The New Year will kick off with the fourth event from women’s promotion Invicta Fighting Championships. The young promotion is set to crown its first strawweight champion at the event when Carla Esparza takes on Bec Hyatt, but it’s the night’s co-main event between bantamweight veterans Shayna Baszler and Alexis Davis that earns this week’s Fight of the Week nod.

Baszler and Davis met in early 2010, with Baszler earning a unanimous decision win. Both fighters had their moments in the previous meeting, but this time, there is a lot more at stake. Not only are they helping to carry the all-women card, the winner will likely challenge for the promotion’s 135-pound title in the near future.

Each has been hot of late, with Baszler winning five of her last six and Davis claiming four of her last five. One of them will continue building momentum with a victory.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills matchup against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Baszler – 9, Davis – 10

Davis (L) connects with a right hand (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

If the first meeting was any indication, this fight won’t stay standing very long. Both fighters prefer the ground game, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to stand and trade.

Baszler actually has the edge in technique. Her Muay Thai skills have shown vast improvement over her last two outings under the Invicta banner, as she rocked Sara McMann and simply ran through Sarah D’Alelio. Although she has succumbed to strikes previously in her career, her defense has looked sharp over her last six bouts.

Davis, on the other hand, has also come a long a way in striking since the first fight. She stopped Brazilian powerhouse Amanda Nunes with strikes and came very close to stopping former Strikeforce champ Sarah Kaufman. Davis’ biggest weapon on the feet is her aggressiveness. She frequently closed the distance against Baszler in the first fight, which prevented Baszler from utilizing her superior technique.

Ground Game: Baszler – 10, Davis – 9

Baszler (L) chokes D'Alelio (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Without question, the most intriguing aspect of this match-up is in the submission department. The first fight was a chess match on the ground, as both fighters were able to put each other in bad positions.

Based purely on credentials and experience, Baszler has the advantage on the ground. With 14 of her 15 wins coming by submission—including her second-round rear-naked choke win over D’Alelio in her last bout—Baszler is always a threat on the mat. She put Davis in trouble in the first meeting with a kimura in the final round, but wasn’t able to finish the Canadian.

One of Davis’ biggest strengths on the ground is the fact that she’s never been finished. Of her six wins by tapout, her most recent win over Hitomi Akano is certainly the most impressive. The rear-naked choke win was the first time that Akano had ever been submitted. Davis was able to take Baszler’s back during their first fight, but like her opponent, she was unable to find a finish.

Wrestling: Baszler – 10, Davis – 9

Both fighters exhibited their ability to bring the fight to the ground in the first encounter, albeit via different methods. Baszler put her training with Josh Barnett to use, using superior positioning and trips to put Davis on her back. Once there, Baszler was able to implement her will from the top position.

Davis’ approach was much less refined, but proved to be just as effective. She used her size to bully Baszler against the fence and pressure her to the ground. Davis continued to utilize her size once on top, keeping Baszler from scrambling back to her feet.

X-Factor

Any time that two fighters face one another a second time, familiarity is a huge factor in the fight. Will Baszler’s improved stand-up keep Davis from forcing her into the clinch along the fence? Will Davis’ recent surge of finishes over top competition allow her to get revenge on the veteran?

Scorecard: Baszler – 29, Davis – 28

Verdict: The first fight was decided by whoever was able to get top position. Baszler’s craftiness was what gave her an edge in the first, and I expect it to serve her well in the rematch. Baszler again tops Davis by decision.

Top Photo: Shayna Baszler (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)