By TXMMA Staff // Priscilla Bigner // Photos by Mike Calimbas Photography
Michelle Waterson upset by Herica Tiburcio in title bout; Texan Jinh Yu Frey wins over Cassie Robb and more
HOUSTON, TX – The Invicta Fighting Championships came to Houston, Texas for the first time on Friday, December 5th. Taking place at the Arena Theatre, this event provided a night of triumphant elevation for veteran fighters, and the crowning of a new young champion in the atomweight division. Two fighters out of Texas walked away with impressive wins, setting them up for success in 2015.
2014 saw an explosion in interest and opportunities for female fighters, with the advent of women’s divisions in The Ultimate Fighting Championships in February of 2013. IFC President, Shannon Knapp, signed a groundbreaking deal with the UFC to air IFC events via UFC Fight Pass. Michelle Waterson defeated Yasuko Tamada in the first broadcast of an IFC event on Fight Pass, retaining her belt. This past Friday she handed her belt to a young Brazilian up and comer, Herica Tiburcio, after a quick guillotine at 1 minute, 4 seconds of the third round.
IFC faced a few setbacks leading up to the event, losing headliner Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos due to an ankle injury. Waterson stepped in to face Tiburcio for the main event, and title defense. Wednesday night before the event, featherweight Charmaine Tweet was not medically cleared by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. She was set to face Faith Van Duin, who delivered the news on her Twitter. Despite the interest in WMMA, the turnout was low for the event, begging the question if Cyborg’s withdrawal affected ticket sales. WMMA has miles to go to catch up to MMA in terms of general interest, IFC10 proved that women deliver just as entertaining and technical fights as men.
To kick off the night in style Rachael Ostovich (1-1), faced Evva Johnson (1-0), in a fly weight bout that introduced both women to Invicta. Both fighters were coming off of wins in September, after very successful amateur careers. Johnson tested her range early, throwing jabs that missed Ostovich. A struggle in the clinch ended with Johnson take Ostovich’s back, Johnson sunk in a slick armbar, but Ostovich escaped with excellent gymnastic movement. Both fighters landed damaging blows in the remaining two minutes of the first round, the round ended with Ostovich in Johnson’s guard, after a takedown by Ostovich. Commentator Julie Kedzie unoffically scored the round for Ostovich. Johnson came out strong for the second round, testing her range with low kicks, she pushed Ostovich against the cage, but Ostovich was able to work off. Ostovich landed a knee off of the scramble, and muscled Johnson to the canvas. Johnson attempted an outside heel hook, Ostovich was able to spin out and began to land strong punches and hammer fists to Johnson’s head. At the end of the second round, Ostovich displayed solid judo with a sweeping hip throw, and after denying a single leg attempt by Johnson, executed a sweep to Johnson’s legs to land the takedown. Ostovich dominated the stand up in round three, and worked her way out of danger on the canvas. With two minutes remaining, Johnson took Ostovich’s back with both hooks in, but was unable to flatten Ostovich out or land many successful blows. It was a case of ‘too little, too late’ for Johnson, overall, Ostovich exhibited more control, and got the nod.
In the second bout of the night, Cassie Robb (0-2) faced Texas’ own Jinh Yu Frey (2-1) in the atomweight division. Frey failed to make weight, and elected not to attempt a second weigh in, choosing to forfeit 25% of her purse. Largely the favorite, Frey came off an extremely close split decision loss to Jodie Esquibel, while Robb sought a chance at redemption after two losses. The first round began cautiously, with Frey calculating Robb’s movement, Robb attempted to swarm Frey but ended up pressed against the cage, jockeying for position. Frey landed strong knees to the body and hampstrings of Robb; off of a failed headlock by Robb, Frey was able to take her back on the canvas. Robb attempted to break free by standing up, which allowed Frey to sink in a standing rear naked choke, in similar fashion to her training partner Amber Stautzenberger’s standing inverted triangle attempt the following night at SCS 23. Robb attempted to go to the ground to wrestle Frey off, but was submitted at two minutes and thirty-four seconds of the first round.
Fighting out of El Paso, Texas, Alida Gray (4-1) faced Mexican star Alexa Grasso (5-0), with Gray coming off of a loss to the top ranking strawweight, Jessica Aguilar. Grasso narrowly dodged early high kicks from Gray, quickly stepping into the clinch, both women traded shots. Gray landed impressive knees and spun Grasso around against the cage, Grasso quickly regained control and landed several powerful blows. After they separated, a cut was evident on the forehead of Gray, Grasso swarmed again, stunning Gray who fell to the canvas in the turtle position. Grasso smelled blood and peppered Gray with blows before referee Joe Soliz stopped the bout at one minute, forty-seven seconds of the first round. Gray immediately contested the stoppage, while Grasso stood back, overcome with emotions after her second win under Invicta. Grasso maintained her winning record, making a huge statement in the strawweight division.
