Following every UFC and Invicta FC event, The MMA Corner will break down the event and suggest fights the promotion should make in the future. This week, our focus is on Invicta Fighting Championships 5, which took place on April 5 from the Amerista Casino in Kansas City, Mo.

Michelle Waterson vs. Kikuyo Ishikawa

Michelle Waterson displayed surprising strength and a stellar ground game in submitting Jessica Penne to capture the Invicta atomweight championship in the evening’s headlining bout.

A strong argument could be made for an immediate rematch between Waterson and Penne. The two delivered in an entertaining fight that was contested primarily on the ground. However, Penne may have to win another fight to get back to a championship match-up.

The atomweight title picture is somewhat unclear at the moment. Cassie Rodish, who would have been a logical challenger, suffered a submission loss to Simona Soukupova earlier in the evening. Soukupova could use one or two more wins under the Invicta banner to establish her worthiness for a title shot. Meanwhile, Naho Sugiyama just lost to Celine Haga, which drops her a notch on the contender’s ladder.

That leaves Invicta with few options. It could rush Alex Chambers into a title fight, following her win over Jodie Esquibel at the event, do the same with Soukupova or look outside of the promotion for a contender. That last option provides the best answer: longtime Jewels veteran Kikuyo Ishikawa.

Ishikawa is 6-1 over her last seven fights, with the only loss coming against Sugiyama. The 28-year-old has won three fights by submission, but has gone the distance in her other outings. In comparison to the less-experienced rising stars that Invicta should groom as possible challengers, Ishikawa would be a tough adversary for Waterson to finish and she has the experience necessary to pose a bigger threat for Waterson right now.

Barb Honchak vs. Tonya Evinger

The table was set for the next title bout in the flyweight division. On one end would be the winner of the flyweight championship tilt between Barb Honchak and Vanessa Porto. And on the other side of the cage would be former Bellator champion Zoila Gurgel, assuming she could beat Jennifer Maia. Honchak emerged the victor of the title bout, but Gurgel fell short earlier in the night. So, what’s next?

Honchak is the queen of a division that includes many top ladies who already have other commitments. Top-ranked Jessica Eye and fellow top-10 flyweight Michelle Ould are under contract with Bellator. And Rosi Sexton and Sheila Gaff are UFC-bound. This doesn’t leave many viable options. Sure, there’s Maia, and she could definitely end up being Invicta’s choice, but losses to Sheila Gaff and to Porto within the last two years leave her with a little something more to prove before she steps up against Honchak. In other words, she may be just one win away.

The best challenger for Honchak’s 125-pound crown right now may be Tonya Evinger. Ranked in the top 10 for the division and fighting primarily on the regional circuit, Evinger is already a familiar name to fans from her EliteXC battle with Gina Carano. The veteran fighter is battle-tested and is riding a three-fight winning streak that includes a victory over Carina Damm. Evinger tends to bounce around between 125 and 135, having fought the likes of Carano, Damm, Alexis Davis, Sara McMann, Vanessa Porto and Julie Kedzie.

Unless Invicta can persuade Bellator to take part in a superfight by lending the promotion Jessica Eye, Evinger is the likely most worthy challenger for Honchak. The promotion could also opt for the less proven likes of Julia Berezikova, who holds two wins over Karla Benitez, or Brenda “Boom Boom” Gonzales, a 4-0 prospect, but both ladies really should be introduced to Invicta’s audience prior to being thrust into title action.

Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino vs. Marloes Coenen

One fight is already certain exiting Invicta FC 5, and that’s a featherweight title showdown rematching Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino against Marloes Coenen. The two first locked horns at Strikeforce: Miami in 2010, with Strikeforce’s championship on the line. Cyborg emerged victorious with a third-round TKO. Since that fight, Cyborg has gone 2-0 with one no-contest, and Coenen has shifted between 145 pounds and 135 pounds, going 4-1 and holding Strikeforce’s bantamweight strap.

