What does a person typically expect from an up-and-coming MMA promotion? Cheesy show time announcement? Low-grade lighting and sound? Sub-par ring girls “discovered” in a contest at a dive bar? Referees who barely know what they’re doing? How about cutmen that look like they were pulled off the street?
Well, not only has Invicta Fighting Championships avoided all of those stereotypes, but the new all-pro, all-women’s promotion has done quite the opposite.
Invicta FC has been blowing the roof off all expectations. Shannon Knapp, Invicta’s CEO, led another fantastic evening of exciting fights at Invicta FC 2 on July 28 at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan. On hand were famous cutmen and referees, including “Stitch” Duran and “Big” John McCarthy. The show was well-produced with excellent lighting and sound, and the camera work was almost worthy of the biggest promotions in the sport. The ringside commentators were professional fighters Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and Julie Kedzie, along with veteran voice of MMA, Mauro Ranallo.
The commentators all had great input, but the star of this cast was by far Kedzie. She had already fought a few of the ladies on this card and had excellent insight, similar to the likes of Stephan Bonnar, Frank Mir and Kenny Florian on UFC broadcasts. Having battled with these ladies in the past, she brought a lot to the table.
The only glitch of the night was in the initial live stream.
Near the beginning of the event, so many people tried logging in at once that the server crashed and they had to go to a backup. Some people were really up in arms about this issue on Twitter, but at that point, people need to be realistic. They were about to get one of the best cards in MMA history for free, and the problem was resolved quickly, so bravo to the Invicta management for getting it taken care of right away. The critics of the glitch need to pipe down, because in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t have any major effect on the quality of the event.
Invicta FC 2 was a huge success for the young promotion with over 250,000 viewers watching the free live stream of the event. The event quickly flooded Twitter, trending big time in the United States, second only to the Olympics.
The card was comprised of fourteen fights covering all five weight classes. Three of the weight classes coincide with their male counterparts: flyweight (125), bantamweight (135), and featherweight (145). The other two weight classes, atomweight (105) and strawweight (115), are exclusive to the women’s side of the sport. Only four of the fourteen fights went to decision. Of the ten fights that ended in stoppage, only two made it to the third round. That’s one exciting night of fighting. With no television commercials, it just rolled right through from one great fight to the next.
The ladies were really going all out. There was no boring gamesmanship with fighters strategically trying to secure victories by decision. The gamesmanship is one huge criticism of some of the recent UFC events, especially from fighters coming out of one particular camp, which shall remain nameless. Even the fights that went to decision in Invicta FC 2 were all-out brawls, including the main event, which earned “Fight of the Night” honors.
The main event was a much anticipated match-up between veteran brawler Shayna Baszler and highly-decorated wrestler Sara McMann. There was a lot of hype leading up to this fight.
Baszler, 14-6 going into the fight, trains out of Sioux Falls, S.D., under UFC, Pride and Strikeforce veteran Josh Barnett. Her previous two professional fights earned her championships in two separate promotions, and both took place in 2010. She was definitely the more experienced fighter from an MMA standpoint, having competed in the sport professionally since 2003. Baszler looked really composed and confident in her Invicta FC debut, like a pro’s pro.
McMann comes from a completely different background, although she is no stranger to one-on-one competition. McMann started wrestling at the age of fourteen, competed in freestyle wrestling at the Pan American Games and World Championships, won a silver medal in Athens at the 2004 Olympic Games, and won gold and silver medals in submission grappling championships, all prior to trying her hand at MMA. Having only competed in MMA for a little over a year, she went into the fight with an undefeated record of 5-0, ready for the next step toward a bantamweight title fight.
The back-and-forth battle went the distance with both fighters showcasing their various skills. Baszler had the opportunity to show off her quick and powerful counter-strikes, while McMann took full advantage of her superior wrestling. The most exciting part of the fight was the last 10 seconds, when a flurry of strikes by both fighters almost ended with McMann knocked out. However, in the end, McMann won the fight on the scorecards and earned her shot at the title at October’s Invicta FC 3.
So, at the end of the night, Shannon Knapp announced the bantamweight title fight between McMann and a yet unnamed challenger to take place at Invicta FC 3 on Oct. 6, again at Memorial Hall. In addition, about halfway through the night, she also announced that the atomweight title fight will take place at that event, featuring 9-1 veteran Jessica Penne, fighting out of Reign MMA, versus undefeated Japanese fighter Naho Sugiyama, who has run the gamut at the last five events for the Jewels promotion in Japan.
With the announcement of the next event, including two inaugural Invicta FC title fights, the hype continues to grow. For now, the plans are to stay online and in Kansas City, but Knapp has reportedly received calls with offers to buy her promotion already. She intends to grow the brand and continue to support her women fighters, who may finally have a promotion all to themselves, instead of sharing with the men, as has happened with other promotions.
The world of women’s MMA hit another high point on Saturday, but now the fans must wait until Oct. 6 for the third show from the promising promotion. With Invicta upping the ante by putting gold on the line, the promotion can only hope to continue building on its great start.
Photo: Invicta FC 2 (Jeff Vulgamore/The MMA Corner)