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Invicta FC 22 results: Tonya Evinger gets revenge, submitting Yana Kunitskaya to retain title

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Tonya Evinger got redemption against Yana Kunitskaya (left) on Saturday night.
Esther Lin, Invicta FC

History almost repeated itself.

Tonya Evinger was in deep trouble against Yana Kunitskaya in the first round Saturday night at Invicta FC 22 in Kansas City. Kunitskaya had a guillotine choke, then a heel hook, then a kneebar. The Russian fighter almost got Evinger to tap for a second straight time.

But Evinger, the Invicta women’s bantamweight champion, persevered.

She began to land big ground and pound late in the first round and controlled the second round on the ground. It all culminated in a rear-naked choke submission victory at 4:32 of the second after a dramatic, thrill-a-minute affair.

In November, Kunitskaya got Evinger in an armbar and Evinger tapped out. For two weeks, Kunitskaya was considered the Invicta champ. But the finish was controversial and the Missouri Office of Athletics overturned it in December because referee Mike England incorrectly told Evinger to move from a legal position, which allowed Kunitskaya to get the armbar in deeper.

Tonya Evinger manages to find Yana Kunitskaya’s back in the second round.
Esther Lin, Invicta FC

The bout was ruled a no contest and Evinger, 35, got to keep the title she has held for nearly two years. Invicta booked the rematch to get closure for both women — Kunitskaya to prove she was the rightful champ and Evinger to show she only got submitted due to a referee error.

Perhaps there will be a third fight sometime in the future, but for now Evinger has her redemption with a finish of Kunitskaya. Even though she said she didn’t feel well throughout the fight.

“I just wish I’d done it earlier and in more devastating fashion,” Evinger said.

Evinger (19-5, 1 NC) has not lost an official fight since 2011, a span of 11 straight bouts. The Houston construction worker is one of the best female fighters in the world not in the UFC.

Kunitskaya (9-3, 1 NC), who spent this training camp at the vaunted JacksonWink MMA, lost very little in defeat. If anything, this whole saga with Evinger has put her on the radar in the United States. At only 27 years old, her future should be very interesting.

Livia Renata Souza got back to her winning ways most impressively against Ayaka Hamasaki.
Esther Lin, Invicta FC

Livia Renata Souza looked like a different fighter coming into the cage Saturday and the result was far different from her last fight as well.

After dropping the Invicta women’s strawweight title last year against Angela Hill, Souza seemed fitter going into her co-main event against current Invicta atomweight champion Ayaka Hamasaki. And obviously she’s been working on her striking, too.

The Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist ripped a right hand that dropped Hamasaki in the first round and then quickly finished on the ground with strikes. The stoppage by referee England came somewhat late, at 1:41 of the first round. Souza had won by TKO.

“The world is too big,” Souza said afterward. “But today, it’s all mine.”

Souza (10-1) probably earned herself a shot at her old belt, especially since Hill is now back in the UFC. Souza, 26, also could be signed by the UFC, which she asked for before losing the title last year.

Hamasaki (14-2) was moving up to catch the UFC’s eye, since the promotion does not have her usual atomweight division. Before Saturday, the 34-year-old Japanese fighter had only one loss in her career, against UFC top strawweight Claudia Gadelha.

After a tough 2016, Jodie Esquibel is back on the right track. She took home a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) win over the always tough DeAnna Bennett in a pivotal strawweight bout.

Esquibel (5-2) fell to Alexa Grasso in her last fight back in July and also was eliminated early on The Ultimate Fighter 23 in a controversial decision against Ashley Yoder. Bennett (8-3), who missed weight, has now lost three straight.

Ashley Cummins’ team displays her banner honoring fallen officer Blake Snyder.
Esther Lin, Invicta FC

Ashley Cummins made a big statement in her return to Invicta. The St. Louis-area police officer put forth perhaps her best career performance in a unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) over former top atomweight contender Amber Brown. Cummins’ ground game and top pressure was oppressive in the second and third rounds. The 29-year-old Ultimate Fighter 23 alum called for a title shot after the victory.

“There’s a new sheriff in town,” said Cummins, who moved to 5-3. “I’m coming for that belt.”

Cummins said she was fighting Saturday night for fallen St. Louis County police officer Blake Snyder, who was tragically gunned down in the line of duty last year.

Miranda Maverick has two pro fights and now two submission wins. The Missouri native finished Kal Holliday via submission at 3:01 of the first round. She was coming off a first-round submission in November. Unfortunately, the 19-year-old prospect has also missed weight in both bouts, coming in 4.5 pounds overweight Friday.

Also on the card, Sunna Davidsdottir beat Mallory Martin by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) and Felicia Spencer defeated the debuting Madison McElhaney by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).