Evolution, n. A gradual process in which something changes into a better form.

Twelve years and 26 professional bouts into her MMA career, 32-year-old Dutch fighter Marloes Coenen is still evolving. Whether it is through new techniques for the cage or selling herself outside of it, the “Golden Girl of Golden Glory” is willing to admit her past shortcomings and work to fix them.

Coenen will headline Invicta Fighting Championships 6 on Saturday, July 13, from the Ameristar Casino in Kansas City, Mo. The promotion’s featherweight title will be on the line when Coenen rematches Brazilian Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino live on pay-per-view. Cyborg defeated Coenen by third-round TKO under the Strikeforce banner in 2010.

“[I made] two big mistakes in that fight,” admitted Coenen in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I didn’t make weight; I had breakfast that morning. And I underestimated her strength.

Coenen (bottom) applies an armbar (Taro Irei/Sherdog)

“This time I have to make weight. For the first time ever, I did a real strength and conditioning program—a serious one. I’ve started seeing the results. I’ll come in bigger and stronger, and that will make a difference.”

The extra work on her body is sure to pay dividends for Coenen as she looks to counter Cyborg’s muscular frame. The 5-foot-9 Coenen has competed at bantamweight frequently over the course of her lengthy career, even winning the Strikeforce and ReMix titles along the way. But when Invicta came calling in April of last year, she opted to return to 145 pounds. Now she’s confident she has the tools to overcome her Brazilian foe, provided she can avoid one thing.

“The punches to the face!” she said with a laugh.

In preparation for the title fight, Coenen has done much more than worry about Cyborg’s devastating power. Although she has spent plenty of time at her usual camp of Golden Glory, she’s also utilized a bit of an unexpected approach.

“I’ve been training with my trainer Martijn [de Jong] and also at my own R-Grip gym in Amsterdam,” she explained. “[But for] the last weeks, I’ve stayed [with] my mom and dad in the east so I could totally focus.”

One of the most intriguing storylines entering the fight will be the fact that both fighters have been relatively inactive for the last 18 months, albeit for vastly different reasons. While Cyborg was suspended for an entire year for a positive steroid test following her final Strikeforce bout, Coenen has simply had trouble finding fights. Following Invicta’s inaugural event—where Coenen bested Romy Ruyssen by decision—she took on Australia’s Fiona Muxlow on New Year’s Eve in Japan.

“As I always do, I wanted to win by knockout,” the veteran said of the bout, which took place under the Dream banner. “But during the fight my trainer told me to take [Muxlow] down with the knees, because we had prepared for that. So I did and I ended up winning on an old-fashioned armbar.”

The win marked the 21st of Coenen’s career and the 15th via submission. With Cyborg’s only career loss coming by way of tapout, it may be the key to victory for the Dutchwoman on the 13th. Yet, Coenen’s first-round win over Muxlow was matched by Cyborg at Invicta’s April event. However, unlike Coenen’s slick submission, Cyborg utilized a much more vicious approach in her stoppage of the Aussie.

“[It was] exactly what she always does—come forward and destroy,” said Coenen of her opponent’s performance. “Good Cyborg-style.”

The knockout win for the Brazilian provided a perfect segue for the promotion’s inaugural title fight. But, despite all of Coenen’s accomplishments, many are still overlooking her and calling for a fight between Cyborg and UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.

Coenen (L) connects with a kick (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

“I don’t think Cyborg is overlooking me at all. If she does, it’ll be a big mistake,” said Coenen. “I am mentally strong and also physically now too. My techniques and overall game are better than hers.”

The bold declaration is a bit out of character for the mild-mannered Dutch native, but after more than a decade in the sport, she’s picked up a thing or two from her fellow fighters.

“I’ve learned that fighting is more than getting into the cage and fighting; the marketing is a big part of it,” she said. “As a professional fighter, you have to accept this and roll with it.”

So if Coenen plays spoiler and defeats Cyborg, could a fight with Rousey be on her agenda?

“I have no idea,” she quipped. “I’m happy with Invicta. They take female fighting serious by having more than just one weight class.

“[But] I have already said that I want to fight Ronda. I’m up for anything. I’m a fighter and I want to fight.”

Against Cyborg, Coenen will find out just how far she’s come in the last few years. If she’s evolved as much as she feels she has, she’ll be rewarded with Invicta gold.

Marloes would like to thank Tatsujin Dojo Deventer, R-Grip Amsterdam, Bas Rutten, Ron and her mom and dad. Follow her on Twitter: @MarloesCoenen

Top Photo: Marloes Coenen (James Law/MMA Fighting)