TUF veteran Peggy “The Daywalker” Morgan (2-2) returned to the featherweight division to face Andria Wawro (3-1). With the notable height advantage, the 6’1″ fighter Morgan, was eager for the opportunity to turn the tide of her career against 5’8″ Wawro. Morgan utilized her range early in the fight, landing knees and controlling the pace. Wawro landed heavy blows when she was able to get in range of Morgan. Morgan landed more leg kicks than in previous fights, and Wawro responded with some heavy kicks of her own, while solidly countering the long right jabs of Morgan. The second round saw more of the same, quick attacks by Morgan, and powerful combinations by Wawro. Morgan smothered Wawro against the cage for the better part of the first half of the round, wearing down Wawro, until referee Chris Reed separated the fighters. At the end of the second round, both women showed the damage while their corners cleaned them up and gave words of encouragement. Both women fought with heart through the third round, with Morgan exhibiting greater control over Wawro. With two minutes remaining, Morgan unloaded on Wawro, but Wawro weathered the storm. A fiery battle between the two women ended in a decision favoring Morgan.
Deanna “The Argentine Assasin” Bennett (6-0) and Jennifer Maia (8-4), fighting out of the famous Chute Boxe Academy, were next up in the cage. Bennett, coming off a win over Michelle Ould at IFC 8, also disposed of TUF 18 winner, Julianna “The Venezuelan Vixen” Pena at Showdown Fights 10, where she earned her nickname. Maia had previously faced top competitors in the division, including Leslie Smith who guest commentated and revealed that her ear had healed after the gruesome fight against Jessica Eye at UFC 180. The flyweights started the round quickly, with Bennett landing leather first. The first thirty seconds saw rapid exchanges, with Bennett landing more. In the clinch, Bennet landed strong knees, and pushed Maia into the cage. They exchanged knees and swapped position against the cage before separating. Bennett landed strong kicks to the body and legs of Maia, also targeting the liver while absorbing shots from Maia. Maia remained tight in her stance, with classic Chute Boxe footwork. The round ended with Bennett securing a takedown, but without time to exploit the position. The second round continued in similar fashion, with Bennett landing more shots and stuffing Maia’s takedown attempts. Maia was able to secure a takedown off of the cage, but lands in Bennett’s guard. Bennett attempted an arm in guillotine choke with a butterfly hook, but Maia based out, and delivered an illegal knee on the way up, as Bennett was still on the ground. No points were deducted, and the action continued. The two fighters exchanged jabs and low kicks, with Maia finding her range. The round ended closer than the first. Round three began with a more confident Maia, but Bennett quickly secured Maia against the cage. After a few strong knees, Maia was able to spin out and separate. Maia controlled the pace and direction of much of the rest of the fight, backing up Bennett with her right uppercut. Both women displayed incredibly strong chins in a barrage of combinations. In the final minute, Maia landed a solid knee that backed up Bennett. Bennett closed out with strong combinations to come away with an unanimous decision.
Veteran Roxanne “The Happy Warrior” Modafferi (16-11) took on Andrea “KGB” Lee (2-0) in the flyweight division. Modafferi dropped from Bantamweight after six straight losses, winning a decision victory over Tara La Rosa in September that showed a rebirth of focus and confidence for the Happy Warrior. Lee came off a powerful decision win over Shannon Sinn just last month at IFC 9. Her first professional MMA fight was stopped when Kim Colbert’s finger was nearly removed, leading to a doctor stoppage. The highly anticipated fight began with an exchange of kicks to the body, Lee displayed excellent head movement in dodging Modafferi’s jab. A miscue by Lee lead to a quick scramble on the ground, with Modafferi controlling Lee against the cage. They exchanged takedown attempts, with Modafferi executing an uchi mata, and landing in Lee’s half guard. Modafferi slowed the pace with top pressure, Lee was able to work to full guard and attempted an armbar. Modafferi quickly escaped and continued her pressure, and sunk in a guilottine, Lee escaped and stands up with a knee delivered to Modafferi, who controlled the last few seconds of the round against the cage. Lee began the second round with outside leg kicks, that appear to slow down Modafferi. Modafferi sticks to her game plan, landing quick jabs and circling out of the powerful Lee, Modafferi rushed into a flurry and pinned Lee against the cage. Lee failed on a takedown attempt, and Modafferi landed in her guard. After a quick scramble, Lee landed in side and secured full mount. Lee landed several elbows and nearly took Modafferi’s back. Modafferi wins the next scramble and attempted a head and arm choke. Modafferi ended the round hunting for Lee’s arm. Both fighters come out smiling in the third round, and exchange more low kicks. Modafferi stayed evasive, respecting Lee’s power and speed. Lee landed a strong body kick, and Modafferi rushed her to the cage, exerting more of her pressure game in Lee’s half guard. Lee squirmed away from danger as Modafferi landed solid ground and pound, but gave Modafferi her back. Lee evaded submission in the last minute of the fight, displaying excellent defense. The return of Roxi was strong against an extremely game opponent, she wins by split decision.
