Invicta FC 35 takes place this Friday night. As per usual, the action is set to unfold in Kansas City… also as per usual, it’s an event that you won’t want to miss.
Upon the initial announcing of the card and its line-up, admittedly, the headliner bout between flyweights DeAnna Bennett and Karina Rodriguez looked very weak compared to what we have been getting atop the past so many cards. However, when doing a deeper dive into things, it was kind of the only option.
Invicta currently has two vacant titles at featherweight and bantamweight thanks to the departures of Felicia Spencer and Sarah Kaufman. Flyweight champion, Vanessa Porto, who was crowned at Invicta 34 in February, is waiting to face the winner of Bennett vs Rodriguez despite being more than worthy of a spot in the UFC or Bellator.
Atomweight champion, Jinh Yu Frey literally just fought this past weekend in what was the biggest fight in the division’s history as she crossed over to RIZIN FF and once again challenged her old foe in the RIZIN champion, Ayaka Hamasaki.
Brianna Van Buren would be the only possible option outside of what we’re getting and even though it seems like a somewhat of an early turnaround, surely she may not have been wildly opposed to it. Hell, she became the new strawweight titleholder through the inaugural one-night Invicta Phoenix Rising tournament after all… which she came out of relatively unscathed.
Personally, it would have been tremendous for Van Buren to defend on this card against… well, someone else that is actually on this card. But we’ll get there when we get there.
The point is that Invicta treats their fans right much more often than not so there’s no reason to complain about this one. Especially with the great supporting cast that the rest of the build-up to it will act as.
With that all in mind, here are five reasons why you shouldn’t miss Invicta FC 35.
5. A No. 1 contender decider that also attempts to right a “wrong”
Talk about a properly blatant yet unexpected, and maybe a bit lengthy, segue, eh?
To finish up on the topic of the main event, it’s not the best fight, but it’s still very much worth some attention.
The flyweight pair first met at Invicta FC 28 in March 2018. The fight would be Bennett’s first back in the promotion after her one-fight stint in the UFC as well as competing on season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). For the continually rising Mexican prospect in Rodriquez, it would be her first Invicta loss in three outings.
Unfortunately, controversial Invicta decisions haven’t been hard to find over the years thanks to the Missouri State Athletic Commission and Bennett has seemingly been one of their favorite fighters.
In a clash that primarily saw Bennett grinding with some “wall and stall” clinch work against the cage, Rodriguez was the one doing more of the significant work and damage throughout the three rounds… especially when considering the new unified rules.
However, we would get some unsurprisingly shocking scores of two 30-27s for Bennett with one 30-27 for Rodriguez. This was also the same event where we saw Virna Jandiroba dominate Mizuki Inoue over the course of five rounds only to earn a split decision with two 49-46s to Mizuki’s 49-46. A score that may very well be the worst in all of MMA history.
According to MMADecisions.com, 75 percent of fan votes had the bout scored in favor of Rodriguez 30-27 with 25 percent giving her a 29-28 nod.
The best thing about this fight is that Rodriguez gets the chance to right a wrong and earn a title fight opportunity by doing so. On Bennett’s side, she can potentially get a more decisive victory – and one that would award her the second title shot of her career.
But with all rematches, adjustments from each combatant can be expected and will be interesting to see the approaches taken.
It’s also nice to note that this time around the fight will be in the state of Kansas rather than Missouri… You know, for judging purposes. Just in case…
4. Viviane Pereira changes things up
Four-fight UFC veteran, Viviane Pereira entering into Invicta in the first place was interesting enough as her UFC release seemed a bit odd and borderline unnecessary. Well, that sentiment changed following her Invicta debut in November 2018.
The 26-year old Brazilian would succumb to the aforementioned revitalized Japanese stalwart in Mizuki via a shutout unanimous decision. Pereira just had no answers for her strawweight counterpart’s offense no matter where the fight went.
In the wake of this, she will now try her hand at 105-pounds this Friday night.
A division that has already grown exponentially over the recent years, Pereira could be a very solid and welcome addition assuming she returns to the form that we saw prior to her three-fight skid… or even better, of course.
There’s no shame in losing to the three fighters that she has lost to in her 16 fight career, but they did show that she may have been getting rushed along a bit too quickly. Now we’ll see if the same can be said at atomweight as she’s being thrown right into the mix against someone who could have arguably been challenging for the title right now.
3. A returning trio
Segues on segues…
Returning is the undefeated 5-0 “Half-Pint,” Alesha Zappitella who was potentially in line for the next crack at 105-pound gold following her solid showing opposite divisional staple, Amber Brown at Invicta FC 33 in late 2018. Itching to trade knuckles and getting just that sixth months after her last encounter in the chainlink enclosure, Zappitella has proven to be one to watch and as stated in reason No. 4, there’s a little extra intrigue added to this one.
In terms of extended vacations, no one has been on a longer one than Faith McMah. In fact, it’s been so long since she last fought that that wasn’t even her name at the time.
Formerly known as Faith Van Duin, the New Zealander last stepped foot inside the cage in September 2016 when she fell to Irene Aldana late in the opening round after absorbing a barrage of punches. Since then she has attempted to return twice prior to this Friday; the first time being in 2017 when she was set to take on Janay Harding in Brace 46 only for the bout to be canceled for unknown reasons. Most recently, she was to meet Helena Kolesnyk this past February but Kolesnyk would miss weight by a ridiculous 10 whole pounds.
Now we get to finally see the featherweight get back at it… but she has about as dangerous of a welcoming back party that she could have asked for. That being none other than the former Invicta matchmaker, as evidenced by the Bennett vs Rodriguez 1 image, Kaitlin Young.
