Invicta Fighting Championships will return to "The Sunflower State" this Saturday night (Jan. 5, 2013) at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas.
The preliminary card will be streamed live on InvictaFC.com on fight night, beginning at 7 p.m. ET with the main card beginning at 9 p.m. ET. This will be Invicta's first pay-per-view (PPV) event.
Headlining the main event will be a Strawweight title fight between Carla Esparza and Bec Hyatt. Esparza is was originally expected to face Claudia Gadelha for the inaugural title, but an injury to the Brazilian forced her out of the event and the Australian Hyatt stepped up on short notice from her main card bout to accept the opportunity. This fight will be a battle of power and wrestling against agility and heart.
Also on tap is a very important women's bantamweight rematch between top contenders Shayna Baszler and Alexis Davis. Baszler came out on top several years ago, but both ladies have evolved since then and both are on excellent runs which could move them to bigger and better things in the UFC.
Other top female bantamweights will be in action including Sarah D'Alelio, Leslie Smith and Amanda Nunes as well as rising strawweight prospect Joanne Calderwood, who actually turned down a short notice fight for the title before Hyatt accepted.
Our complete Invicta FC 4 preview and predictions are posted below:
115 lb. title: Carla Esparza (8-2) vs. Bec Hyatt (4-1)
Carla Esparza is an animal and she's fearless. In just her fourth professional fight, she accepted a short notice opportunity against the legendary Megumi Fujii in the Bellator women's 115 pound tournament, coming up short after putting forth a spirited effort. She learned from her mistakes, however and in the last year and a half, she has been unstoppable, defeating Felice Herrig, Sarah Schneider and Lynn Alvarez in increasingly dominant fashion. The latter two were destroyed via TKO under the Invicta banner to earn her a shot at the belt.
Bec Hyatt has only been training and competing for the last two years, but she's been a very quick learner. The wiry Aussie lost her first professional fight via knockout, but has since reeled off four straight victories included finishing two of her last three inside the first minute. She was slated to make her debut with Invicta on the main card but when an opening became available for a shot at the title, she gladly jumped at the opportunity.
Esparza is one of the best wrestlers at 115 pounds in the world and she's been able to systematically take her opponents down and then pound them into submission with big punches and overwhelming pressure. Hyatt possesses some solid stand-up skills and is very aggressive on the feet especially when she has her opponents backing up or covering up. If Hyatt can use her respectable defensive wrestling to keep the fight standing, she's got a shot but she's still lacking in experience and it's more than likely that Esparza will be a bit too powerful and strong for her at this point in her career.
Final Prediction: Carla Esparza via TKO in round two
135 lbs.: Shayna Baszler (15-7) vs. Alexis Davis (12-5)
Shayna Baszler has been a long-time veteran of the sport but after years of fighting women bigger just to stay active, she's finally found a home with Invicta. She returned from a lengthy layoff to debut with Invicta earlier last year against unbeaten Olympic wrestler Sara McMann and she gave McMann her toughest fight to date, just barely losing a controversial decision. She returned at Invicta 3 and had her way with Sarah D'Alelio, dominating the powerful grappler on the canvas before sinking in a rear naked choke. Now, she's looking to prove her 2010 win over Alexis Davis was not a fluke.
Alexis Davis has long been considered one of the best Canadian female fighters on the planet and after some up-and-down performances, she really came into her own in 2012. It started with her Fight of the Year candidate against Sarah Kaufman at Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey which stole the show and she capped her year off at the last Invicta event by submitting Japanese grappler Hitomi Akano for the first time in her storied career. With recent victories over Amanda Nunes and Julie Kedzie as well, she's definitely proven a force to be reckoned with.
Baszler and Davis had a spirited battle the last time they fought each other, exchanging top position, submission attempts, sweeps and strikes on the feet, although Davis faded in the third round due to taking the fight on short notice. Baszler has some of the most unique grappling skills of all female fighters on the planet, but Davis proved she can hang with anyone, nearly going to a draw with Kyra Gracie earlier this year at a grappling event to go with her two recent high profile finishes on the canvas over Nunes and Akano. Look for Baszler to be more aggressive both on the ground and on the feet, trying to make Davis back down. It's unlikely that there will be a finish here simply due to how competent both ladies are on the canvas.
