Frey (8-3) successfully defended her atomweight championship for the first time in the main event of Invicta FC 33 on Saturday at the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Mo., with a split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47) win over Grusander (6-3). This was an immediate rematch of their Invicta FC 30 encounter in July that Frey won by unanimous decision.
All five rounds were extraordinarily close with both women having memorable flashes of offense. With blood gushing from her nose, Grusander proved that she was worthy of a second title opportunity, though she fell short of toppling Frey.
“I promised there’d be blood,” Frey said in her post-fight interview.
First blood was actually struck by Grusander. The Finnish fighter took a clear-cut round one after breaking through Frey’s counter-striking to score a knockdown with a short right hand. With a minute to work, Grusander chased a recovering Frey and ended the opening frame working from Frey’s guard.
Grusander’s aggression paid off again in round two as she put the pressure on Frey with knees to the body and low kicks that had Frey’s leg turning a shade of pink. However, the champion stayed composed even as Grusander appeared to be getting the better of their grappling exchanges. When they separated, Frey was able to land elbows that may have edged the round in her favor.
The champion came out strong in round three, landing harder shots in the exchanges and bullying Grusander to the mat. Her power punches were landing with consistency and she defended well when Grusander took her to the mat to slow things down. It was in round four that the damage started to show on Grusander’s face and Frey kept up the pressure, scoring a takedown and working to maintain control.
Still, the fight was up in the air going into round five and it was Grusander who came out firing first, backing Frey up against the cage with a flurry. That forced Frey to focus and rely on her counter-punches to keep Grusander honest. Both women pushed the pace at various points in the final five minutes and the judges were left with a difficult decision, which was reflected in the split call.
“I had a lot of stuff going on in my personal life, I had a lot of raw emotion that was just helping feed me through this fight,” Frey said afterwards. “The bad blood, my dog had just passed away, so really training was all I had to keep my mind off of things.”
Frey records her first title defense after winning a vacant belt by defeating Grusander in July.
In the co-main event, former UFC strawweight Danielle Taylor (10-4) made a successful Invicta debut by handing Montserrat Ruiz (8-1) her first loss. Two of the judges gave Taylor 30-27 scores, while the third scored it 29-28 in her favor.
Taylor’s counter-punching and leg kicks were key to defusing the aggressive Ruiz, who spent much of the fight searching for a way to get the fight to the ground. That made her vulnerable to the volume of Taylor. Whenever there was an opening in Ruiz’s defense, Taylor was there with short combinations that Ruiz had no answer for. The low kicks took their toll as well and she was visibly limping at the end of the fight.
Taylor was so confident in her victory that she threw up a peace sign even with Ruiz hanging off of her back as the clock ticked down in round three.
Kay Hansen (4-2) picked up one of the night’s most memorable finishes with a miraculous comeback win over Sharon Jacobson. The 19-year-old accepted Saturday’s bout on less than 10 days’ notice as a replacement for Kanako Murata and she was matched up with an expert wrestler who was also 16 years her senior. It looked like a mismatch on paper and played out that way for the majority of the fight as Jacobson easily slammed and smothered Hansen.
With less than 30 seconds remaining in round three, Jacobson attempted another throw that ended up with Hansen falling on top of her in perfect position for a belly-down armbar. Hansen wasted no time securing the submission and earning the tap-out with just 17 seconds remaining.
Just 4-foot-11 and 23 years old, the diminutive Zappitella proved to be a load in the wrestling department as she grounded Brown at will and completely neutralized the Invicta veteran. Though Brown was active from the bottom with attempts to manufacture submissions and scramble situations, Zappitella always found a way to stay heavy and keep Brown on her back. Even a few flashes of offense in the standup weren’t enough to stop Brown’s record from falling to 7-5.
Afterwards, Zappitella called for a matchup with the winner of Saturday’s atomweight championship main event.
In the main card opener, Brianna Van Buren (5-2) shrugged off a nine-pound weight difference to take a convincing unanimous decision over Jamie Moyle (4-4). This was an Invicta return for both fighters, with Van Buren competing for the promotion for the first time since February 2015 and Moyle stepping back into the Invicta cage after a three-fight stint in the UFC. Unfortunately for Moyle, the appearance was marred by her coming in at 125 pounds for what was originally booked as a strawweight contest.
If the extra weight gave Moyle any advantage, it wasn’t apparent in this contest that was dominated by Van Buren. Mixing up combinations on the feet and timely takedowns, Van Buren took all three rounds on the judges scorecards, including one 30-26 score.
See full Invicta FC 33 results here.