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Tonya Evinger wins commission appeal, remains Invicta FC champion

Esther Lin, Invicta FC

Yana Kunitskaya's reign as Invicta FC women's bantamweight champion lasted just 13 days.

Tonya Evinger won her appeal with the Missouri Office of Athletics on Thursday, meaning her submission loss to Kunitskaya from Invicta 20 has been overturned to a no contest, Evinger said.

Invicta president Shannon Knapp confirmed the news to MMA Fighting and added that Evinger will go on as the Invicta 135-pound champion since she did not officially lose the fight Nov. 18 in Kansas City. Knapp said she got the letter informing her of the commission's decision Thursday morning.

The Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration (DIFP), the commission's parent organization, issued a statement to MMA Fighting on Thursday, saying the commission decided, after reviewing the case, that the fight must be overturned. Here's the full statement:

The Missouri Office of Athletics reviewed the video and audio along with a statement from the referee of the Tonya Evinger vs. Yana Kunitskaya contest at Invicta FC 20 on November 18, 2016.  The Missouri Office of Athletics determined the official result of this bout must be changed to a no contest. The MMA database has been notified, and should update the record within the next couple of days.

Knapp said that she has not yet spoken to Kunitskaya, but will look to make an immediate rematch between the two women with the belt on the line.

In the main event of Invicta 20, Kunitskaya beat Evinger by first-round armbar submission. Evinger appealed to the Missouri commission, because referee Mike England wrongly told her to change positions while she was in the submission.

Evinger stepped on the grounded Kunitskaya's face for leverage in an attempt to break free of the armbar. England told her she could not do that, even though it is a perfectly legal maneuver in MMA. A strike to Kunitskaya's head or face in that position would have been illegal, but Evinger was pushing off -- not stomping or striking.

Evinger, 35, argued to the Missouri commission that England telling her to move forced her to get into a more disadvantageous position, leading her to having no choice but to tap.

Coming into the fight, Evinger (18-5, 1 NC) had won nine in a row. She is regarded as the best female fighter in the world not currently in the UFC. Evinger has been Invicta champion since July 2015.

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