Kansas City, Missouri is once again the home of Invicta Fighting Championships, and we will see a total of three title fights on Saturday night (Dec. 7, 2013) in a typically stacked card for Shannon Knapp and company. We’ll start right away with the main event, a flyweight title fight between the champion Barb Honchak (8-2) and challenger Leslie Smith (6-3-1). Honchak is 3-0 inside the Invicta cage while Smith is 3-1-1 and coming off a win over Jennifer Maia in July. Honchak reps the Miletich fight team (they’re still around?!) and Smith is a Cesar Gracie fighter. Both women are very well-rounded and have defeated a host of other venerable fighters through the years, but Honchak is a little more measured in her fighting style. Smith has more of a tendency to get into wild brawls. Smith has three ‘Fight of the Night’ awards in five Invicta appearances for a reason – she’s a fun fighter that will go balls to the wall, even if she has none. Honchak has displayed superior boxing in most of her fights, so this could be a fight in which Honchak picks apart Smith, or Smith breaks through, closes the distance and lands some shots, turning this into a messy brawl. Either way, this should be good. The strawweight title is up next, as Carla Esparza (9-2) will put her belt and a four-fight winning streak on the line against 26-year old Brazilian, Claudia Gadelha (11-0). Gadelha has only one fight in Invicta, a TKO win over the tough Ayaka Hamasaki, but this Nova Uniao team member is more of a submission specialist than anything. She has six subs in her career, and is extremely well-rounded and tough. Esparza hasn’t fought in nearly a year, but this wrestler should be able to shake off the ring rust and grind out Gadelha as long as she can nullify any offense from the bottom. This isn’t quite BJJ vs. Wrestling, but it could end up being that matchup. The third title fight of the night will crown the inaugural Invicta bantamweight champion. While UFC may have gutted most of Invicta’s potential 135-pounders, there are still several talented ladies looking to prove themselves. The two top women outside the UFC are going to put on quite a show for us, as Lauren Murpy (formerly Taylor) (7-0) takes on muay thai ace Miriam Nakamoto (2-0-1). Nakamoto is a monster. All of her fights have ended via brutal knees and punches, although her fight against Jessamyn Duke was overturned from a knockout win to a no contest after it was determined that Duke was grounded when the knee landed. Both of these ladies are extremely ‘legit’ as my southern California brethren would say, but Nakamoto is a whole different kind of fighter. She’s vicious, and in my eyes, needs to get to the UFC immediately. That isn’t to put anything past Murphy, who has a great ground game that she can absolutely employ to grind out a win here, but if it stays standing, Nakamoto could hurt her badly. Finally, months after Bellator dissolved its female division, “Lil’ Bulldog” Felice Herrig (9-4) makes her Invicta debut against the tough prospect Tecia Torres (3-0). All of Torres’ wins have come inside the Invicta cage against fellow prospects, and the contrast in levels of competition faced could be the difference here. Herrig had an up-and-down start to her career, but she’s currently on a solid four-fight winning streak spread across both XFC and Bellator. Torres has good boxing and is decent on the ground, but Herrig is by far her stiffest test ever. Herrig lacks finishing ability, but she has only acquired more ring savvy with every fight, and her coaching from the Curran camp has aided her in her current winning streak. This should be Herrig’s fight, but it could be a close one if it goes into deep waters. Strawweights are up next, as fan-favorite striker Joanne Calderwood (7-0) faces undefeated Finnish prospect, Katja Kankaanpaa (8-0-1), who has a great nickname – The Killer Bunny. My kneejerk reaction is to cheer for any fighter who makes a Monty Python reference out of their nickname, but Joanne Calderwood is a special, special fighter. She’s amassed four knockouts and three dominant decisions, but “The Killer Bunny” is a solid fighter that has fought good competition and brandishes some above average ground skills. If she can get this fight to the canvas, it could be interesting, but if the fight stays standing, it will be a quick night for Calderwood.
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