Editor’s Note: This award was open to all promotions except the UFC.

Cyborg. The Little Warrior. The Cookie Monster. The Karate Hottie.

A slew of nicknames, but four fighters—along with the moniker-less Lauren Murphy—earned gold around their waists in 2013 under the Invicta Fighting Championships banner. Together, they helped cap off a monster year for the all-women’s promotion.

It was “The Cookie Monster” Carla Esparza who kicked off the year, using her wrestling to capture the promotion’s inaugural strawweight belt against Bec Hyatt. Later in the year, Esparza and Hyatt would join nine additional 115-pound fighters from the Invicta roster in a move to the UFC. The news proved that although Invicta is still a young promotion, it has become a launching pad for women to become superstars in MMA.

But Esparza’s win was just the beginning of an exciting year. In April, it was “The Karate Hottie” Michelle Waterson who made headlines by submitting the promotion’s first atomweight champ, Jessica Penne, with a fourth-round armbar. Also on the Invicta FC 5 card, “The Little Warrior” Barb Honchak earned her belt, outworking Brazilian Vanessa Porto to claim flyweight gold.

Then came the biggest event of the year, as former Strikeforce champions Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino and Marloes Coenen collided with the featherweight title on the line. The Brazilian Cyborg stated her case as the best women’s fighter on the planet with her fourth-round TKO over the Dutchwoman, live on pay-per-view.

The promotion faced a significant amount of adversity in the year’s second half, as Invicta President Shannon Knapp announced a messy divorce from business partner and matchmaker Janet Martin. However, the upstart promotion showed its resolve, returning after a five-month absence in December with a championship doubleheader.

Invicta handed out its fifth and final inaugural title as bantamweight Lauren Murphy topped Miriam Nakamoto after Nakamoto injured her knee in the fourth round. Also on the card, Honchak cemented her title reign with a dominant performance against Leslie Smith.

So, what will 2014 bring for Invicta? Only time will tell. Knapp recently revealed that longtime MMA veteran and Invicta color commentator Julie Kedzie would step into Martin’s former role of matchmaker. The promotion is still working to secure a broadcast deal, and despite the adversity it faced in 2013, the promotion can only continue its growth and march toward bringing women’s MMA to the mainstream

Honorable Mention: ONE FC, World Series of Fighting
The MMA Corner’s 2013 Awards were selected by our staff of writers and photographers. Unless noted otherwise, the nominations were open to all fighters, promotions and events that took place during 2013.