Leslie "Peacemaker" Smith is a Team Cesar Gracie fighter. And she fought like one on Saturday night, always pushing forward, never taking a step back.
But her opponent, Invicta flyweight champion Barb Honchak, trains at Miletich Fighting Systems. And she put on an old-school MFS performance in their main event at Invicta FC 7. Honchak used crisp boxing, frequent level changes, and takedowns and ground-and-pound to grind out a victory over the game Smith.
Honchak took across-the-board 49-46 scores to retain her title at Ameristar Casino in Kansas City.
"I knew Leslie was going to be tough, but she was tough," said Honchak (9-2), who won her eighth straight fight.
Honchak set the tone over the first two rounds, making Smith pay with takedowns when she tried to close the distance. Smith (6-4-1) found her bearings in round three, the round she most likely won, and turned it into a slugfest.
It stayed a slugfest in round four, but Honchak turned it up a notch. By round's end, she had turned the bout's momentum decidedly back in her favor. Round five was basically a repeated of the first two rounds.
"It was a great fight," Honchak said of her first title defense. "I felt we had a great striking battle."
In the co-main event, an untimely knee injury to Miriam Nakamoto caused a fourth-round injury stoppage to her bout with Lauren Murphy. Murphy became the inaugural Invicta bantamweight champion via the injury TKO.
Nakamoto, who was in her fourth pro MMA fight but is 16-0 in kickboxing, demonstrated why she's so good in the latter sport by taking it to Murphy over the first two rounds. Murphy, while losing those first two rounds, finally responded late in the second round by bloodying Nakamoto's nose.
Gaining confidence, Murphy turned things up in round three, scoring a pair of late takedowns with a healthy does of ground and pound mixed in. In one of those takedowns, Nakamoto appeared to blow out a knee.
Nakamoto (2-1, 1 NC) answered the bell for the fourth round, but fell to the mat as her knee gave out again. The time of the stoppage was 23 seconds.
"If she wants a rematch I'll give it to her, I don't think anyone wanted to see it that way," said Murphy (8-0). "I'm going to go home the champion and work even harder. I saw her nose was bloody and I tasted it when it got in my mouth. Nothing gets me more excited for a fight than two people beating the s--- out of each other."
In a strawweight bout, "The Tiny Tornado" Tecia Torres continued her climb toward stardom. In just her fourth pro bout, the American Top Team Fighter took on veteran Felice Herrig and put in an impressive display. Using a varied striking game with everything from a crisp jab to axe kicks, Torres flustered Herrig (9-5) at every turn. She took 30-27 scores across the board.
"What shocked me was total domination," Torres (4-0) said, when asked what surprised her about the fight. "Felice was my idol. I looked up to her when she was kickboxing, everything came together you know, it was an honor tonight, everything keeps getting better and better."
After the bout, strawweight champion Carla Esparza, whose scheduled fight with Claduia Gadelha was scrapped Saturday morning when Gadelha fell ill, took to the mic and challenged Torres to a fight. The two then exchanged words outside the cage.
In a battle of previously undefeated strawweights, Scotland's Joanne Calderwood won a back-and-forth battle against "Killer Bunny" Ktja Katkaanpaa (8-1-1). Now 8-0, Calderwood was asked if she wants a shot at Esparza.
"Katja was tough out there," Calderood said. "I just say whoever Invicta puts in front of me, I'll leave it up to them."
In a featherweight bout, British Columbia's Julia Budd put on an impressive show in a unanimous-decision win over Charmaine Tweet. Budd dominated from bell to bell to take 30-27 scores across the board.
It was the fourth straight victory for the 30-year old Budd (6-2). After the fight, she indicated she wants a crack at Invicta featherweight champion Cris Cyborg.
"I'm looking to be the best," Budd said. "I want to be the best in my division. That's the fight I'm looking for."
In the main card opener, flyweight Vanessa Porto (16-6) got back into the win column against former Bellator champion Zoila Frausto Gurgel. Porto, who lost to Honchak in April, got scores of 30-27, 29-28, and 29-28 for the unanimous decision. Gurgel (12-4) has lost three in a row.