At this point in time, Invicta Fighting Championships does not have a 135-pound bantamweight champion. However, the co-main event of the promotion’s fourth effort on Jan. 5 could go a long way in determining one of the challengers for the inaugural belt when veteran Shayna Baszler rematches Alexis Davis.

After more than a year-and-a-half layoff from the sport due to circumstances beyond her control, Baszler returned to the cage in 2012 and reminded everyone she’s still a force to be reckoned with. A narrow decision loss to Sara McMann in July left Baszler hungry for a win—and a finish—which the submission ace found via rear-naked choke against Sarah D’Alelio in October.

“[The fight] with D’Alelio was easier than I expected because she’s scrappy and tough,” Baszler recounted in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “As soon as that first jab landed, I knew I was in the groove.

Baszler (R) delivers a right hand (Esther Lin/Invicta FC)

“It was nice to get a finish. I always try to avoid the scorecards, but I came in with a little more fury in wanting to finish the fight because of what happened against McMann.”

Now, as Baszler turns her attention to the rematch with Davis, she’s hopeful this is the fight that will earn her a title shot—and possibly revenge against McMann.

“If I keep winning, I keep getting closer, that’s all I know,” said Baszler. “They keep talking about 135 [pounds] being one of the next classes they want to do a title at, so if I keep winning, I have to be up there. Invicta hasn’t officially said anything, but the implications are obviously there.”

Having won five of her last six fights, it’s easy to see why Baszler is confident that a title shot is within her reach. One of those wins came against her current opponent in March of 2010, but the 32-year-old doesn’t think there will be many similarities between this fight and her first encounter with Davis.

“That fight happened on short notice, so I think just the fact that both of us are actually preparing for one another is going to change the whole landscape of the fight,” Baszler said. “There’s a few factors that are going to make this fight different. That fight was two years ago, and I think we’ve both changed enough that there’s not too much to look at from the first fight.”

Baszler walked away from the first fight with a unanimous decision win, winning the first and third rounds of a fight that largely took place on the ground. Even with the win already on her resume, she still feels she has something to prove against Davis.

Shayna Baszler has her arm raised in victory (Esther Lin/Invicta FC)

“I didn’t finish her in the first fight, so she’s had all this time to sit and talk about how the decision was so close and she could’ve won,” explained the veteran. “I want to put a stamp on all that and end that nonsensical talk.”

In the first meeting between the two, Davis came out aggressively and attempted to bully Baszler around the cage, but Baszler’s wrestling and grappling skills were able to neutralize the Canadian’s game plan. This time around the South Dakotan is determined to showcase her evolution as a fighter and implement her will on Davis.

“I think I’m night and day different from that first fight. I think I’ve changed a lot more in the way I fight than she has. Mentally, I’m not even the same person in the cage. I don’t know what it is, probably because I’m old and crotchety, but I’m a lot more comfortable in the cage than I’ve ever been,” said Baszler.

“I have to be the one that dictates where the fight takes place. That’s one of the things that has changed about me mentally—I’m a lot more proactive about where I want the fight to be. Before, I had the mindset that I didn’t care where the fight went.

“Whoever is more proactive about taking the fight where they want it to be is going to be a big determining factor in this fight.”

With nearly all 15 minutes of the first fight taking place on the mat, Baszler’s experience is telling her that the rematch of the highly-decorated grapplers is going to be different, but the fight will once again find its way to the ground eventually.

Baszler (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

“A lot of times when two ground fighters face each other it turns into a stand-up match,” Baszler said with a laugh. “You’re going to see more stand-up than the first time we fought because neither of us is afraid to stand and throw down. And there’s going to be some clinch work, especially with her reckless-abandon style.

“But I still feel like one way or another that it’s going to go to the ground. We are two of the best ground fighters in the game; that’s where both of us like to be. I just don’t think we’ll be in a hurry to get it there.”

A second win over Davis may earn Baszler a crack at Invicta gold, or now that the UFC has added the 135-pound weight division, an even bigger opportunity. As one of Baszler’s past stomping grounds, Strikeforce, prepares to close its doors, the veteran is just happy to have a place to compete and challenge herself.

“Wherever the best girls are, that’s where fights are going to happen and that’s where I want to be,” quipped Baszler. “Even when Zuffa bought Strikeforce, I said there will always be a place for women to fight. Nobody saw the UFC creating a division or Invicta forming back then. It’s just a matter of where. That’s still the way I see it.”

No matter what the future might hold for Baszler, she only has one thing to worry about right now: finishing Alexis Davis.

Shayna would like to thank her training partners at Next Edge Academy, Josh Barnett and CSW, Matt Miller and Horsepower Strength and Conditioning, Punch Drunk Gamer, Joseph Taverni and the Sioux Falls Roller Dollz. Follow her on Twitter: @QoSBaszler

Top Photo: Shayna Baszler (Esther Lin/Invicta FC)