In the wild, there are the hunters and the prey. It’s a game of survival, where the fittest animals live to see another day and the rest, well, they get slaughtered.

Mixed martial arts is not much different. Every fighter fancies themselves as the hunter, but inevitably some turn out to be the prey. The winner feasts at the loser’s expense. And thus far, there’s one “Killer Bunny” who has feasted mightily.

The origins of strawweight fighter Katja Kankaanpää’s nickname are well documented, but the vicious imagery that the moniker brings to mind is also reflected in her resume. Kankaanpää has not lost a fight through nine outings. Her relentless, grinding approach has carried her to eight wins, including a unanimous decision victory in her Invicta debut against Juliana Carneiro Lima. The win marked her fifth fight to go the distance.

Kankaanpää (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Kankaanpää (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

“I think I should’ve tried to end that fight more actively and be a bit precise [on the] ground,” Kankaanpää told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “I knew that I won the first two rounds, so I was trying to take as little risks as possible at the third round. I would have liked to end that fight before full time, but it went well, like in the game plan.”

With her hand raised in that affair, Kankaanpää has seen the scorecards five straight times. The competition during that stretch was not easy. She met Karla Benitez at Cage 16, Mei Yamaguchi in the headliner of Botnia Punishment 11, Simona Soukupova at Botnia Punishment 12, Aisling Daly at Cage Warriors 51 and then Lima at Invicta’s fifth show. She won four fights, but couldn’t top Soukupova. That fight ended in a draw. Things don’t get any easier when she returns to the cage.

On Dec. 7 at Invicta FC 7 in Kansas City, Mo., the Finnish Kankaanpää will collide with Scottish striker Joanne Calderwood, who maintains an unblemished record of her own through seven fights.

“She is very experienced stand-up fighter and can use opponents’ mistakes to her benefit,” the 32-year-old Kankaanpää explained. “I have trained a lot with stand-up fighters and got a lot of confidence to my boxing, so you’ll see in the fight how I stack against her. Even though she is [a] more experienced stand-up fighter, I’m not gonna just back up.”

The aforementioned opponents that Kankaanpää has met and defeated in mixed martial arts action stack up nicely compared to Calderwood’s opponents. The Scottish fighter has three wins under the Invicta banner and recently defeated Sally Krumdiack in the Cage Warriors cage, but the caliber of her opponents has varied greatly in contrast to Kankaanpää’s consistent stream of highly regarded foes.

“I have fought against tough girls, and that gives me a lot of confidence and maybe a little bit [of an] advantage too,” Kankaanpää said. “Still, should remember that Calderwood has a long career in Muay Thai and has fought against tough opponents there. I [am not] underestimating her experience.”

In the wild, animals have adapted and evolved in order to survive. They have their own unique defenses, often developed to counter the threats that nature presents. In a way, fighters do the same. They observe their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and adjust their own style and strategy accordingly. Kankaanpää knows where Calderwood’s greatest strength lies.

“Stand-up fighting,” she explained. “I have to watch out [for] her knees and elbows. I think if I just keep it in my game plan, I can minimize her strengths.

Kankaanpaa (Jeff Vulgamore/The MMA Corner)

Kankaanpää (Jeff Vulgamore/The MMA Corner)

“I’m in good condition and can keep a good pace through all three rounds, so if the fight goes all the way, I think it will be for my benefit.”

Kankaanpää and Calderwood are vying for a spot further up the food chain in the strawweight division. As a pair of undefeated prospects, they could even be on the verge of earning a title shot.

“I’m only concentrating [on] this fight at the moment and haven’t thought about the future,” Kankaanpää admitted. “I’m sure that after this fight, future plans will be more clear.”

Those plans could soon potentially include the UFC. President Dana White announced the UFC’s intent to add a 115-pound women’s division, and Invicta’s roster of strawweights is widely viewed as the pool from which the promotion will draw its talent. Where does Kankaanpää fit into all of this?

“I have concentrated [on] my upcoming fight, so I haven’t thought about UFC much, so my feeling[s] are pretty neutral,” she revealed. “If the opportunity comes to fight at UFC, I think it would be cool.”

In the immediate future, Invicta’s strawweight title may be the next stop for the native of Finland. That belt currently resides around the waist of Carla Esparza, but Esparza will put it on the line on Dec. 7 against Claudia Gadelha.

“I believe that the fight will be [decided on] the ground,” Kankaanpää said. “Both are very skilled fighters, but if I have to say who wins, I think it’s gonna be Gadelha. It would be interesting to fight either one.”

Though she may not outright admit it, Kankaanpää is already preparing for another hunt. This bunny is no prey. She’s the predator.

Katja would like to thank her team, manager, coaches and training partners. She would also like to thank her family, friends and sponsors (Lapuan Piristeel Oy, Manninen Nutraceuticals, Puhdistamo, Fairtex, Aquaplast, PPT-Peltiteos Oy, MyShot, Fight Sport, Studio Street, SJK, Top Level, GapCon). Follow Kankaanpää on Twitter: @KillerBunny_MMA