After a solid debut year in 2012, all-female fighting organization Invicta FC made their 2013 debut Saturday night in Kansas City, Kansas. While the fights themselves delivered, and introduced a number of promising young talents to keep an eye on moving forward, streaming issues with their provider and an unbalanced broadcast booth took some of the shine off the show.
Here’s a look back at the highlights, lowlights, and everything in between.
There were a number of strong performances from young, emerging fighters on Saturday night, which bodes well for the continued growth and development of Invicta and women’s MMA overall.
Veronica Rothenhausler and Rose Namajunas scored dominant victories in their professional debuts. Rothenhausler, who garnered attention over the summer with her second consecutive five-second knockout win, blistered Katarina Malungahu with a straight right down the pipe just over a minute into the opening round, while Namajunas showcased her full arsenal in earning a third-round submission win over Emily Kagan.
Unbeaten strawweight fighters Tecia Torres and Joanne Calderwood each delivered impressive striking performances to maintain their unblemished records. Torres, a product of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla., dominated 18-year-old Paige VanZant through 15 minutes to earn a unanimous-decision win. Calderwood, who was originally slated to face main event replacement Bec Hyatt, similarly battered Livia Von Plettenburg to push her record to 5-0. Both defeated fighters showed tremendous heart and resolve, and will undoubtedly be heard from again in the future.
Leslie Smith represented the Cesar Gracie Fight Team to the fullest, channeling her inner Diaz during her grudge match with former training partner Raquel Pennington. “The Peacemaker” took home a unanimous decision with 29-28 scores across the board. After dropping the first round, Smith turned up the intensity and aggression on the feet, backing away to call Pennington on from the center of the cage on a number of occasions, much like her training partners from Stockton, Calif., do.
Veterans Alexis Davis and Shayna Baszler delivered a wildly entertaining back-and-forth battle in the co-main event, a rematch of their 2010 fight that Baszler won by unanimous decision. This time around, Davis took home the victory, showcasing her development since the first encounter. The Canadian threatened with submissions from the bottom in the second, and picked Baszler apart on the feet in the third before jumping on her back and choking her out midway through the third. If the UFC is going to stock their women’s bantamweight division, both these women should be invited into the Octagon.
In the main event, Carla Esparza got her wrestle on against late replacement Bec Hyatt to become the inaugural Invicta FC strawweight champion. The Team Oyama representative won every round on the scorecards, and fended off some solid offensive advances from the rowdy Australian to earn the decision. Give Hyatt credit though — she took the fight last week, made it through to the final horn of a 25-minute fight, and never stopped coming forward.
One last positive from Saturday’s show, Joe Martinez is the ring announcer for Invicta FC. Hearing Joe Martinez on the mic is always a good thing.
Julie Kedzie is coming along nicely as a broadcaster. “Fireball” took a few fights to find her rhythm, but as Bas Rutten’s pace slowed later in the night, Kedzie took command of the booth, offering insights on her contemporaries, and doing her best to keep a professional call coming from the Invicta FC booth.
The timing of Invicta’s shows makes it easy to enjoy from home — when the stream is working (more on that in a paragraph or two.) They’re essentially an upstart regional promotion, so there are no extended breaks to sell upcoming events, dissect the fight that just finished, or set up the fight that is about to happen. As soon as the previous set of combatants clear the cage, the next pair start making their way down the ramp. Everything moves quickly, except during Amanda Nunes’ entrance. That took forever.
This next one falls in the “Glass Half Full/Glass Half Empty” category. During the broadcast, it was announced that the next event, Invicta FC 5, would take place in April, with former Strikeforce champ Sarah Kaufman making her promotional debut. As much as it is a great development for Invicta to bring in one of the very best bantamweights in the world, what does this say about the UFC’s push to build their women’s 135-pound division? Shouldn’t she be fighting in the Octagon instead?
A lot of people had a lot of problems obtaining the broadcast of the event, which was offered as a pay-per-view event through Ustream. The payment queue bogged down leading to myriad complaints on social media, prompting Invicta president Shannon Knapp to take down the payment set-up and deliver the entire main card for free, while promising to refund all purchases.
Streaming has been a constant problem for Invicta over their brief four-fight run. Each of their previous three events has encountered problems, and with this being the first time they ventured into the internet pay-per-view world, encountering these issues was a major problem. That being said, I had no trouble with my stream save for a couple hiccups during the broadcast, having ordered it about 90 minutes before the show started.
With no Mauro Ranallo in the broadcast booth, we ended up with essentially three people on colour commentary and no one doing the play-by-play. As previously mentioned, Julie Kedzie got stronger as the night progressed, and took the lead, but as a whole, the commentary was a low point.
Bas Rutten sang pieces of the songs playing in the venue between rounds, and it seemed like his attention and interest waned as the night went on. It’s “Bas Being Bas,” but when there isn’t actual commentary between the rambling, it gets old quick. The third member of the booth, Bellator light-heavyweight Muhammed (King Mo) Lawal, is a tremendously knowledgeable fighter with great insights, but he went long stretches without offering any thoughts on the action. The night really showed the importance of a strong guiding voice running the call, and suffered from Ranallo’s absence.
I’ve enjoyed each of Invicta’s events thus far, even with the streaming issues. The fast pace to the card and the high intensity action in the cage makes up for the fact that most of these athletes are short on experience and/or technique. I don’t go into watching an Invicta show expecting to see an otherworldly display of MMA goodness, which means I’m yet to be disappointed. Invicta FC is on par with Bellator for me, and I like what Bellator brings to the table; therefore, count me as a fan of the all-female organization.
Knapp and Janet Martin are making very positive strides for women’s MMA with this company, and I look forward to watching them grow — and work out the kinks — the rest of the year and beyond.