Like McMah, Young also has a big patch of inactivity in her career. But that came from 2014 to 2018.
Making her comeback in August of last year, the 33-year old pioneer looked like she hadn’t missed a beat and showed that against a top opponent in the division.
Spoiling “King” Reina Miura’s home game in Japan at RIZIN 12, Young would out strike the youthful star prospect with ease, bobbing, weaving and kicking and punching her way to a big unanimous decision upset. In her second fight back and her first with Invicta since she took the break in 2014, “The Striking Viking” blasted Sarah Patterson with leg kicks as soon as the fight started and it ended very quickly after adding up.
Young has re-established herself as a threat at 145-pounds and seeks another title while McMah will hope to do the same by taking her out after a big layoff.
From the heaviest female weight class of featherweight to the lightest at 105-pounds, Zappitella, McMah, and Young all are back and out to prove something.
2. An exciting bantamweight battle
After a stint on TUF 28 at featherweight and a successful boxing debut, Germany’s Katharina Lehner is ready to compete once again in Invicta at 135-pounds. Preparing to hand her the second loss of her career is the quickly rising unbeaten prospect out of American Top Team Portland (ATT PDX), Lisa “The Strangler” Spangler.
As seen in all of her fights, Lehner flourishes predominantly in the striking department but hasn’t been much of a finisher with only one TKO next to six decisions in her seven victories. But her durability and relentless is what makes her always a fun one to watch – if her grappling doesn’t get exploited that is.
Spangler has proven to be a very viable striker and a smart one at that. She blends the many components of MMA together at a speed often unseen by most 23-year old athletes. Perhaps that’s just what an 8-1 amateur career will do for you. Along with further displaying how much talent that ATT PDX, formerly known as Gracie Barra, truly has in their stable.
Whenever there’s a vacant championship in a division, it brings the best out of all the fighters within it as they are all now getting an extra push opportunity. Any win or great performance adds to their claim. If styles making fights isn’t enough, as this one surely should be good because of that, the underlying implications are just a bonus boost.
1. An overlooked yet major debut
Flashback to right before this list started and the mentioning of current strawweight champ, Brianna Van Buren. Alluded to was her headlining this event… but against who? Well, if there was anyone that it should have or could have been against, it’s Japanese wrestling sensation, Kanako Murata.
The 9-1 Matsuyama native is arguably the best prospect in all of the strawweight division period – as well as her country of Japan. Having made her name in MMA in RIZIN FF, late last year she had her Invicta debut all mapped out.
Set to face off with another strong wrestler in Sharon Jacobson at Invicta 33 in December, Murata would, unfortunately, suffer an injury that forced her out of the bout on roughly a week’s notice. Assuming that injury didn’t end up happening, it wouldn’t have been crazy to imagine Murata going on to take out Jacobson before entering, and winning, the one-night strawweight Phoenix Rising tournament. Therefore making her the new divisional champion at 115-pounds as well as the second Japanese fighter to earn a title in a major North American promotion. That’s the kind of talent we’re working with here.
Murata has been a picture of perfection throughout her career to this point excluding her lone loss to the much larger former UFC bantamweight in Rin Nakai in 2016. Murata rides a five-fight winning streak since with her two most recent victories coming in the most impressive of fashions. Those being her back to back Von Flue choke victories over Angela Magana and then Saray Orozco at RIZIN 15 in late April. A Von Flue choke, in general, is wildly rare but more so from the female competitors… yet Murata already has two consecutively with 10 total fights in her career.
Despite having a tight striking game as well, it’s the fight IQ that Murata possesses accompanied with her grappling chops that have been the real terror for everyone inside the ring across from her over in Japan. Seeing how that translates to the cage with a different ruleset will be about as intriguing as it gets.
As she’s still tied in with RIZIN, the 25-year old hopes to get the win here without sustaining damage and then turn right around to compete at RIZIN 17 on July 28. Something that is a real possibility.
After that, assuming she were to pick up another win, that potential clash with Van Buren would be a phenomenal match-up of two of – if not the division’s top prospects in the world. Both of which could very well see themselves competing in the UFC one day and making serious waves.
And for that, Kanako Murata demands the most of your attention at Invicta FC 35 this Friday night.
The full card line-up can be seen in its entirety below.
- Flyweight – 125lbs: DeAnna Bennett (10-4-1) vs. Karina Rodríguez (7-3)
- Atomweight – 105lbs: Alesha Zappitella (5-0) vs. Viviane Pereira (13-3)
- Strawweight – 115lbs: Kanako Murata (9-1) vs. Liana Pirosin (7-2)
- Bantamweight – 135lbs: Katharina Lehner (7-1) vs. Lisa Spangler (3-0)
- Featherweight – 145lbs: Kaitlin Young (9-9-1) vs. Faith McMah (6-3)
- Bantamweight: Chelsea Chandler (1-1) vs. Brittney Victoria (3-0)
- Atomweight: Kelly D’Angelo (3-2) vs. Jillian DeCoursey (2-1)
- Atomweight: Loma Lookboonmee (2-1) vs. Monique Adriane (4-1)
- Strawweight: Valerie Wong (0-0) vs. Genia Goodin (0-0)
Drake Riggs is an MMA writer who specializes in feature pieces, the women's fight scene, lists, news coverage, and rankings. He has been a passionate fan of MMA ever since 2009. Drake has most notably written for BJPenn.com, FanSided MMA, The Body Lock, Cageside Press, Sherdog, and MMA Today. He is also a longtime fan of the NFL's Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars.