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Invicta atomweight champ Ayaka Hamasaki moves up to strawweight to face Livia Renata Souza

Invicta FC 13 Weigh-ins
Invicta atomweight champion Ayaka Hamasaki will move to strawweight to fight Livia Renata Souza in March.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Update: Jinh Yu Frey (5-2), who Hamasaki defeated via doctor stoppage in September, will face undefeated Janaisa Morandin (9-0) on the same card.

Ayaka Hamasaki wants to make a statement.

The Invicta FC women’s atomweight champion will move up to strawweight to face former champion Livia Renata Souza at Invicta 22 on March 25 in Kansas City, sources told MMA Fighting on Monday.

Invicta president Shannon Knapp confirmed the news and said it would be the co-main event of the card. It should be announced officially this week, she said.

Hamasaki (14-1), the current 105-pound champion, is moving up for this fight at 115, per sources, because she is trying to make a statement to the UFC that she can compete in that weight division. The UFC only has women’s divisions at bantamweight and strawweight. Hamasaki, 34, is disappointed that she has not yet been signed by the UFC despite an impressive résumé for Invicta and other organizations, sources said.

The Japanese fighter’s only loss was in 2013 and it came against top UFC strawweight contender Claudia Gadelha. Hamasaki has won five straight since then and has held the Invicta atomweight title since July 2015.

Souza (9-1) lost the Invicta strawweight title to Angela Hill last May. It was the first loss of her career. Souza, 25, finished both of her previous fights in Invicta and is still considered a solid prospect in the division.

The fight between Hamasaki and Souza will not be for the title, though Hill has since departed Invicta for the UFC, Knapp said. Hamasaki’s wish is to go to the UFC if she beats Souza, but she is also willing to chase a second Invicta title and defend the atomweight belt later this year on top of that, sources said.

Invicta 22 is headlined by a women’s bantamweight title fight between champion Tonya Evinger and challenger Yana Kunitskaya. Evinger seemed to lose the belt to Kunitskaya in November, but the result was overturned to a no contest by the Missouri Office of Athletics due to a referee error, and Evinger remained the champ.

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