Invicta Fighting Championships will return to "The Sunflower State" this Friday night (April 5, 2013) at Ameristar Casino Hotel 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 (official) pay-per-view (PPV) event.
Headlining the main event will be the first ever Invicta FC title defense as atomweight champion Jessica Penne takes on "The Karate Hottie" Michelle Waterson. Penne defeated top ranked Naho Sugiyama to claim the crown at Invicta FC 3 while Waterson asked for the title shot after watching her dominant performance and had her wish granted.
The co-main event is a flyweight title fight between Vanessa Porto and Barb Honchak. Porto is a long-time veteran hailing from Brazil who's coming off the biggest win of her career, a dominant unanimous decision victory over female fighting legend Tara LaRosa. Honchak, on the other hand, has quietly gone 2-0 in her Invicta stint with strong showings against Bethany Marshall and Aisling Daley.
Last but not least, a trio of incredibly talented former female champions will make their Invicta debuts as former Strikeforce featherweight champ Cristiane Santos battles late replacement Fiona Muxlow, former Strikeforce bantamweight champion Sarah Kaufman takes on Leslie Smith and former Bellator strawweight champ Zoila Gurgel battles Jennifer Maia.
Our complete Invicta FC 5 preview and predictions are posted below:
105 lb. title: Jessica Penne (10-1) vs. Michelle Waterson (10-3)
Penne is one of the top ranked pound-for-pound female fighters for a reason. The Reign MMA fighter has an incredibly gifted ground game which utilizes a combination of her technical skill and tremendous flexibility. In her first Invicta performance, Penne put on a show against Lisa Ellis, overwhelming her tough opponent with a steady stream of strikes, elbows and grappling scrambles, eventually busting her open and finishing the fight via TKO. This earned Penne a title shot and she cashed it in against top-ranked Naho Sugiyama, dominating the Japanese fighter with her length and athleticism and finishing the bout with a triangle choke.
Waterson has always been a popular and talented fighter due to her beautiful looks and her excellent skill-set which helped her rise to the top at 115 and 105 pounds. She took a significant break away from fighting to have a daughter but returned to the cage with a vengeance with a first round stoppage in 2012. Her Invicta debut against Lacey Schuckman didn't start off great, but "The Karate Hottie" dug deep and escaped a precarious position, working back to her feet to dominate the striking portion to win a split decision. She asked for a title shot after the win and got it.
Waterson is a competent ground fighter with a majority of her wins coming by way of submission, but Penne is just on another level if the fight goes to the canvas. Penne is so long, so technical and so downright scary that Waterson should do everything she can to try to keep the fight from going to the ground and if it does, she needs to turn up the scrambling skills and try to get back to the feet. Waterson has some solid striking and more than earned her nickname with her martial arts background. Waterson needs to try to be as unorthodox as possible, throwing all her wild spinning strikes and really try to put a hurting on Penne, who's got a significant size and reach advantage. It won't be easy because her attacks will open up takedown opportunities so it'll have to be a situation where she's selectively aggressive.
Final Prediction: Jessica Penne via submission in round four
125 lb. title: Barb Honchak (7-2) vs. Vanessa Porto (15-5)
Honchak has really taken it to the next level in the last year, stepping up her game on the Invicta stage with a strong showing against Bethany Marshall in her promotional debut. "The Little Warrior" kept the good times rolling against top Irish fighter Aisling Daley in her last bout, a dominant showing where she utilized her offensive wrestling attack to win every round. Combined with her victories over Roxanne Modaferri and Felice Herrig, she's more than earned her shot at the belt.
Porto has long been considered one of the best female fighters, but she didn't really get an opportunity to showcase it on the main stage. She finally earned that shot in her first Invicta event, although she came up short at 135 pounds against Sarah D'Alelio. This prompted her decision to drop down to her more natural flyweight and she made a tremendous splash in the division by dominating women's fighting legend Tara LaRosa to earn a shot at the Invicta title.
Honchak primarily has an offensive wrestling and ground and pound based attack, but this could lead her right into Porto's wheelhouse. Porto is a tremendous grappler and holds a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt so if the fight goes to the canvas, she's going to be very wily and active. On the feet, Porto showcased some above average power in her hands, dropping the hard-headed LaRosa and working her over with some heavy leg kicks. While Honchak is going to be game and you can never count out a tough wrestler, it just seems like Porto has more ways to win so I'm leaning on the Brazilian this time around.
