After spending the better part of 2014 restructuring and assembling a mostly new strawweight division, Invicta FC returned to Kansas City at the Municipal Auditorium on Saturday night with its eighth event.
The card featured two title fights. Atomweight champion Michelle Waterson put her belt on the line for the first time against Japanese stalwart Yasuko Tamada, while Katja Kankaanpaa and Stephanie Eggink battled it out for the promotion’s vacant strawweight title.
Michelle Waterson vs. Yasuko Tamada
Defending atomweight champion Michelle Waterson told MMAWeekly.com before her fight with Yasuko Tamada, who had never been finished in her nine year career, “For me, (a win) will allow me to exhale and feel like I really am the atomweight champion for Invicta because I’ve been able to defend the title. For me, that’s kind of what I’m looking for right now.”
SEE ALSO: Michelle Waterson, Waiting to Exhale
Waterson was definitely able to exhale after Saturday night’s stellar performance. Tamada may have trouble breathing now, but Waterson surely isn’t.
The champ took the fight to the challenger from the opening bell. Waterson’s striking was on an entirely different plane of existence from Tamada, who couldn’t find a way to mount any offense.
Although Tamada somehow managed to stay on her feet for the nearly 15 minutes of the fight, she was hardly more than a moving punching back for Waterson who utilized a crisp jab to set up thunderous kicks to Tamada’s ribs. And when she wasn’t doing that, Waterson was putting Tamada in a Thai clinch, driving knees into her midsection and face.
Still, Tamada stood.
Waterson, emboldened by the first two rounds of utter domination, stepped up the power shots a notch in the third round. She traded her jab for the straight right, landed more knees to the midsection, fired a spinning back kick to Tamada’s face, went back to the Thai clinch with accompanying knees and elbows, and generally knocked her opponent every which way she could across the cage.
In the waning seconds of the third frame, Waterson finally landed a brutal knee to the face that sent Tamada reeling into the fence and followed with a hard right hand. Referee Greg Franklin had finally seen enough and stepped in to wave off the bout.
Not only did Waterson put a stamp on her atomweight championship, she etched it permanently, in gold, with a performance that won’t soon be forgotten.
Katja Kankaanpaa vs. Stephanie Eggink
After former champ Carla Esparza made the jump to the UFC, Invicta needed a new strawweight champion. Enter the fight between Katja Kankaanpaa and Stephanie Eggink.
Eggink did a good job early, utilizing her reach advantage to pepper Kankaanpaa with jabs and then landed her patented triangle choke in the final minute of the opening round, but couldn’t finish it.
Kankaanpaa found success in the second frame, rushing Eggink and taking her to the canvas, where she was able to mount some ground and pound damage. They returned to their feet in the final couple minutes, where Eggink was crisper with her striking, but Kankaanpaa landed some solid power punches in the exchanges.
Kankaanpaa scored another takedown to start the third round, but she wound up in a near submission when Eggink landed a deep triangle choke. Kankaanpaa remained calm, though, and worked her way out. They traded position for the final couple minutes of the round as Kankaanpaa attempted a heel hook, but Eggink defended and landed some hard punches, even though her leg was still tied up.
As back and forth as the earlier rounds might have been, the fourth frame was all Eggink when she stuffed a Kankaanpaa takedown attempt, landed in mount, and then ground and pounded her for the better part of three minutes.
It wasn’t enough to take the fight out of Kankaanpaa, however, who had been trying all night, while pressing Eggink up against the fence, to land a trip takedown. In the fifth and final frame, she finally accomplished just that, putting Eggink on her back and landing in side control.
Kankaanpaa quickly walked around Eggink’s head, locking in a D’Arce choke. Eggink seemed to be defending, but Kankaanpaa kept working on the choke, which was dubbed a Dragon Sleeper choke, and cinched it down for the tap to become the new Invicta FC strawweight champion.
Ediane Gomez vs. Tonya Evinger
Ediane Gomez and Tonya Evinger were both on four-fight winning streaks coming into their fight, but there was no denying Evinger’s fifth consecutive victory. She tripped Gomez to the mat three times in the opening three minutes of the fight, and the third time was the charm.
Evinger quickly mounted Gomez following the third trip, unleashed a heavy dose of punches and elbows, and then swung off to lock on an armbar for the tap.
Roxanne Modafferi vs. Tara LaRosa
Roxanne Modafferi and Tara LaRosa came into their rubber match with a decision victory apiece, but the third bout was the one to settle the score, and it was Modafferi that scripted the final chapter in her favor.
Having worked to re-invent her stand-up game, Modafferi put her efforts on display on Saturday night. She made LaRosa look almost as if she were standing in quicksand, as Modafferi used her much-improved footwork to dart in and out, landing a stiff jab almost at will, and slipping in the occasional cross or kick to the body to wear LaRosa down.
The domination showed on the scorecards, as Modafferi earned a unanimous nod from the judges, before admitting she’d like to eventually work her way into a rematch with another fighter she’s lost to in the past, flyweight champion Barb Honchak.
“(Honchak) is definitely my target,” said Modafferi. “I don’t know when, but I would definitely like a rematch with her. I feel the force is with me.”
DeAnna Bennett vs. Michelle Ould
Making a statement in her promotional debut, DeAnna Bennett smartly used her reach advantage to put Michelle Ould in a Thai clinch and do a lot of damage to the midsection with a plethora of knees in the first round. That only proved to soften Ould up for a kick to the body in the second that sent her crumpling to the mat, where Bennett finished with a few follow-up punches.
Charmaine Tweet vs. Veronica Rothenhausler
Charmaine Tweet was a ball of motion from the opening bell of her fight with Veronica Rothenhausler, and her strategy worked well. She made herself a difficult target until she could put Rothenhausler on the mat, mount her, and finish her with a relentless onslaught of strikes.
Scoring the first finish of the night, Irene Aldana choked out The Ultimate Fighter alum Peggy Morgan in the first round of their fight, while Alexa Grasso won a unanimous decision over Ashley Cummins and Jodie Esquibel scored a split-decision victory over Jinh Yu Frey.
JJ Aldrich dominated Delaney Owen in the night’s opener, winning a unanimous decision.
Invicta FC 8: Waterson vs. Tamada Results
Main Card Bouts
Michelle Waterson def. Yasuko Tamada by TKO (Strikes) at 4:58, R3
Katja Kankaanpaa def. Stephanie Eggink by Sub (D’Arce Choke) at 2:03, R5
Tonya Evinger def. Ediane Gomez by Sub (Armbar) at 3:31, R1
Roxanne Modafferi def. Tara La Rosa by Unan Dec (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
DeAnna Bennett def. Michelle Ould by TKO (Strikes) at 1:34, R2
Charmaine Tweet def. Veronica Rothenhausler by TKO (Strikes) at 4:05, R1
Irene Aldana def. Peggy Morgan by Sub (Rear Naked Choke) at 2:50, R1
Alexa Grasso def. Ashley Cummins by Unan Dec (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Jodie Esquibel def. Jinh Yu Frey by Split Dec (28-29, 29-28, 29-27)
JJ Aldrich def. Delaney Owen by Unan Dec (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
†For Waterson’s Atomweight Championship
††For Vacant Strawweight Championship
(Photo courtesy of Esther Lin / Invicta FC)