With the new year comes first events! Every promotion has gotten theirs out of the way for the most part… That’s except for the always exceptional Invicta FC who kicks their 2019 off this Friday night.
Invicta FC 34 is set to go down on February 15, and the event will highlight the stellar flyweight division as not only will a champion be crowned, but a tournament will begin to determine the next challenger. As usual, Invicta 34 will be live from the Scottish Rites Temple in Kansas City, Missouri.
The card starts at 8:00 PM EST / 5:00 PM PST on UFC Fight Pass. Here’s what you need to know about the first Invicta event of the year.
Vanessa Porto vs. Pearl Gonzalez
In the first Invicta main event of the new year, we will see a new champion crowned as every division but the flyweights currently have a titleholder.
Since the reigning queen and former consensus #1 in the weight class, Jennifer Maia departed for the UFC in mid-2018, the title has been without an owner. That all changes on Friday.
Battling it out for the gold will be the surging former strawweight and UFC vet, “The Chi-Town Princess” Pearl Gonzalez (9-3) and the perennial flyweight elite, Vanessa Porto (20-8).
For Brazil’s Porto, this will be her third crack at the Invicta FC title. Will the third time be the charm in Porto’s 10th Invicta appearance?
In a way, Porto could be compared to the likes of Jon Fitch, Urijah Faber or Alexander Gustafsson when it comes to the flyweight division. She beats just about everyone that isn’t the champion.
A strong, durable, and physical, very well rounded fighter, Porto’s longevity is a testament to her style and determination to finally reach that peak of the mountain. Regardless of the fact that she isn’t a champion right now, she’s still one of the very best talents at 125-pounds and deserves to be in the UFC. That argument is only made stronger if she can capture the gold.
As for Gonzalez, this will absolutely be her toughest test since leaving the UFC and going to flyweight. But don’t get it twisted, she has definitely earned this opportunity after putting together a very solid three-fight winning streak. Stylistically, she can make things very interesting as well with her length. Range and distance control may end up being her best friend in this one. Gonzalez does excel on the ground with her submission grappling though, so it will be fun to see exactly how this fight plays out.
An opponent like Porto will tell us how far and how much Gonzalez has improved throughout her current run. Because there’s no shame in losing to the 28-fight veteran, but if Gonzalez can beat her, then it really says a lot about her growth. Especially considering the type of competition Porto has lost to.
One way or another, win or lose and Porto should be brought up to the UFC. A win for Gonzalez however, and she definitely deserves to be brought back to the UFC too.
Milana Dudieva vs. Karina Rodriguez
Now we get to the tournament fights that will precede the title bout! And yes, that very last sentiment at the end of the Porto-Gonzalez preview obviously ruins the whole point and idea of Invicta doing a tournament… But do you want the truth or not, people?
Closing things out for the night on the second half of the bracket will be Russia’s Milana Dudieva (12-7) who is another UFC vet like Gonzalez. In this co-main event, she’ll be taking on the Team Lobo staple, Karina Rodriguez (6-3).
Originally, Dudieva was to be facing Brogan Walker-Sanchez, but due to an injury, Walker-Sanchez was forced out leading to Rodriguez coming in to save the day.
Mexico’s Rodriguez has been one of the best flyweight prospects for a while now and like her teammates and Invicta alumni in Irene Aldana and Alexa Grasso, she has very sharp and technical boxing skills. Something she’ll surely be looking to put on display against the Judoka, Dudieva.
Once a promising prospect herself at 135-pounds, Dudieva hit a rough patch from 2015 to 2018 where she lost four straight bouts. Three of which were via TKO. However, Dudieva snapped her streak in her last time out by earning a TKO over Christina Marks at Invicta 28.
Despite the more bad than good as of late, Dudieva has shown flashes of brilliance. Particularly in her fight with Porto who she was able to get the better of for the majority of their three-round affair. That was until Porto rallied late to show why she’s as highly touted as she is.
This fight will be very big for each woman as they look to advance to the finals of the flyweight tournament and establish themselves as the next title contender.
DeAnna Bennett vs. Miranda Maverick
In the first of the two semi-final tournament bouts is another veteran vs. rising prospect type of match-up. But for Miranda Maverick (4-1), many believe the 21-year olds time is now. And clearly so does Invicta.
Gaining more and more popularity with every fight, Maverick was actually someone that fans were fairly upset to see wasn’t getting the title shot over Porto. Which… Is what it is. Perhaps the young and hungry fighter can prove that they were right by winning her way through the tournament.
Standing in her way will be the gritty DeAnna Bennett (9-4-1) who has gone 1-1 since her brief stint with the UFC following season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter. Seemingly now having found the right division for her at 125-pounds, Bennett is ready to make her long-awaited title run.
In this fight, the biggest key should come down to the experience and how much that plays a factor. Because in every aspect, Maverick should be just a little faster, a little better, and more motivated to pull this one off and she has the youth on her side. But then there’s also the pressure that comes along with facing your first tough veteran.
And in a tournament format, that pressure will only be increasing with each step. Thus making this fight an even more exciting match-up to tune in for.
Outside of the tournament
Two other fights of considerable note are the match-ups of Tracy Cortez vs. Erin Blanchfield and Faith McMah vs. Helana Kolesnyk.
With Cortez vs. Blanchfield, we’ll get to see who will be the flyweight alternate barring the possibility of an injury to any of the women in the tournament. Something that would be a massive opportunity for either fighter as they are both very young, but talented prospects.
Blanchfield actually happens to be the first and only winner of the Eddie Bravo Invitational, and she’s only 19-years-old as she looks to bump her flawless record up to 4-0.
Update: Unfortunately, the featherweight bout between Faith McMah – once known as Faith Van Duin – and Helena Kolesnyk has been removed from the fight card after Kolesnyk missed weight by 10 pounds.
Invicta FC 34 is just one of the many major MMA events taking place this weekend. For more information, make sure to read our MMA Geek Guide for February 13-19.
Drake Riggs is an MMA writer based out of Brush Prairie, Washington, USA 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, The Body Lock, South China Morning Post, MyMMANews, Cageside Press, Sherdog, The Scrap, and MMA Today. He has also written for and created video content for RT Sport. As for other sports, Drake is a longtime fan of the NFL's Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars.You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @DrakeRiggs_ . Also check out all of his video content on YouTube at: "Drake Riggs" where he uploads fighter interviews, podshows, and various other types of content.