Comparing a MMA fight to the field of battle might be a bit extreme, especially because the sport is anything but life or death, but there are still similarities between the two forms of combat. Both require strategy, execution and, most importantly, the willingness to persevere when all hope is lost.

Through nine career fights, 33-year-old Barb Honchak has embodied this approach. With six of her professional melees going the distance, she knows firsthand that stepping into the cage involves both attrition and skill.

The flyweight has been tabbed to compete for Invicta’s inaugural 125-pound title against Brazilian Vanessa Porto on April 5. With both fighters at the top of their game, it’s a clash that is sure to be a firefight.

Honchak (Invicta FC)

“I’m super excited,” admitted Honchak in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “It’s a huge honor. Vanessa is a very game opponent. I think we’re going to have a battle.”

After watching Porto dismantle MMA pioneer Tara LaRosa in her last outing, the “Little Warrior” knows she’ll have to be more tactful when the cage door shuts in Kansas City, Mo.

“I have to check [Porto’s] kicks,” Honchak declared. “Tara wasn’t checking any of them nor reacting off of them. I have to change the range from which her kicks are coming. I need to react to them more than Tara did.”

It won’t just be reactions that Honchak plans on using to subdue her opponent. With neither fighter having experienced a full 25-minute fight thus far in their professional careers, controlling the pace and work rate will be a key to coming out on top.

“I’ll be coming in with my conditioning primed, so I’m ready to go five rounds,” explained the Miletich Fighting Systems fighter. “I have no idea what her cardio and longevity is going to be, but I will be as strong in the fifth round as I am in the first round. If she doesn’t have the endurance, I will have the advantage in the later rounds.”

While Honchak is no stranger to the scorecards, Porto’s fracas with LaRosa—her first at 125 pounds—marked the first time she had gone the distance in more than five years. Yet the Brazilian showed no signs of weakness in her new division.

“I think she’s going to be very strong,” said Honchak. “I think she’ll be stronger than the average 125-pounder. Coming down in weight gives her that advantage. I think she’s more dangerous at 125 than 135.”

Honchak has more to worry about than just Porto’s strength. Like a well thought-out military offensive, the Brazilian can deliver missiles on the feet and strangle her opponents at will on the mat—as her 10 submission wins might suggest. But after switching from Steve Berger MMA in St. Louis to Pat Miletich’s camp in Iowa, Honchak believes she has tools to counterattack.

“Vanessa has skill both with her hands and on the ground. She’s going to be a tough fight, no doubt about it,” stated Honchak.

“[But] I’m not too worried if it goes to the ground. I feel like I can handle myself there.”

Whether Porto chooses to employ a strategy of ground fighting or stand-up warfare, the change in camps—which occurred just before Honchak’s Invicta debut last summer—has the American confident in her abilities.

Honchak (top) stops her opponent (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

“It’s a big difference,” revealed the fighter. “My previous camp was very much about wrestling and grappling, so I developed a good ground game and wrestling control. Pat’s gym has wonderful wrestling and grappling as well, but my head coach, Junior Hernandez, has a strong boxing background and is a phenomenal stand-up fighter. I feel like I’ve picked up a lot from him. I had to improve to last through sparring nights. I think it helped round me out.”

It’s not just the physical tools of combat that Honchak plans to bring with her when she returns to the Invicta cage. Like so many four-star generals, the fighter has shored up the holes in her defense and will again be prepared to execute a flawless game plan. After all, it’s led her to victory in six straight confrontations.

“I think the biggest key is that I haven’t come out every fight looking the same,” explained Honchak. “I’ve made changes for every fight. When I go back and look at my previous fights and I see spots where I could have improved, that’s where I focus.

“I look at tapes, so I assume my opponents are doing the same thing and looking at my weaknesses. I try to get rid of those weaknesses. I think that’s my key.”

As the two forces inch ever closer to engaging each other, the upcoming skirmish has all the makings of yet another memorable Invicta moment. And if Honchak has learned anything strategizing for the encounter, don’t expect a one-sided affair.

“We share a lot of similarities. We both have a ton of heart and are really tough people. I really expect this fight to be a battle,” she reiterated.

“We both want that title pretty badly, but I don’t think either one of us is willing to give up anything. I expect an all-out war.”

Barb would like to thank all of her coaches and teammates at her gym Miletich Fighting Systems, especially Junior Hernandez, her manager Brett Atchley with Addison Sports Management, Josh Hewett of BPS Conditioning, Steve Berger MMA and all of her sponsors. Follow Honchak on Twitter: @BarbHonchak