Coenen and Cyborg have proven to be at the top of the 145-pound mountain, and this gives Coenen a chance to avenge that prior loss. Cyborg is just one fight removed from a lengthy suspension resulting from a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs. She was to fight Ediane Gomes at Invicta FC 5, but an injury to Gomes led to a Cyborg mauling of the much less dangerous Fiona Muxlow.

Cyborg vs. Coenen is the type of headlining fight that Invicta wants at the top of its card. With Coenen previously enduring two-plus rounds against Cyborg, she definitely qualifies as an opponent that can push Cyborg. It’ll be a test of whether Coenen can figure out the key to beating the seemingly invincible Cyborg, but it will also be a test—to a much higher degree than Muxlow was—of whether Cyborg is still on top of her game.

And should Cyborg win, there are already two more fights waiting in the wings that would be very appealing in the eyes of fight fans: a showdown with Gomes in Invicta and the long-awaited blockbuster match-up against Ronda Rousey, which would almost assuredly pull Cyborg away from Invicta and into the UFC’s Octagon.

Sarah Kaufman vs. Leslie Smith

Has anyone compared Leslie Smith to Wanderlei Silva or Leonard Garcia yet? If not, they should. Smith is the female version of the two male brawlers, always coming ready to fight and always putting on an exciting show, win or lose. She did it against Kaitlin Young, and now she has done it against Sarah Kaufman. Kaufman edged her on the scorecards, but it seems unlikely that fans would complain about an immediate rematch between the two.

Bec Hyatt vs. Joanne Calderwood

Bec Hyatt backed up her words with actions when she stepped into the cage with Jasminka Cive at Invicta FC 5. Hyatt was aggressive from the outset and submitted the championship-caliber striker within the first round. After a championship loss to Carla Esparza and the impressive win over Cive, Hyatt could actually be in store for the fight that was initially supposed to introduce her to Invicta fans: a meeting with Joanne Calderwood.

Before Hyatt was promoted to the Invicta FC 4 headliner versus Esparza, she was set to meet the Scottish striker. Calderwood went on to a unanimous decision victory over Livia von Plettenberg at the event and remains undefeated through five pro bouts. Calderwood does have an April 13 date with Sally Krumdiack under the Cage Warriors banner, but if she emerges victorious, she should be paired with Hyatt at a future Invicta card.

Hyatt demonstrated superb striking skills in the initial seconds of her fight with Cive, and the popular Aussie was overpowering with her takedown and submission of the Austrian. Calderwood provides another challenge in the stand-up department for Hyatt, and Invicta fans would certainly enjoy the prospect of watching these two fighters slug it out. The winner of such a fight might even have an argument for a title shot.

Rose Namajunas vs. Tecia Torres

The strawweight division is producing a significant amount of prospects, but several of them are still t0o early into their professional careers to step up and compete for a title. These ladies still need to be groomed and given the chance to compile experience before squaring off with someone like current champion Carla Esparza. Two such talents are Rose Namajunas and Tecia Torres.

Namajunas captured another highlight-reel submission victory at Invicta FC 5. She used a flying armbar to overcome Kathina Catron in just 12 seconds.Namajunas is a star in the making for the promotion, but her record is still just 2-0.

Torres, meanwhile, has proven to be a grinder with strong stand-up skills. She has notched unanimous decisions in her two pro fights, both of which have come under the Invicta banner. Like Namajunas, Torres is extremely new to the professional ranks, but has a stellar undefeated record as an amateur.

This would be an amazing showdown between two ladies who could emerge as the future of the strawweight division. Namajunas would test Torres’ ability to survive a dangerous submission attack and go the distance against a lethal ground fighter, whereas Torres’ grinding style would test whether Namajunas’ submissions are just as dangerous against stiffer competition than she has faced thus far.

With both ladies on the rise, especially Namajunas, this would make sense as the opening bout of the main card, rather than a prelim bout.