In the first co-feature event of the night, coming off a three year sabbatical, Cindy Dandois (5-1) faced Tonya Evinger (13-5) in the featherweight division. Considered by many to be the most underrated fighter in the division, Evinger failed to make it into the house for The Ultimate Fighter 18 Rousey vs. Tate. Dandois stunned with her TKO victory over muay thai champion, Jorina Baars back in 2011, and her defeat of Marloes Coenen in her pro debut. However, after three years of focusing on raising her children, Dandois had to prove she still belonged with top competition. Evinger was coming off a slick armbar finish of Ediane Gomes at IFC8, she recently moved from Missouri, to Houston, Texas. The first round began, Evinger quickly backed Dandois to the cage, Dandois lunged forward and they wrestled to the ground. Evinger established control, and Dandois attempted to secure rubber guard. Evinger wrestled out and secured a crucifix, landing blows throughout the transitions. Evinger flattened Dandois out, continued to tee off, but Dandois escaped. They scrambled back to the mat with Evinger slapping on a toe hold, and then came back on top to end the round in north south position. The second round began with Evinger stuffing Dandois’ takedown, and taking her back. Evinger maneuvered into a triangle position from the back, Dandois escaped but gave up her arm. Evinger was able to get the submission, for her second armbar in a row, and sixth straight win in a row.
In the last fight of the night, Michelle “Karate Hottie” Waterson (12-3) faced Brazilian stand out, Herica Tiburcio (8-2) to defend her title in the atomweight division. Waterson came off of a six fight winning streak, with the challenger Tiburcio coming off three straight wins after losing to Camila Lima and then Claudia Gadelha. With Greg Jackson in her corner, Waterson came out confident, landing a kick before Tiburcio launched into a flurry. The pace continued on full blast until the two fell to the canvas. Waterson quickly attempted an armbar, rolling to a belly down armbar. Tiburcio escaped with the help of strong blows. The two scrambled for dominant position and wind up back on the cage, Tiburcio locked on a guillotine, but Waterson was able to break free and spin out. Again Tiburcio rushed forward, but Waterson landed in full mount, slowing the pace momentarily. Tiburcio sweeps, but Waterson found another belly down armbar. Tiburcio survived the submission attempts to fight on in round 2. Waterson marched back into the second round with a hematoma under her right eye, the two exchanged powerful kicks that echoed throughout the arena. Tiburcio Waterson again, pinning her into the corner with Greg Jackon looking on. Waterson maintained top pressure in Tiburcio’s half guard, and escaped a toe hold. Back on their feet, Tiburcio landed a strong knee and the two go to the ground in Tiburcio’s half guard. Tiburcio locked on a tight armbar in the last thirty seconds, but Waterson was saved by the bell. The third round began with Waterson’s eye nearly completely closed. Tiburcio caught a high kick from Waterson and takes her to the canvas, Waterson attempted to swivel to armbar, but Tiburcio pressured down to north south. Waterson bridged out and fought off an armbar attempt, but Tiburcio sunk in a lightening fast guillotine, and submitted the champion to take the title home to Brazil. Tiburcio let out a scream, and grabbed Waterson to celebrate a tough battle between the two atomweights.
Invicta President Shannon Knapp announced that IFC will host six cards in 2015, in conjunction with UFC Fight Pass. Knapp also announced that IFC will be using UFC’s cage, and stated that she is confident about the direction the IFC is going in. With the display of talent and heart Friday night, the growth of WMMA should continue to increase in 2015.