Following every UFC and Invicta FC event, The MMA Corner will break down the event and suggest fights the promotion should make in the future. This week, our focus is on Invicta Fighting Championships 6, which took place on July 13 from the Ameristar Casino Hotel in Kansas City, Mo.

Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino vs. Ediane Gomes

Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino proved that she hasn’t missed a beat by ending Marloes Coenen’s night with a TKO. The win earned Cyborg the promotion’s 145-pound title, but it leaves her with a mostly barren field of contenders. However, there is one name that stands out as Cyborg’s next challenger, and it’s the same someone that was initially expected to welcome Cyborg to the promotion, before injury got in the way: Ediane Gomes.

Gomes has long been considered among the top featherweight fighters in the world, but she has been faced with one problem after another under the Invicta banner. After being forced off the Invicta FC 5 card with an injury, Gomes was slated to fight Julia Budd at Saturday’s event. However, Budd withdrew with an injury and was replaced by Charmaine Tweet. Tweet failed to gain entry into the United States and was replaced on fight week by Tamikka Brents and the bout was changed to a catchweight affair. Then, Brents withdrew within hours of the fight with an injury of her own, leaving Gomes off the card entirely.

At this point, there are only two logical options for Gomes: have her fight Budd or give her a title shot. Although the Budd match-up made sense when Cyborg was pitted against Coenen, it’s no longer such a crucial bout to make. Cyborg needs a challenger, and Gomes, who is 2-0 under the Invicta banner, is already thoroughly qualified to take on that role.

After the ink dries on these contracts, the only thing to do is to keep our fingers crossed that neither fighter gets injured in the lead-up to the fight.

Claudia Gadelha vs. Carla Esparza

It’s somewhat odd to think that Claudia Gadelha was making her Invicta debut at Invicta FC 6. After all, the Brazilian has been linked to top contender and title fight match-ups within the promotion for some time now. However, it wasn’t until Saturday night that Gadelha had her chance to demonstrate her skill set in front of Invicta fans. The undefeated fighter did a superb job, too, in dominating Jewels strawweight champion Ayaka Hamasaki.

It was made clear that Gadelha’s fight with Hamasaki would determine a new challenger for Invicta 115-pound champ Carla Esparza, who was originally slated to meet Hamasaki on the card before withdrawing with an injury. Gadelha has now locked up her shot at Invicta gold. The 24-year-old is now 11-0, but the win over Hamasaki bolstered that resume tremendously by showing that Gadelha can hang with the division’s elite. The Brazilian was especially strong and was able to score takedowns effectively. On the mat, her grappling and ground-and-pound attack were impressive, and she left little room for Hamasaki to escape or mount an offense from the bottom.

Esparza is a strong wrestler and mixes in jiu-jitsu and striking in an effective manner. However, she has lost once via submission. She’ll be an even tougher test for Gadelha, but it is a test the Brazilian has earned the right to take.

Jessica Penne vs. Michelle Waterson

Although Nicdali Rivera-Calanoc held her own with Jessica Penne in the striking department, a whole new fight emerged once Penne took Rivera-Calanoc to the ground. In Penne’s world, “The Night Queen” was out of her league and was forced to succumb to a rear-naked choke just seconds before the end of round one. The win was a nice way for Penne to rebound after dropping her atomweight crown to Michelle Waterson, and it could even be enough to earn Penne a rematch with the champ.

Penne engaged Waterson in an intriguing battle for more than three rounds before Waterson locked in a fight-ending armbar. Waterson nailed down the blueprint to defeating Penne, but the Bellator veteran was never out of the affair until Waterson snagged her arm. A few tweaks to her strategy could be enough to give Penne the upper hand in a second go-around.

The landscape at atomweight is such that a Penne rematch with Waterson is not that far-fetched. Outside of Penne, Waterson’s list of potential challengers begins with Simona Soukupova, who could still use a fight or two to solidify her standing in the division before challenging for gold, and Lisa Ellis, who is 1-3 over her last four outings. Unless Invicta can land Seo Hee Ham, who is fresh off a win over Naho Sugiyama, in its talent-sharing relationship with Jewels, Penne stands as the only legitimate and established threat at 105 pounds for Waterson.

Leslie Smith vs. Barb Honchak

Anytime Leslie Smith steps into the Invicta cage, viewers at home could not be blamed for checking to see if they accidentally started up a fighting video game. Her performances have become regular contenders for “Fight of the Night” or even “Fight of the Year.” With a solid track record at bantamweight, where she was arguably the victim of a bad decision versus Sarah Kaufman, Smith entered her Invicta FC 6 fight with Jennifer Maia as an immediate contender in the flyweight division.

As had become customary for Smith, the fight including a number of wild exchanges on the feet. Smith got the better of those exchanges and out-worked Maia throughout the three-round war to earn a unanimous decision. As a crowd favorite and a top contender in her previous 135-pound weight class, Smith’s win over Maia earned her a slot opposite Invicta flyweight champion Barb Honchak.

