Invicta 7 Preview and Predictions
The all-women's MMA promotion that is Invicta returns with its seventh show ever, as Invicta 7 comes to you live on pay-per-view on Saturday night in Kansas City. It is a stacked card that features three title fights and a couple big debuts.
The headlining bout features flyweight champion Barb Honchak, who defends her belt for the first time since winning it opposite Vanessa Porto. She will take on former bantamweight contender Leslie Smith, who recently made a successful drop to 125 and earned top contender status.
Also, Carla Esparza defends her 115-pound title against Claudia Gadelha, while Miriam Nakamoto and Lauren Murphy square off for the vacant bantamweight championship.
Here are the predictions for all nine fights on the card.
Munah Holland vs. Nina Ansaroff
Opening up the card will be an intriguing flyweight bout, as Bellator veteran Munah Holland makes her debut opposite the ultra-tough Nina Ansaroff.
Holland is a Team Tiger Schulmann rep, a camp that is known to churn out powerful strikers like Uriah Hall. Holland is no exception to that reputation, as "The Perfect Storm" has insane power in her hands. For proof of that, just watch her Bellator performance against Marianna Kheyfets.
Ansaroff is similarly a striker who will give Holland a fun fight on the feet. Her only losses have come against top competition such as Invicta champions Carla Esparza and Barb Honchak, while she's beaten notables Jessica Doerner and Tyra Parker.
This fight will really set the pace for the night, as both ladies aren't afraid to throw leather. Holland has consistently faced higher-level opposition with more success, though Ansaroff is no pushover.
Look for a fun fight, as Holland pulls off a late stoppage or decision.
Prediction: Holland def. Ansaroff via decision
Sarah D'Alelio vs. Tonya Evinger
Sarah D'Alelio gets the call on short notice for the injured Kelly Kobold, as "The Monster" will take on The Ultimate Fighter vet Tonya Evinger in the bantamweight division.
D'Alelio is a mainstay with Invicta, as she has participated in all but one of the company's seven events. She is a ground fighter who relies on top position and pressure to make her opponents uncomfortable.
She has good ground-and-pound, but it is her submission game that fighters need to be aware of. Not only has she submitted former title challenger Vanessa Porto, but she also owns a victory over current UFC star Amanda Nunes in a recent bout.
Evinger is a wrestler who is moving up to 135 after some fights at 125. Evinger participated on TUF but was defeated in the elimination round via submission against Raquel Pennington.
She comes into this fight on a three-fight winning streak, though, including a hard-fought decision over Carina Damm. She will want to put D'Alelio on her back with her wrestling and hold her there with ground strikes.
D'Alelio is going to be the larger woman in this fight and has more submission tools to her credit. She needs to avoid getting taken down by Evinger and test her cardio, which should be enough in a close fight.
Prediction: D'Alelio def. Evinger via decision
Vanessa Porto vs. Zoila Gurgel
Former Bellator champion Zoila Gurgel looks to reverse her luck after her recent Invicta debut when she takes on Brazilian and former flyweight title challenger Vanessa Porto.
Gurgel is a highly respected Muay Thai practitioner who has fallen on a two-fight skid which followed a long layoff from a devastating knee injury. Previous to her losses against Jennifer Maia and Jessica Eye, Gurgel was on a tear in Bellator, defeating notables such as Japanese superstar Megumi Fujii, WSOF's Jessica Aguilar, former Invicta champ Jessica Penne and UFC vet Rosi Sexton.
She is a striker who is working tirelessly on her ground game with husband and jiu-jitsu ace Jorge Gurgel. She is looking to get back in the title hunt after a disappointing Invicta debut opposite of Maia.
Porto is no pushover, though, as the leg-kicking submission artist is one of the best in the world at 125. In fact, 10 of her 15 wins have come by way of tapout, though her striking is improved since her early days.
The biggest sign of improvement came against WMMA pioneer Tara LaRosa, as Porto battered the legend's legs to the point she could barely stand anymore. She will not want to get into a battle of strikes with Gurgel, though, as she will be outgunned.
Look for Porto to shoot early and often, attempting to put "The Warrrior Princess" on her back. Gurgel has decent counterwrestling, though, and should be able to strike her way to the judges' scorecards.
Prediction: Gurgel def. Porto via decision
Julia Budd vs. Charmaine Tweet
Canadian counterparts are set to meet in the featherweight division, as potential title challenger Julia Budd takes on the underrated Charmaine Tweet.
Budd is possibly one of the most physically imposing women at 145 outside of Cris "Cyborg" Justino. She can strike on the feet extremely proficiently, but her recent performances have seen her shoot on opponents and batter them beyond recognition with sick ground-and-pound.
Since losing to Ronda Rousey in Strikeforce back in 2011, Budd has been on tear. She destroyed Elina Nilsson and Danielle West with punches and elbows before choking out Mollie Estes in dominant fashion.
Tweet doesn't have the sexiest record at 4-3, but she hasn't been facing chumps either. The Canadian submission fighter currently finds herself on a three-fight winning streak as well, all of which have come by tapout against the likes of Sy Jewett and Invicta vet Amanda Bell.
Tweet can handle herself on the ground, but how will she do it with a buzzsaw like Budd on top of her? Expect Budd to throw violent strikes from the top and earn a stoppage.
Prediction: Budd def. Tweet via TKO
Joanne Calderwood vs. Katja Kankaanpaa
Scottish super-prospect Joanne Calderwood makes her anticipated return to Invicta, but in her way is an undefeated, established veteran from Finland by the name of Katja Kankaanpaa.
