Ediane Gomes (R) (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)Examining the Next Contenders for Invicta FC Gold Riley Kontek February 5, 2014 Spotlight With a track record of great cards and exciting fights, Invicta FC has fans anxious for the announcement of Invicta FC 8. The future of the company seems to be in establishing the best 105-, 125- and 145-pounders, while building the next stars of 135 and 115 to feed the newly established UFC women’s divisions. Right now, Invicta has a champion in every division except strawweight, where it shipped off champ Carla Esparza to compete in The Ultimate Fighter 20. That means every division should have a top contender, and the strawweight division should have two ladies ready to fight for the title. Let’s take a look at each division and establish who should be the next contender at each weight class. These women should challenge for the title as soon as possible on an upcoming card for Invicta FC. Featherweight Division (145 pounds): Ediane Gomes Right now, Cris “Cyborg” Justino is the queen of the 145-pound division. In the minds of most people, she will be the champion for a long time to come. There are really just two women—Julia Budd and Ediane Gomes—that are in title contention right now. Although Budd has won recently and is ranked in the top five, Gomes, who is also ranked in the top five, should be considered the No. 1 contender. Gomes is 2-0 in Invicta, with her most recent win coming over Hiroko Yamanaka. Yamanaka was considered a top fighter before she retired, which should allow for Gomes to have the right to fight for the belt. Gomes has a good skill set that could be among the most competitive against Cyborg. Most of her wins are by submission, and she has decent enough wrestling to try to put the champ on her back. That’s not to say that Gomes is a huge threat to beating Cyborg, because Cyborg is in a class of her own. However, Gomes is a top contender that has the credentials to nab the title shot and make it somewhat interesting. Bantamweight Division (135 pounds): Tonya Evinger There aren’t many top bantamweights left in Invicta, since the UFC is now home to the best ladies in the world at that weight class. As Invicta builds up its 135-pound division, though, there is one veteran who proved her worth in her last fight. That woman is Tonya Evinger. Evinger, who was ousted from The Ultimate Fighter 18 in the elimination round, showed that she has grown from that fight when she defeated Sarah D’Alelio in impressive fashion in her last bout. Evinger’s wrestling and ground-and-pound was on point, and those aspects of her game would come in handy against champion Lauren Murphy. One could argue that Miriam Nakamoto deserves another crack at Murphy after their first fight ended with Nakamoto suffering an injury. Although there is merit to that claim, Nakamoto will be sidelined for a lengthy period of time while she recovers from her knee injury. Evinger should fight in the interim. Murphy vs. Evinger would present an interesting match-up and could have some good build to it, given Evinger’s outspoken personality. That fight could definitely hold top billing on an Invicta card. Flyweight Division (125 pounds): Vanessa Porto It would have been nice to give this top contender spot to someone who hasn’t recently fought champion Barb Honchak, but there is not really another person near the top of the division other than Vanessa Porto with the credentials to warrant a shot. Porto and Honchak fought recently to a unanimous decision that obviously went in the favor of Honchak. However, Porto came back in her last fight against Zoila Gurgel and proved she was back and as good as new. Beyond Porto, Michelle Ould is a draw that could take the shot. However, Ould has yet to fight with Invicta and allowing her to cut in line wouldn’t be fair to the women who have fought and won under the Invicta banner. There’s also Kalindra Faria. Faria is one of the best flyweights in the world and could conceivably warrant a shot based on her recent track record, but she, unfortunately, is not under contract with Invicta. The flyweight picture is cloudy, but Porto definitely could make a rematch with Honchak interesting. Strawweight Division (115 pounds): Mizuki Inoue vs. Katja Kankaanpaa The UFC cherry-picked some of the very best 115-pounders Invicta had to offer, but the promotion didn’t grab Finland’s Katja Kankaanpaa and Japan’s Mizuki Inoue. The pair could fight for the vacant title. Kankaanpaa just lost to Joanne Calderwood, but it was a close fight that she arguably could have taken. Inoue has been competing in Japan since her Invicta win over Bec Rawlings and has yet to lose in her career. The 19-year-old may be one of the best prospects in all of women’s MMA. With the vacant throne in the strawweight division, any number of people could make a claim to a title fight. However, Kankaanpaa and Inoue have the most credentials to back it up and could easily make that a marketable fight on any card. Atomweight Division (105 pounds): Jessica Penne Although she may move up to strawweight and try out for The Ultimate Fighter 20, Jessica Penne has to be considered the top contender at 105 pounds. She had a “Fight of the Year” candidate opposite Michelle Waterson in the bout where she lost her belt. Even in defeat, Penne remained competitive against Waterson. Furthermore, she has already won a rebound fight. Penne is undoubtedly the No. 2 atomweight in the world and should be treated as such. Assuming she remains in the division instead of competing on TUF, she could easily be marketed in a rematch main event with Waterson.