their cards almost always deliver an exciting night of action is only part of the equation. The combat sport world is one where it doesn’t matter how good the fights are when there’s no eyeballs on the product. But on its home on UFC Fight Pass, it regularly gets more viewers than anything else on the platform. We now live in a selfish time in mixed martial arts. 2017 was a year of constant infighting in the UFC between Dana White, WME-IMG, sponsors and fighters. No-one seems to be singing from the same hymn sheet right now. Invicta have bucked the trend thus far, with everyone pulling in the same direction. No fighters have a bad word to say about Shannon Knapp. In an era where every fighter in UFC is in bland Reebok uniform, Invicta encourages personality. Whether it was Rachael Ostovich as Wonder Woman, Colleen Schneider’s Star Trek gear, or Roxanne Modafferi’s crazy weigh-in costumes, you got a sense of the personalities of the fighters involved, which gives fans an important connection. Everyone is pulling in the same direction to make the promotion a success, which is crucial. And it’s not just those signed to Invicta. Kaline Medeiros when she’s not fighting will translate for the Brazilian fighters in post-fight interviews. After fighting in the co-main on the last card, she wasn’t available to translate for Jennifer Maia after her successful flyweight title defense. Amanda Nunes, there as a fan, stepped in to do the particulars. It’s the little things, and shows what Invicta means even to those who’ve moved onto bigger and better things. This Saturday night sees the first event of 2018 as Invicta FC 27 takes place at their regular home of the Scottish Rites Temple in Kansas City, Missouri. Sarah Kaufman returns to take on Pannie Kianzad. Yana Kunitskaya became the second reigning Invicta bantamweight champion to be signed to the UFC in the last six months, and I’m a little surprised this isn’t for the belt, but this will certainly set up with winner with an opportunity at gold down the line. Perhaps against Raquel Pa’aluhi. Elsewhere we have an all Brazilian co-main as Vanessa Porto and Mariana Morais clash at 125. Felicia Spencer looks to run her featherweight record to 4-0 and stake a future claim at Cyborg. Four girls make the professional debuts on the nine fight card. There really is something for everyone. Invicta FC 27 begins at 1am UK time on Saturday night into Sunday morning. We’ll have live coverage on the website, but I’d highly recommend you sign up for your free seven day trial on UFC Fight Pass this week. You’ll get Invicta, as well as five prelim fights from UFC St Louis the next night. Go to UFC.TV and sign up. You won’t regret it.