The fight had drawn to a close. Both combatants stood waiting for the scores to be read. Simona Soukupova had been here before. Twice before, to be exact. And the result had not favored her. She had been met with disappointment on both occasions via a unanimous decision awarded in the favor of her opponent. Could she snap that trend?

The verdict: a split draw.

It wasn’t a loss this time, but it wasn’t a win either. She had failed to convince the judges that she had done enough to earn the nod over opponent Katja Kankaanpaa. This came less than a month and a half after her decision loss to Felice Herrig, which came a year after her other decision loss to Karla Benitez. Soukupova was fighting stellar competition for someone who could still count all her professional MMA bouts on the fingers of one hand. And she was surviving for the duration. But she wasn’t winning.

Soukupova (R) battles for position (MyShot.fi)

“I was frustrated,” Soukupova admitted in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “As well as I see it as an honor that I had a chance to face those opponents. I know I could have won. It was a priceless experience. I have learnt and will not make the same mistakes again.”

Those experiences have led to the only negative marks on her record. In six pro fights, she has scored three stoppage wins, but has come up short all three times the fight went to the scorecards. Fighters don’t like to lose, and draws are no better. But such experiences can help a fighter to grow.

“I have learnt to mix [different] martial arts when I compete and not to get beaten again,” the UK-based fighter said.

Soukupova has been fighting professionally for just over three years now. As is the case with many mixed martial artists, she found her way to the sport after first concentrating on a single martial art.

“I started to do Muay Thai kickboxing first, and then I added jiu-jitsu and wrestling,” Soukupova explained. “It brought me to MMA. I love doing MMA, as it allows you to combine martial arts when you compete. The less rules the better. I feel comfortable to have more options when competing. I love MMA. It makes me happy to do training, and that is why I am interested in MMA.”

Her pro debut came in March 2010 under the Kayo MMA banner. Soukupova forced a corner stoppage to take the TKO victory over Lisa Newton. She returned to the cage in November of that year and notched another TKO, this time defeating Celine Haga at an East Coast Fight Factory show. Those convincing wins led to attention for the KO Gym product from promoters outside of the United Kingdom.

Soukupova (standing) (MyShot.fi)

She received an offer to compete in Spain for the Hombres de Honor promotion. That’s when she got her first taste of defeat, dropping the decision to Benitez. Then the Florida-based Xtreme Fighting Championships organization came calling, and what followed was her defeat at the hands of Herrig.

A trip to Finland and the Botnia Punishment organization resulted in the split draw versus Kankaanpaa. Soukupova only returned to the win column when she made her way back to the Kayo MMA promotion and fought Elodie Puget in November 2012. The result was a first-round armbar submission.

“I clearly won my fights in England. You have to do something significant to win abroad,” said Soukupova.

If that’s truly the case, then Soukupova needs to be ready to do something significant. On April 5, she ventures outside of England once again. This time, it’s a trip to Kansas City, Mo., and a fight under the Invicta FC banner.

“I am really excited to take part in a well-known female show in the U.S.,” Soukupova admitted. “It is a big step in my fighting career, and I am so happy I am going to be there.”

The opportunity arose just a few short weeks ago. Nicdali Rivera-Calanoc was preparing for an atomweight bout against Cassie Rodish on the preliminary card of Invicta FC 5 when she sustained a back injury. With Rivera-Calanoc out, Soukupova stepped in on approximately three weeks’ notice. That leaves Rodish with a new opponent to worry about.

“I do not want to analyze Cassie’s previous opponent. I am a different fighter. What I am going to bring to the cage will not disappoint you,” Soukupova stated.

What Soukupova brings to the cage is dangerous striking complemented by an ever-improving grappling game. She also finds herself fighting as an atomweight, whereas her previous outings took place at strawweight.

Soukupova (L) works for an armbar (MyShot.fi)

“I had no problems to get to 115 pounds, as this weight is very close to my actual weight,” she explained. “I took fights at 115 pounds because of lack of lighter weight opponents. I would prefer fighting at 110 pounds, but this category does not really exist in the U.S., does it?”

Indeed, it doesn’t. However, fighting at an even lighter weight should give Soukupova a bit more of a size advantage. She’ll need all the edge she can get against Rodish, an opponent with a deceptive record. Rodish is just 4-3 overall, but the Iowa-based fighter has picked up four straight wins heading into this encounter. With two wins by TKO and two by submission, Rodish has the ability to finish a fight wherever it may go. So, is there one area of Rodish’s game that especially worries Soukupova?

“I am not concerned,” Soukupova confessed. “I believe in myself and my skills.”

Her skills have brought her this far, but can they carry her to victory on April 5?

When the cage door slams shut, the primary thought in Soukupova’s head will be on mixing up her skills and finding a way to stop Rodish within the allotted time. Because if there’s one thing Soukupova hopes to do, it’s to avoid having the judges deny her of a career-defining win on Friday night.

Simona would like to thank her coach, James Duncalf, and her great female team that makes her work hard and everyone who supports her at the gym. She would also like to thank Slade Bittler for believing in her.

Top Photo: Simona Soukupova (XFC)