Calderwood is one of the most feared strikers in the strawweight division due to her uncanny power and diverse attack. She has devastating knees, lightning-fast punches and nasty kicks.
Nobody has been able to solve the riddle of Calderwood yet, as the Scot owns victories over notables Norma Rueda Center, Livia von Plettenberg and Ashley Cummins.
Kankaanpaa is undefeated in her career as well, with her only blemish coming by way of a draw against Simona Soukupova. Kankaanpaa is a grappler who needs to get Calderwood to the ground if she wants a chance at winning this fight.
Calderwood has shown solid counterwrestling in her young career, but she is taking a large step up in competition here. That being said, Kankaanpaa is not going to like the power of Calderwood and will likely get outstruck to a decision.
Prediction: Calderwood def. Kankaanpaa via decision
Felice Herrig vs. Tecia Torres
The ultra-popular Felice Herrig is set to make her debut with Invicta, but in her way is a talented prospect who is undefeated in Tecia Torres.
Herrig is a Muay Thai specialist who has really improved her ground game in recent times. The Team Curran rep enters this fight on the strength of a four-fight win streak, including victories over Simona Soukupova, Heather Clark and Patricia Vidonic twice.
The Bellator vet is arguably top five in the world at 115 and has faced some of the best fighters in the sport today. That experience will be key against a girl like Torres.
Torres is a top prospect of the sport and owns a perfect 3-0 record. She is well-rounded, as she has technical boxing ability and an unheralded ground game.
All three of Torres' wins come in Invicta against fellow prospects Kaiyana Rain, Paige VanZant and Rose Namajunas. Her striking is her best asset, but that will be tested big time against a respected striker like Herrig.
At this point, Herrig is the more polished fighter and should use a diverse attack to catch Torres off-balance. It will be a great learning experience for Torres, though, who will use this to grow as a mixed martial artist.
Prediction: Herrig def. Torres via decision
Lauren Murphy vs. Miriam Nakamoto
The vacant 135-pound championship is on the line, as Muay Thai wrecking machine Miriam Nakamoto battles the durable and tough Lauren Murphy.
Murphy's rise to stardom has been sudden and impressive. The top-game grappler has used wrestling and improved striking to diversify her attack and overwhelm the opposition.
With Invicta, Murphy is 2-0 against respected veterans Sarah D'Alelio and Kaitlin Young. Her game plan should be simple, as she needs to aggressively pursue the takedown while avoiding the power strikes of Nakamoto.
Known as the "Queen of Mean," Nakamoto is a Muay Thai buzzsaw who is one of the best strikers in WMMA today. Despite having just three pro MMA bouts, Nakamoto has already proven to be a top star outside the UFC.
Her clinch game is nasty, as are her knees. All three of her fights have ended via knees in the clinch, even though one of those wins was overturned to a no-contest, as one landed while Jessamyn Duke was grounded.
Taylor is a tough, rugged female, but Nakamoto is just on a tear right now. Her balance allows her to defend takedowns with extreme prejudice, so I will go out on a limb and predict a finish for the Muay Thai champ.
Prediction: Nakamoto def. Murphy via TKO
Carla Esparza vs. Claudia Gadelha
Invicta strawweight champion Carla Esparza gets her biggest test to date in her first title defense when she takes on Brazilian powerhouse Claudia Gadelha.
Esparza is a collegiate wrestler with a good gas tank and suffocating top game. Her game plan is simple in that she wants to set up takedowns with her strikes and pound her prey into oblivion.
Her last fight was 11 months ago due to a knee injury, so we will see if she can shake off the ring rust. That being said, she is on a four-fight surge with impressive wins over Felice Herrig, Lynn Alvarez and Bec Hyatt.
Gadelha is an undefeated Nova Uniao rep with a great ground game and underrated power. She isn't one of these Brazilian fighters who has been beating cans, but rather a well-traveled individual with experience against tough competition.
The submission specialist has beaten such notables as Ayaka Hamasaki, Herica Tiburcio, Valerie Letourneau and Kalindra Faria, all of whom are respected fighters in WMMA.
This is going to be a good fight stylistically. Gadelha is powerful and competent on the ground, but she does not want to end up on the bottom of the wrestling-happy Esparza. The better gas tank will take a decision.
Prediction: Esparza def. Gadelha via decision
Barb Honchak vs. Leslie Smith
In the main event, Invicta flyweight champion Barb Honchak is set to defend her flyweight title for the first time when she takes on the always-exciting Leslie Smith.
Honchak is a well-rounded fighter who most recently used her superior striking to outgun Vanessa Porto for the vacant title. The Miletich Fighting Systems rep has not lost since 2010, and since that loss has beaten such notables as Felice Herrig, Nina Ansaroff, Roxanne Modafferi, Bethany Marshall, Aisling Daly and Porto.
Opposite of her is a former bantamweight with explosive striking and respectable toughness in Leslie Smith. The former 135er recently dropped to flyweight in her last fight, when she outhustled Jennifer Maia to earn this title shot.
Smith trains with the Cesar Gracie fight team, so you know she is educated on the ground. However, she keeps most of her fights upright, which often times leads to a fan-friendly brawl.
This is going to be a close fight that contends for Fight of the Night. Honchak and Smith both like to use their striking, which could lead to a half-technical, half-brawling bout that sees a new champion take the narrow decision.
Prediction: Smith def. Honchak via decision