Another Brazilian underdog. Another submission upset. Another new champion.
Four months after Herica Tiburcio stunned Michelle Waterson to win the Invicta FC women's atomweight title, Livia Renata Souza defeated Katja Kankaanpaa with a slick triangle choke to take the Invicta women's strawweight belt to Brazil. The finish came at 3:58 of the fourth round. Souza was potentially losing the fight at the time.
The undefeated Souza (8-0) showed off some slick grappling the entire time, but Kankaanpaa (10-2-1) was relentless and got out of every attempted submission attempt, mounting her own offense on the canvas. The Finnish fighter was more effective on the ground in the second and third rounds and it seemed like her cardio was taking over -- much in the way it did against Stephanie Eggink when she won the title last September via fifth-round submission.
But Souza would have none of it. She might have been the more tired fighter, but she remained very dangerous on the ground, even off her back. Souza had the triangle in for nearly a minute before grabbing her knee with both hands and pulling down. The squeeze was too much for Kankaanpaa and she tapped out.
Souza, 24, was making her Invicta debut, much like Tiburcio was when she submitted Waterson in the third round with a guillotine at Invicta 10 in December. Kankaanpaa had won three of four Invicta fights coming in with her lone loss against Joanne Calderwood. "Killer Bunny" owns victories over the likes of Aisling Daly and Juliana Lima.
Invicta's 115-pound division remains very much in flux after the UFC acquired the contracts of 11 of its best fighters in 2013. Souza has emerged now, but Alexa Grasso, the top prospect out of Mexico, could be waiting in the wings.
In the co-main event, Vanessa Porto defeated Roxanne Modafferi by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) in an important flyweight matchup. Modaferri was the most aggressive fighter, throughout. But Porto did far more damage, clearly winning the first and second rounds. Modaferri could have stolen the third, busting up Porto's nose with punches, but the judges felt otherwise.
Porto (18-6), who lost to Modafferi by TKO in 2008, put herself in very good position to earn the next 125-pound title shot against Barb Honchak. Porto fell by unanimous decision to Honchak at Invicta FC 5 in 2013, but it's hard to say the 31-year-old Brazilian is not the second best women's flyweight in Invicta, especially after this victory over Modafferi.
Modafferi (17-12) has improved her game immensely since moving to Las Vegas and training full-time at Syndicate MMA, especially on the standup side of things. The pioneer of women's MMA is still just 32 years old and doesn't like to talk retirement, though she's been competing as a pro since 2003. Modafferi was on a two-fight winning streak coming into Invicta 12.
Faith Van Duin might have put herself in line for the next 145-pound title shot. The New Zealand native submitted Amanda Bell at 38 seconds of the second round with a rear-naked choke sans the hooks after getting beat up pretty good in the first. Bell, one of the top prospects in the division, used her strength and athleticism to run roughshod over Van Duin in the first. But Van Duin's technique and ingenuity won out in the second.
Van Duin (5-1) was making her Invicta debut and coming off a loss to new Bellator signee Arlene Blencowe last August. A win over Bell (3-3), who had two straight first-round knockouts (including one against Marina Shafir), might be enough to earn a title shot against Cris Cyborg at Invicta FC 13 on July 10 in Las Vegas.
Raquel Pa'aluhi put on the best performance of her career in a fairly dominant unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) upset victory over Ediane Gomes. Pa'aluhi controlled things on the feet with big right hands and also with some improved grappling. The Hawaiian clearly won the first two rounds until Gomes picked up a big takedown in the third and spend nearly the entire round in Pa'aluhi's guard.
Pa'aluhi (5-4), who has moved to Hawaii to train at Drysdale Jiu Jitsu in Las Vegas, has only lost to elite competition, including Raquel Pennington, Sara McMann and Amanda Nunes. She could be in line for a shot at the vacant 135-pound title. Gomes (10-4), out of American Top Team, has lost two straight now after winning four in a row, including a victory over Leslie Smith. Gomes' last loss came against Invicta top 135-pounder Tonya Evinger.
To open the main card, Latoya Walker put a one-sided beating on Peggy Morgan in a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) victory. Walker had a difficult time getting inside Morgan's much larger reach, but when she did she landed hard punches. The 35-year-old rocked Morgan, a TUF 18 alum, in the second round.
Walker (5-0) will move up the ladder in the thin 145-pound division, while Morgan (3-3) will have to go back to the drawing board.
On the prelims, Lacey Schuckman finished Jenny Liou by TKO in just 1:53 and Sijara Eubanks, a high-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, made her pro MMA debut by beating Gina Begley via TKO (ground and pound) at the first-round bell.
Sharon Jacobson beat Delaney Owen in an exciting unanimous decision win (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) and Shannon Sinn edged out a close unanimous decision win over Maureen Riordon (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).