After losing two out of her first three pro bouts, Honchak has rebounded with seven straight wins, including three under the Invicta banner. She impressed in her bout with Vanessa Porto for the inaugural flyweight championship. Honchak’s skill set led her to the title, but she is not a powerful striker and has only scored one TKO victory. Smith’s aggressive style can be overwhelming, and Honchak will have her hands full in overcoming the barrage.

With Smith’s penchant for exciting fights, what better way for Invicta to capitalize than to have her vie for a title belt.

Joanne Calderwood vs. Mizuki Inoue

Invicta FC 6 was heavy on 115-pound fights, and many of them involved top contenders. Two such match-ups were Joanne Calderwood vs. Norma Rueda Center and Mizuki Inoue vs. Bec Hyatt. Calderwood edged the surprisingly tough Center on the scorecards, and Inoue did the same against Hyatt. With Gadelha advancing to fight Esparza, Calderwood and Inoue are left as the next two in line and therefore they should meet to decide who gets the next crack at gold.

At 18, Inoue is still extremely young and that youth has led to plenty of doubters. However, other than a loss to Hamasaki earlier in her career, the Japanese striker has won all of her bouts. She handled the long trip from Japan better than many of her peers tend to do, and she displayed a unique and aggressive striking attack against Hyatt. The other intriguing match-up for Inoue would be a rematch with Hamasaki, but that’s one fight that Jewels is more likely to keep for its own event lineup. On this side of the Pacific, Inoue is more likely to see someone like Calderwood.

Calderwood is considered to be among the best female strikers in MMA, but Inoue could give her a run for her money. There’s hardly a more exciting fight to make than one that pits two high-level strikers against each other. With Calderwood struggling at times against Center’s wrestling, Inoue, who showed some takedown ability and has won the majority of her fights by submission, also makes for an interesting challenge for the Scottish contender.

Tecia Torres vs. Bec Hyatt

Exiting Invicta’s last event, a bout between Tecia Torres and Rose Namajunas was as compelling as it gets. Both sported 2-0 records and featured skill sets that hinted at the potential for an exciting bout. At Invicta FC 6, they didn’t disappoint. The two engaged in a close contest for the full 15 minutes, with Torres earning the judges’ nod at the end of the fight.

This is where Torres’ slow development within Invicta could come to an end. She has impressed in her three outings with the promotion and holds a 7-0 record as an amateur. To pit her against a 2-1 or 1-0 strawweight at this point seems like a step backward for the American Top Team fighter.

Bec Hyatt lost her fight to Mizuki Inoue at Invicta FC 6, but the Australian fighter has challenged for Invicta’s strawweight title and has demonstrated profound improvement since first stepping into the Invicta cage. Although she couldn’t get past Inoue, Hyatt is now firmly established as legitimate 115-pounder and could be considered a gatekeeper. She only possesses a 5-3 mark as a pro, but her experience and skill level make her a tough task for any opponent.

This could be the next big test for Torres. She advanced past Namajunas, a fellow rising prospect with finishing abilities, and needs to continue to move forward within the division. Her grinding style could cause problems for Hyatt, whereas Hyatt’s length and aggressiveness could cause Torres difficulties of her own. Both ladies have become immensely popular with the Invicta fan base and a fight between the two makes sense. A win for Hyatt could put her back on track towards title contention, and a win for Torres could catapult her into the fray for a title shot.

Lauren Taylor vs. Miriam Nakamoto

The easiest forecast for a winner in an Invicta bantamweight encounter is to suggest that they will get an invite from the UFC. There are only a handful of 135-pound fighters in Invicta at the moment, and two of them picked up victories at Invicta FC 6. Lauren Taylor edged Sarah D’Alelio in a close-fought decision and Miriam Nakamoto destroyed Duda Yankovich via first-round TKO.

Assuming neither fighter gets a call from the UFC, it only seems logical to match the two up inside the Invicta cage. Taylor’s ground-and-pound attack and top control led her to five victories by some form of knockout, but she has had to settle for decision wins in her two Invicta outings. Meanwhile, Nakamoto, a highly decorated Muay Thai practitioner, has used her vicious striking base to annhilate opponents.

With few alternate options, a bout between these two seems imminent. Nakamoto needs to prove that she can keep a fight standing against someone with the grappling abilities of Taylor, and Taylor needs to prove that she can withstand the onslaught of a powerful striker. The UFC will probably call dibs on the winner.

Photo: Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos is crowned the Invicta featherweight champion (Jeff Vulgamore/The MMA Corner)

  • so, let me get this straight. The only two options for cyborg to fight are Julia Budd, whom ronda rousey gruesomely arm-barred (in 39 seconds?), and, ediane gomes, whom ronda rousey arm-barred in 25 seconds. This is the competition for cris cyborg?

    No cat zingano? No Sarah Kaufman? No Meisha Tate? No Liz Carmouche? No Jessica Eye? No wonder cyborg is fighting in Invicta…there’s no competition!

    It’s a crock that cyborg is going to be having title fights against basically mop-up girls of ronda rousey. If this is the best of 145 in Invicta, then they should just cancel this weight division!

