After a five-month absence that stretches back to July, Invicta Fighting Championships will return to action on Dec. 7 to host its seventh event from the Ameristar Casino in Kansas City, Mo.

The all-women’s promotion made its televised pay-per-view debut on July 13 with a card headlined by former Strikeforce champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, who was crowned the inaugural Invicta featherweight champion with a violent, fourth-round TKO win over Marloes Coenen.

With such a long layoff between events, it would seem logical that the promotion would look to build off the drawing power of Cyborg. However, the decision to top Invicta FC 7 with three title bouts void of the hard-hitting Brazilian is further proof that the promotion is committed to growing the sport beyond the consensus top-ranked fighter.

Certainly, current champions Barb Honchak (flyweight) and Carla Esparza (strawweight) and the two fighters tabbed for the promotion’s inaugural bantamweight title clash—Lauren Murphy (formerly Taylor) and Miriam Nakamoto—do not carry the same appeal to casual fans as the dominant featherweight champion, but finding a fighter to take on Cyborg is easier said than done.

When Cyborg dispatched of Coenen—for a second time in her career—she once again showcased the gap in talent between her and the rest of the 145-pound division. With Cyborg’s unwillingness (or inability) to drop to bantamweight, the dream match-up of Cyborg and UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey remains nothing but a fantasy for message boards and social media. As such, Invicta FC is doing the right thing by not force-feeding the Brazilian an opponent of lesser caliber and allowing her to overshadow the promotion’s other champions.

The featherweight division may not be the deepest weight class for the promotion (or the sport, for that matter) at this point in time, but throwing Julia Budd or Ediane Gomes into the fire with Cyborg on the same card as three other title fights does little to benefit the growth of the upstart promotion’s other divisions.

In fact, by giving Budd a bout with fellow Canadian Charmaine Tweet on the December card, Invicta is taking another step toward building Budd as a legitimate contender for Cyborg’s belt, provided she’s victorious. Should Budd fall short against her countrywoman, the Brazilian Gomes (and her four-fight winning streak) could be waiting in the wings to challenge for Cyborg’s featherweight strap at the promotion’s next event in 2014.

Even without Cyborg on Dec. 7, the scheduled title tripleheader is a very strong card.

Honchak’s first title defense against Leslie Smith has all the makings of a war and is certainly worthy of the event’s top billing. Although Honchak has yet to headline an Invicta event, her seven-fight winning streak and hard-nosed style have proven she is the top 125-pound female on the planet. Pairing her with the always-exciting Smith—who will make her second appearance at flyweight—is sure to deliver a “Fight of the Night” performance.

The night’s co-main event is set to reshape the 115-pound division’s landscape. With longtime top-ranked Megumi Fujii retiring earlier in the month, current champion Carla Esparza is looking to stake her claim as one of the division’s elite. However, her match-up with undefeated Brazilian Claudia Gadelha is likely to be her toughest test to date. While Esparza was able to use her wrestling game to top Australia’s Bec Hyatt in January and capture the belt, she faces a much more dangerous opponent in Gadelha. The Brazilian battered Ayaka Hamasaki in July, but also showcased a strong grappling game that could give the champion fits.

Finally, the Murphy-Nakamoto clash will establish the promotion as a legitimate alternative/path to the UFC for 135-pound fighters. Murphy has quickly gone from intriguing prospect to serious threat in the division inside the Invicta cage. Her wins over veterans Kaitlin Young and Sarah D’Alelio kept her unblemished record intact and proved she’s ready for a bigger challenge. Meanwhile, the world Muay Thai champion Nakamoto ran into controversy in her promotional debut that resulted in a no-contest against Jessamyn Duke. However, her follow-up performance against former boxer Duda Yankovich proved the Californian’s striking prowess is unmatched at 135 pounds.

All three fights will be shining examples of the talent currently signed with the promotion and prove that while Cyborg may be the closest thing to a household name Invicta has under contract, the promotion does not need the Brazilian to carry every event.

Photo: Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (Jeff Vulgamore/The MMA Corner)

  • The best woman in mix martial arts! That trash talking special Olympic retart stopped talking! Over there hiding in the ufc, Hollywood,loud mouth Olympic bimbo rousey, the world is waiting to see u fight the real champ! Step up talker! What you waiting for? Cris cyborg will turn that doll face into a Dalmatian! With you’re non striking monkey jumping stance.”you can’t beat the bad ass Cris Cyborg never have never will you lame ass loud mouth…..