Final Prediction: Vanessa Porto via TKO in round two
145 lbs.: Cristiane Santos (10-1) 1 NC vs. Fiona Muxlow (6-2)
We all know the story of Cyborg Santos. She was wrecking everyone in her path culminating in one of the biggest fights in women's MMA history against Gina Carano. She rose to the occasion against Carano, surviving a few rough patches to finish the bout with a second left in the first round. She continued her reign of terror in the featherweight division but had difficulty finding fights. Her last Strikeforce title defense took place in December 2011 but after knocking out her opponent in just 16 seconds. Afterwards, she was busted for steroids and stripped of her title. She's been out for over a year and will finally be returning to the cage this Friday night.
Fiona Muxlow is more than game, putting on a solid performance on the local Australian circuit. After a 6-1 start against the local competition, she stepped up to fight former Stirkeforce women's champ Marloes Coenen at Dream 18 this past New Year's Eve. Unfortunately, she bit off more than she could chew and wound up losing in dominant fashion. When Ediane Gomes dropped out of the Cyborg fight, she stepped up and accepted it on short notice.
I'll be real here, this one could get ugly in a hurry. Muxlow is tough, but she's nowhere in Santos' league. Santos is big, powerful and extremely scary. "Cyborg" finished Coenen with strikes and this is a situation where MMAth actually makes sense because she's going to be more powerful, more technical and more capable than Muxlow when they step into the cage together. Props to Muxlow for stepping up but look for Santos to land some heavy shots and just keep throwing until the ref puts a stop to it.
Final Prediction: Cristiane Santos via knockout in round one
135 lbs.: Sarah Kaufman (15-2) vs. Leslie Smith (5-2-1)
Kaufman has long been considered one of the best female bantamweights on the planet. She proved it with a major wins over top current UFC contenders Miesha Tate, Liz Carmouche and Alexis Davis (twice) during a run which saw her rise to the top position in the sport. Kaufman lost her title to Marloes Coenen but has stayed among the best by continuing to knock off the best opposition. In her last bout, she vied to get her title back against Ronda Rousey but came up short, losing to the "Rowdy" one's patented armbar. After signing with UFC, she's hoping a win in Invicta will set her up for future success.
Smith came out of nowhere to put on a hell of a show at the first ever Invicta event, stealing the spotlight from the other ladies on the card with a fight of the year candidate against Kaitlin Young which ended in a draw. She returned at Invicta FC 3 in a rematch and put a stamp on the rivalry by finishing Young with a brutal series of strikes from the crucifix position. In her last bout, she faced a game Raquel Pennington and weathered the early storm to win a decision.
Both Kaufman and Smith love to stand and trade and this fight has potential to be one of the most entertaining of the year, not just in women's MMA but overall. Expect a slugfest with Kaufman's tremendous power paired against Smith's incredible volume-based attack. This fight could be downright insane. That being said, Kaufman's experience and top-level performances against the best in the world should give her an edge and the fact that Smith will likely bring the fight right where she's most comfortable could make it a tough night for her.
Final Prediction: Sarah Kaufman via decision
125 lbs.: Zoila Frausto Gurgel (12-2) vs. Jennifer Maia (6-2-1)
Gurgel had a tremendous run in Bellator which saw her knock off top-ranked contender Rosie Sexton, Jessica Penne, Jessica Aguilar and Megumi Fujii to claim the Bellator women's 115 pound title. Granted, the last two wins were controversial and probably should have gone the other way, but she was competitive in every bout and proved she belonged with the best in the world. The weight cut to 115 took a huge toll on her, however, and she's never competed there since. After a knee injury, she returned to the cage and battled top women's prospect Jessica Eye, losing in highlight reel fashion and finding herself released from Bellator. Now, after signing with Invicta, she's hoping to get back to her winning ways.
Maia is a very talented grappler, finishing almost all of her wins via submission, but every time she's stepped up against top competition like current UFC fighter Shiela Gaff and title challenger Vanessa Porto, she's come up short. This will be a tremendous opportunity for her to come to America and prove she can hang with the best female fighters in the world. That being said, as long as Gurgel is highly motivated and brings her A-game, she should be able to hang with Maia on the canvas and really put in some work when the fight is standing.
I fully expect Gurgel to get back on the winning track with a solid showing on Friday night.
Final Prediction: Zoila Gurgel via decision