    • Bryan Henderson, Editor-in-Chief

      The pickings are pretty slim at 145, no doubt. I think Gomes is better than the Rousey fight would lead us to believe and that a fight between her and Cyborg would be a great match-up, but once that fight is out of the way, I don’t think either lady has much left in the way of opponents.

      As for the list of UFC ladies that you provided, they all fight at 135 (and Eye really belongs a weight class lower), so Cyborg would have to be able to make weight first. She struggled to make 145 for her last bout, so I have my doubts about her tipping the scales at 135. Plus, some of those women haven’t fared much better against Rousey either. Still, I agree – Cyborg’s best competition after Gomes will be in the UFC. It’s not because of Invicta’s failings though, but rather because 145 is just too shallow of a talent pool regardless of promotion.

      • thanks for the response Bryan, but honestly, do you really think cyborg is going to go back to the ufc? She already bolted the UFC once rather than fight ronda, and she did so all the while lying (along with her manager ortiz) to the entire MMA world about why she couldn’t make that fight – claiming that she couldn’t get down to 135 without endangering herseelf, and so they lobbied for ronda to just agree to fight at a catchweight. and when ronda wouldn’t agree to that, they bolted the UFC, making it seem as if ronda was the reason the fight didn’t happen.

        Then, a few months later, the truth comes out. It had nothing to do with not being able to make weight; rather, it was all about money and billing, and when they (cyborg and ortiz) wouldn’t get the same money and billing as rousey, they bolted. So now she’s a cheater AND a liar?

        There are many people that think the real reason cyborg bolted was because the UFC’s testing is much more rigid. A lot of people think cyborg was juiced for coenen 2, and, a lot of people think much of ortiz’s career was predicated on constantly juicing and evading the testing!

        The UFC was prepared to do everything necessary to help cyborg get safely down to 135. And yet, they ran from that fight with ronda anyway.

        Ronda’s position is a very wise one, forcing cyborg to fight at a weight where juicing would be a disadvantage to her (cyborg), thus, forcing her to fight the fight “clean” Given all of this, do you really think cyborg would try to move to the UFC, and, do you really think that the UFC would want her?

        • Bryan Henderson, Editor-in-Chief

          I think anything is possible when money is on the line. Once Cyborg builds up momentum in Invicta and Rousey wins another couple of fights, Rousey vs Cyborg will have the highest grossing potential of any possible match-up. Because of that, yes, if Cyborg can make 135 (or Rousey and the UFC cave to a catchweight bout or a featherweight contest) then she will be in the UFC sooner or later.

  • BTW – I watched that fight in it’s entirety between leslie smith and sarah kaufman. There was no question that sarah kaufman won 2 of those 3 rounds, and while i do think that smith won one round, even that round was close. Why do you and other media types keep talking about a bad decision in that fight, when kaufman clearly won two of the three rounds?

    • Bryan Henderson, Editor-in-Chief

      I don’t agree with you that Kaufman clearly won two of the rounds. I scored the fight in Smith’s favor and I really do believe she did enough to win at least two rounds.

      • well bryan, you forced me to watch the fight again, which i just finished doing. And now i’ve got to say, you couldn’t have been scoring that fight!

        Round 1 – sarah kaufmnan landed twice as many strikes as did leslie smith. As far as quality, the number of significant strikes in the round were even. I scored it 10-9 without question for kaufman. The announcers, and the ringside media, did the same.

        Round 2 – Sarah kaufman actually dominated the strikes in this round as well, including finishing the round with 3 consecutive hard strikes, unanswered. However, leslie smith did land a head kick during the round putting kaufman down. In addition, she stood in a dominant position while kaufman was grounded, and did land some punches, though nothing significant. still, i scored the round 10-9 for smith. The announcers of the fight, and the ringside media scorers did the same.

        round 3 – Once again, sarah kaufman dominated the strikes. She not only landed twice as many strikes, but she also dominated the significant strikes, landing many hard, sharp punches to smith’s head. Leslie did have a couple of nice kicks in the round. The only take-down in the 3rd round was done by kaufman, but no damage was done from it, and they soon stood back up. never-the-less, kaufman dominated the punching in the round both in number and in quality. There was no question in my mind that kaufman won this round, 10-9.

        In watching the disparity of landed punches in rounds 1 & 3, and the quality of punches as well, i don’t see how this fight could have been fairly scored any other way.

        BTW – the announcers scored the 3rd round as i had, as did the ring-side media, and, most importantly, the judges. I cannot understand how someone could make the claim that this was a highly disputed decision. Kaufman’s punching advantages in rounds 1 & 3 was so significant, that it would have been an outrage for those rounds to be scored any other way.

        my two cents…

        • Bryan Henderson, Editor-in-Chief

          I went back and watched it as well. I definitely grant Kaufman round 3, and round 2 is clearly Smith’s. Round 1 was a close one…Kedzie admitted she might be biased in picking Kaufman and then I believe it was Kedzie that also said that it could have gone either way (she said it while Ranallo was talking). I scored that round for Smith. I’m not the only one, either. Looking back at MMA Rising’s play-by-play of the bout, Robert also scored it in Smith’s favor while granting that it was a close round.

          I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.