Final Prediction: Shayna Baszler via decision
135 lbs.: Leslie Smith (4-2-1) vs. Raquel Pennington (3-2)
Leslie Smith had a very interesting 2012, bursting onto the scene at the first Invicta show with one of the best fights of the year against Kaitlin Young, which eventually resulted in a draw, although both ladies had an argument that they should have won. Smith removed all doubt at the third Invicta event in a rematch against Young, utilizing her superior ground game to put Young in a crucifix and finish her off with uncontested shots on the ground. She'll be looking to continue her momentum against Pennington.
Raquel Pennington made a splash with Invicta, putting a whooping on Sarah Moras in her Invicta debut. After another win outside the promotion, she received a tremendous test against top prospect Cat Zingano. After putting up her best efforts and stalling Zingano's attempts in the clinch, she was finally overpowered and eventually finished via submission in the second round. She'll be trying to bounce back against Smith, although it won't be easy.
On the feet, Smith will have a serious advantage as she throws serious volume punches similar to her Cesar Gracie counterparts, Nick and Nate Diaz. She showed no fear to stand in the pocket and trade against Young and she's got a competent ground game to go along with it. Pennington's best shot is to get takedowns with her wrestling and keep Smith on her back. We've seen Smith look good on the ground against a kickboxer in Kaitlin Young but despite her awesome crucifix, there's no telling if she'd be able to pull that off against a better ground technician. That will be something to look out for here.
Final Prediction: Leslie Smith via decision
135 lbs.: Amanda Nunes (7-2) vs. Sarah D'Alelio (6-3)
Amanda Nunes could not have made a better impression in her debut to American audiences, thrashing Julia Budd in just 14 seconds under the Strikeforce banner at 145 pounds. She dropped down to bantamweight but Alexis Davis weathered her early storm and eventually finisher her with ground and pound in the second round. After 10 months off, Nunes returned to form with a first round destruction of Raquel Pa'aluhi at the last Invicta event to announce her return to prominence. She'll have her hands full with Sarah D'Alelio, but it's nothing she hasn't seen before.
Sarah D'Alelio was thrown to the wolves in her Strikeforce debut, losing to Ronda Rousey in just 25 seconds, but she found redemption through Invicta, defeating two consecutive Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts Vanessa Mariscal and Vanessa Porto via submission after surviving some early turmoil. She had her momentum halted by Shayna Baszler in her last bout, but put up a spirited effort before falling to submission against the veteran grappler. Now, she'll have an opportunity to redeem herself by beating her second straight Brazilian powerhouse.
Nunes is ferocious. Her stand-up and ground and pound are downright scary. She's one of the few female fighters at 135 with serious knockout power. She is capable of blitzing opponents on the feet and putting them down quickly and she's done it several times in her career. D'Alelio needs to take this fight to the ground or clinch immediately or she could be in trouble. Also, the longer this fight goes, the better off A'Alelio will be as Nunes has faded in fights after failing to secure that quick finish. That being said, Nunes is likely going to be too much for D'Alelio here.
Ediane Gomes, while still very raw, has developed into a very powerful and scary fighter in the women's 145 pound division through her work at American Top Team. Gomes is incredibly powerful and has been overwhelming everyone she's faced on the ground in the past year and a half including top prospect Katalina Malungahu in her last bout, her debut with Invicta.
Hiroko Yamanaka looked terrific in Japan, but things have not gone so smoothly since testing herself on the American circuit. She was destroyed by Cristiane Santos in 16 seconds when they fought for the Strikeforce featherweight title. In her Invicta FC debut, she would lose to kickboxer Germaine de Randamie after taking a beating on the feet for three rounds.
No one questions Yamanaka's heart or toughness, but she just doesn't have the wrestling or overall strength to hang with most of the highest level women at 145 pounds. She's got some height and reach on Gomes, so perhaps she could try to use her boxing, but she's going to have trouble keeping Gomes from closing the distance either with takedown attempts or in the clinch and then putting her on the canvas. Gomes possesses some nasty ground and pound to go along with an aggressive submission game. Don't be surprised to see this one stopped if Gomes can put her on the canvas.
Final Prediction: Ediane Gomes via TKO in round two
115 lbs.: Joanne Calderwood (4-0) vs. Livia Von Plettenberg (1-0)
Final Prediction: Joanne Calderwood via TKO in round one