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CSAC recommends new Invicta champion Yana Kunitskaya move up in weight

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Yana Kunitskaya won the vacant Invicta bantamweight title last week.
Invicta FC

The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) promised change would be coming with the implementation of a 10-point plan to combat extreme weight cutting. It doesn’t appear to be just talk, so far.

CSAC is recommending new Invicta FC women’s bantamweight champion Yana Kunitskaya move up in weight after she weighed in at 15 percent above the weight class on fight day last week, per the commission medical suspension document obtained Tuesday by MMA Fighting.

CSAC’s rule, which went into effect in June, says that doctors could recommend fighters move up in weight if they are more than 10 percent above their weight class in a fight-day check.

Kunitskaya beat Raquel Pa’aluhi by unanimous decision Thursday night in the Invicta FC 25 main event at Tachi Palace Resort & Casino in Lemoore, Calif. The bout was for the vacant Invicta bantamweight title, vacated earlier this summer by longtime champion Tonya Evinger.

CSAC executive officer Andy Foster told MMA Fighting that Kunitskaya gained back 20.1 pounds after weighing in at 134.5 a day earlier. Kunitskaya walked into the cage for the bout at 154.6 pounds. Pa’aluhi, meanwhile, weighed in Wednesday at 133.8 pounds and gained just 6.5 back. She was 140.3 on fight day, a gain of just 5 percent. So, Kunitskaya outweighed Pa’aluhi by 14.3 pounds in the cage.

Kunitskaya, 27, could get cleared by a doctor to fight at 135 pounds in the future, but CSAC doctors would like her to move up to 145 for health and safety reasons, based on the new package of rules. CSAC is hoping other commissions honor their recommendations, the same way they would a medical suspension, since it is decided on by physicians.

Another fighter on the Invicta 25 card, Courtney King, was asked to monitor her weight after also coming in at more than 10 percent above the weight class. King, a late replacement, lost by second-round TKO to Yaya Rincon.

Invicta president Shannon Knapp said the promotion will be monitoring Kunitskaya’s weight closely in the future, but acknowledges that the CSAC recommendation puts the promotion in a tough spot since Kunitskaya is its new champion in the 135-pound division. Knapp said she was surprised when she heard how much weight Kunitskaya gained back in between the weigh-ins and the fight.

“The big deal for me is, I definitely don’t like to see that, because it doesn’t seem quite healthy,” Knapp said. “So I understand where they’re coming from and I support Andy and CSAC for their efforts. I think what he’s trying to do is for the safety of the athletes.”

Kunitskaya (10-3, 1 NC) won the Invicta bantamweight title last year, temporarily, before the Missouri Athletic Commission (MAC) overturned the result against Evinger due to a referee error. After the loss of result, Evinger was given the belt back and then beat Kunitskaya in a rematch back in March. The Russian fighter has been training at JacksonWink MMA in Albuquerque.

CSAC’s 10-point weight plan includes making doctors clear fighters to compare in specific weight classes, fight-day weight checks and the recommendation of multiple-time weight miss offenders move up a division.

California commission doctors ruled that UFC fighter Drew Dober “must” move up from lightweight after he came into UFC 214 in July at 18 percent above the weight class. Dober gained 28 pounds between the weigh-in and his fight with Josh Burkman.