After the announcement that the UFC would be introducing a third female division (we can agree that sans Cyborg, feathweight doesn’t count, right?), the role of Invicta Fighting Championships has suddenly become much more relevant once again. While several current UFC fighters will be transitioning from the existing bantamweight and strawweight classes to the new 125-pound flyweight division, the UFC will likely add several uncontracted fighters from Invcita to round out the division. It is fitting then, that the top two fights on the Invicta FC 23 fight card this Saturday (May 20, 2017) both take place in the flyweight division, along with another 125-pound fight featuring a prospect bordering on contention. It’s quite possible that any or all of the six women involved in those bouts could find themselves in the Octagon within the next year or so.
The main event features one of the top-ranked flyweights in the world, Brazil’s Vanessa Porto, taking on perhaps the top prospect in the division, Poland’s Agnieszka Niedzwiedz. Porto has been with Invicta since the beginning, and this will be her seventh appearance for the promotion. While her record stands at just 3-3 in the organization, her losses came in a bantamweight bout and to the only two women who have held the Invicta flyweight title (Barb Honchak and Jennifer Maia). She hasn’t competed since March 2016 — dropping a decision to Maia in a title bout — so the 14 months away could play an impact here. Beyond being another Polish name with Z’s all over the place, Niedzwiedz also brings a 9-0 record into her second Invicta appearance. While her early career was primarily fought against overmatched, under-experienced opponents, Niedzwiedz has stepped up in her two most recent bouts, scoring a pair of impressive victories. Whether those encounters have given her enough experience to defeat a tough veteran like Porto remains to be seen, but a win here would put her in immediate title contention in Invicta and likely earn her a spot in the TUF 26 house for a chance at the inaugural UFC belt.
As mentioned earlier, the co-main event also takes place in the flweight division, and should include far more grappling than the main event. Roxanne Modafferi has undergone a somewhat unexpected late career resurgecnce since her stint on TUF at bantamweight. Going 5-2 at flyweight since 2014, Modafferi worked her way up to a title shot last September. However, a split-decision loss to Maia halted that momentum, and now she’s trying to work her way back up the flyweight rankings. She’ll be facing a former featherweight, Sarah D’Alelio, who has gone undefeated (3-0) since she dropped down last year. Never known for her physical attibutes, it will be interesting to see if Modafferi’s technique can overcome D’Alelio’s strength and size.
Further down the card, former atomweight champion Herica Tiburcio looks to continue building momentum following a two-fight losing streak that saw her drop her title and lose to contender Jinh Yu. Her November win against Simona Soukupova got things back on the right track, and now she faces Tessa Simpson whose last appearance was also a victory over Soukupova. Given the fact that atomweight will be the only female division in Invcita that’s not represented in the UFC, this could be an opportunity for one of these two to stand out.
A pair of UFC veterans just over the .500 mark for their careers compete in the next bout to fight for relevance in Invicta’s bantamweight division more than anything. Elizabeth Phillips had lost four of her last five before a victory on the regional circuit broke her string of poor performances. Kelly Faszholz had a slightly different path, as she entered the UFC as a 3-0 prospect before losing a pair of competitive bouts and being released. Her first opportunity outside of the Octagon should provide the motivation needed for a solid performance.
Finally, Andrea Lee will be making her Invicta return on Saturday after capturing the LFA flyweight title in her last outing. Lee has shown tremendous skills as a striker, but her grappling deficiencies have resulted in losses to Modafferi and D’Alelio. spending much of the time on her back in those bouts. Liz Tracy’s only career loss came to another quality grappler, Ashley Yoder, by split decision, so she’s probably on a higher level grappling than anticipated. But getting takedowns on Tracy is proving more difficult as she advances through here career.
MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting odds for the top five bouts on Invicta FC 23 today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. You can get a peek at them below…
Invicta FC 23: Porto vs. Niedzwiedz
MAY 20, 2017
Scottish Rite Temple | Kansas City, Missouri
Vanessa Porto +165
Agnieszka Niedzwiedz -215
Roxanne Modafferi +110
Sarah D’Alelio -150
Tessa Simpson +140
Herica Tiburcio -180
Elizabeth Phillips +115
Kelly Faszholz -155
Liz Tracy +435
Andrea Lee -705
Brad’s Analysis: For a 22-year-old, Niedzwiedz already has a very mature MMA game. Her striking isn’t on the level of other top Polish women Jedrzejczyk and Kowalkiewicz, but it is well above average, she mixes in takedowns more effectively, and has a solid top game. I don’t expect her to go the takedown route particularly often in this matchup, as Porto is most threatening on the ground, but I think Niedzwiedz is a good enough wrestler to avoid Porto getting on top. That means this is primarily going to be a striking battle, and Niedzwiedz is simply cleaner and quicker to the punch in that regard. I’m not a fan of where this price is likely to go, so I won’t be playing it, but I think the youngster picks up the biggest win of her career.
Modafferi is Invicta’s perennial underdog. Since joining the promotion, she’s been an underdog in five of her six bouts, coming through on three of those occasions. However, D’Alelio hasn’t been getting a ton of respect lately, so Modafferi may end up a favorite here. If that’s the case, I’ll take a shot on the bigger, stronger grappler, as I think she can match Modafferi on the mat but will be more likely to end up in top position.
It’s kind of weird to think that someone in the smallest MMA division is still too small, but that’s kind of the case with Tiburcio. If this stays on the feet, Simpson will have height and reach advantages that she can probably put to use, and she may be able to overpower Tiburcio in the clinch. However, on the mat, Tiburcio is a far better technician and can win from top or bottom position. I think eventually this fight hits the ground, and Tiburcio manages to find dominant position or a submission to sneak out the victory.
Faszholz impressed me more than Phillips in her UFC run, and I think she wins this fight. Her takedown defense was a bit of a hole in her last UFC loss, but Phillips doesn’t have an especially overpowering wrestling game. On the feet, Faszholz is the better striker and throws a much higher volume that should curry favor with the judges. If Phillips wants to win this fight, she has to make it an ugly bout against the cage. Even then, Faszholz might stay busy enough in the clinch to still sneak it out.
Tracy is a decent grappler, and a solid all-around fighter, and she’ll have a lot of success in Invicta. However, I don’t think she’s as good a grappler as the other fighters who have defeated Lee, and if she gets stranded on the feet in this matchup, it won’t end well for her. Lee is a tremendous striker at virtually every range, and she’ll damage Tracy at every turn. We could see another instance where Lee eventually does enough work on the feet that it opens up opportunities on the ground (half of her wins have come by submission), but I picture this more as a dominant decision for Lee.
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