No UFC, Strikeforce, or even Bellator to enjoy this week. There, there…take some deep breaths in your brown bag, everything will be fine. Luckily, this is a perfect weekend for MMA fans to focus their attention on Invicta Fighting Championship’s all-female debuting event in Kansas City on April 28.

Time to give the ladies some love!

Women fighters throwing back their hair and strapping on the four-ounce gloves to battle in a cage may not be everybody’s cup of tea—a far cry from watching Russian beauties knock a tennis ball around for a couple of hours or “vegging out” to the beach volleyball championships—but it’s the fight game and these ladies deserve just as much respect as the guys for training hard, showing off technique, and getting paid way less than their gender counterparts.

Romy Ruyssen (Facebook)

With this new exclusive platform from Invicta FC—an all-women’s MMA promotion co-founded by promotion president Shannon Knapp—24 lady warriors will have the opportunity to be pioneers for their sport this Saturday night, a chance to prove that a card filled with nothing but women competitors demands equal recognition. While most of these names on Invicta FC’s first card will easily fly under the casual fan’s radar, the main event rematch between former Strikeforce champ Marloes Coenen and French submission specialist Romy Ruyssen should make a few heads turn.

Ruyssen will be chomping at the bit to get another stab at Coenen, the only loss on an otherwise perfect record of 5-1. Back in 2008, the more experienced Coenen was able to best Ruyssen on the ground by sinking in a second-round rear-naked choke at United Glory 9 in Switzerland.

That was then, this is now. Ruyssen, a nine-year junior to Coenen, hasn’t dropped a fight since their last outing. In fact, she has become quite a force on the ground, defeating her last four opponents by first-round submissions. On the other hand, Ruyssen’s Dutch counterpart was last seen succumbing to a fourth-round triangle courtesy of then champ Miesha Tate last summer at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson, which led to a departure from her Zuffa contract.

Now with the stakes set and a new fighting home to call their own, both ladies will be eager to make the point that there is more to a “cat-fight” than pulling hair and breaking nails. Don’t miss the action this Saturday; the entire event will be streamed on InvictaFC.com starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. No excuses—go out and support this grassroots effort to promote women’s MMA.

Striking: Coenen – 7, Ruyssen – 5

There’s no secret where each fighter wants this contest to go—Coenen has the superior striking credentials, thanks to her Dutch kickboxing expertise, and Ruyssen will want none of it. Despite the majority of her victories coming by way of submission, Coenen has proven in prior bouts that she possesses technically sound form, helping her find success throwing crisp combos and setting up takedowns from the clinch.

After spending most of her career training with the notorious Dutch gym Golden Glory, home to many current and past kickboxing studs like Alistair Overeem, Semmy Schilt and Siyar Bahadurzada, Coenen has developed a very respected striking game. She will be going into this bout with Ruyssen with far more striking confidence and technique, along with a very effective counter straight right.

The Clinch: Coenen – 6.5, Ruyssen – 7

In their last fight, Ruyssen had a lot of success overpowering Coenen in the clinch. Despite having a length advantage and staying busy from this position, Coenen wasn’t able to fend off her opponent’s numerous takedowns that were set up from this position. The Dutch veteran has a history of being a very well-rounded technical fighter, but tends to give up power advantages to stronger, more explosive opponents. Ruyssen used this position over and over that night to utilize trips and throws to get Coenen on the mat where she was able to stay on top.

Conversely, Coenen is no slouch from the clinch by any means; it’s just whatever length advantages she can incorporate will more than likely be trumped by Ruyssen’s explosiveness and strength. Either way, the clinch will be a very important, highly contested, part of this rematch because it will determine where the majority of the fight goes.

Ground Game: Coenen – 8, Ruyssen – 8.5

Marloes Coenen (Facebook)

Between the two of these competitors, assuming this fight does not go to decision, one of them will finish the fight on the ground. There will be a lot of Brazilian jiu-jitsu action between these two highly skilled practitioners, who have scored most of their collective wins by submission.

During their last outing, Ruyssen was very offensively aggressive in Coenen’s guard, and we shouldn’t expect to see anything different in this rematch. Even though Coenen was very busy from her guard, scrambling well with good hip movement and throwing up triangles and armbars when the chance presents itself, her opponent was equally game. At one point in their fight, Ruyssen was able to escape an armbar attempt and won many of the scrambles for dominant positions. Honestly, as good as Coenen can be on the ground, Ruyssen maintained top position for nearly the entire fight until she got caught in awkwardly positioned rear-naked choke. She basically got caught after having the upper hand for most of the contest.

Look for Ruyssen to transition well from top position. If she’s able to stay there long enough, Ruyssen could surprise Coenen by powering an arm-triangle choke from side guard. There should be a slight advantage for Ruyssen here, but Coenen is certainly capable of throwing up her own triangle or armbar. Regardless, fans will be in for a treat once this fight goes to the ground.

Wrestling: Coenen – 6, Ruyssen – 5

This is the one area of the fight that fans won’t be that impressed by, simply because neither fighter really has a solid traditional wrestling background. If this goes to the ground, it goes from the clinch via trips and throws. If history is any indicator, neither girl will rely on single- and double-legs if the game plan is to take the fight to the mat.

But, if things are not going Coenen’s way or if conventional wrestling is part of a surprise attack, fans could see her dig deep in her tool belt for a few unexpected shots. She would be more likely to utilize this technique, if simply because she has more cage experience.

X-Factor

Conventional wisdom would reward Coenen for her experience and striking advantages against the younger Ruyssen on most nights. Unfortunately for Coenen, this time around the x-factor will be Ruyssen’s youth along with the familiarity of having fought four years ago. Not only can the argument be made that Ruyssen’s BJJ has surpassed her opponent’s, but her continued strength advantage will be felt ten-fold, expanding on the success from the last fight. If Coenen can’t keep the fight standing by controlling the distance, she becomes very vulnerable off her back to ground-and-pound and submissions and could very well see Ruyssen get vengeance by upsetting the odds.

Verdict: Coenen – 27.5, Ruyssen: 25.5

Despite the analysis, I like Ruyssen’s chances of upsetting Coenen in this rematch. Her explosiveness in the clinch and from top position could really disrupt Coenen’s own chances of mounting any offense off her back. While Coenen would be wise to keep the distance and make Ruyssen pay with crisp combos if she gets too close, I have a feeling the younger French fighter will be able to power through those strikes well enough to get to the clinch, where she’ll be able to fall into top position on the mat. Look for a second-round submission victory for Ruyssen.

Top Photo: Marloes Coenen (Facebook)

This piece was authored by Joe Schafer. You can find Joe on Twitter: @joeschafer84

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