Photo: Barb Honchak (R) fights Vanessa Porto (Jeff Vulgamore/The MMA Corner)

  • unbeknownst

    - Michelle Waterson vs. Kikuyo Ishikawa

    This could very well be Waterson’s next challenger. I think you’re right that Invicta is not going to book Waterson vs. Penna II just yet. However, even though Ishikawa lost a close split decision to Naho Sugiyama, she’s not the champ at JEWELS or any other organization. Therefor, I would have Ishikawa fight once in Invicta before giving her the shot. The perfect first Invicta fight for Ishikawa would be against Lacey Schuckman, who gave Waterson everything she could handle losing to her by split decision. On the flip side, if Schuckman beats Ishikawa, I’d give her the Atomweight tittle shot as well.

    – Barb Honchak vs. Tonya Evinger

    You’re right about there being very few challengers at FlyW for Honchak. However, like Ishikawa, I think Evinger should have to fight once in Invicta before being granted a tittle shot. Having Evinger fight Jennifer Maia might be wise. However Evinger is not even signed to Invicta, so it’s kind-of hard to imagine this is even a option right now. Plus, word is the sometimes BW Evinger is planning on auditioning for TUF 18. Which adds to the difficult scene at FlyW, because not only are top the FlyW fighters like Rosi Sexton and Sheila Gaff being poached and booked for BW UFC bouts, but fighters like Tara LaRosa, Roxanne Modafferi, and Evinger might end up fighting for a BW UFC contract in TUF. Based on the FlyW fighters that Invicta FC currently has on their roster, I’d say Honchak fights Jennifer Maia next.

    – Cris Cyborg vs. Marloes Coenen

    No-brainer. I also hope we get to see the winner of this fight, fight the winner of Ediane Gomes vs. Julia Budd. After that, the FW is pretty much cleaned out for now, and if Cyborg can get through these two fights then perhaps she does a test cut to 135 or a catchweight of 140 and fights someone there, then it’s time for the UFC.

    – Sarah Kaufman vs. Leslie Smith

    I have to disagree with this. Kaufman, leading to the fight, acted like she was ready for bigger and better things than Invicta and Smith, and had the attitude that they were both below her. She has some entitlement issues that I think would prevent her from taking the fight again, even if it was in the UFC. Smith has said that she was planning to cut down to 125 after the Kaufman fight because it was a quicker road to a title shot. However that was before the TUF 18 announcement, so she might consider trying out for that show or after that performance the UFC might just offer her a fight in their organization. However, assuming Smith stays at 135 and with Invicta the best fight for her would be against Shayna Baszler, pretty much scientifically designed to be awesome.

    -Bec Hyatt vs. Joanne Calderwood


    – Rose Namajunas vs. Tecia Torres


    • unbeknownst

      What I’d like to see booked for INVICTA FC 6:

      Main Card:
      – Cris Cyborg vs. Marloes Coenen ————– Featherweight©
      – Carla Esparza vs. Ayaka Hamasaki ———– Strawweight©
      – Leslie Smith vs. Shayna Baszler ————— Bantamweight
      – Julia Budd vs. Ediane Gomes ——————- Featherweight
      – Katja Kankaanpaa vs. Claudia Gadelha —— Strawweight
      – Lauren Taylor vs. Sarah D’Alelio —————- Bantamweight
      – Bec Hyatt vs. Joanne Calderwood ————- Strawweight
      – Kikuyo Ishikawa vs. Lacey Schuckman ——- Atomweight

      Preliminary Card:
      – Miriam Nakamoto vs. Holly Holm ————— Bantamweight
      – Rose Namajunas vs. Tecia Torres ————– Strawweight
      – Alex Chambers vs. Simona Soukupova ——- Atomweight
      – Veronica Rothenhausler vs. Amanda Bell —- Featherweight
      – Laura Sanko vs. Liz McCarthy ——————- Atomweight
      – Tamikka Brents vs. Katalina Malungahu —— Featherweight