Photo:Esther Linn/Invicta FC
Last night, premiere all-women’s MMA promotion Invicta FC held its fourth iteration at Kansas City’s Memorial Hall. The event marked Invicta’s first venture into the iPPV market, followed immediately by venturing back into free internet broadcast due to technical issues. Between the threat of having to pay for Invicta’s product, the first Invicta main event requiring a last-minute change, and the general loss of Invicta’s new-promotion smell, Invicta FC 4 was an event expected to answer a lot of questions about the women’s divisions of MMA. And, since the contributors at Bleacher Report aren’t the only ones who do everything in list form, below are the top five things to take away from Invicta FC 4:
Invicta Now Knows What it’s like to Market a GSP fight: The main event of Invicta FC 4 placed former All-American wrestler Carla Esparza against last-minute replacement and Aussie newcomer to the US promotion Bec Hyatt. While Hyatt has fought nowhere near the kind of competition quality that Esparza has and is known for fighting tall and punching forward aggressively, which is stylistic suicide against someone looking for a double leg, Hyatt’s fan-winning personality and back story made her the most attractive opponent to save the main event.
As basically anyone could have predicted, Esparza dominated by scoring takedowns whenever she wanted. However, a combination of Esparza’s conservative ground game and Hyatt’s great heart for the fight allowed the Australian to hang in there and do serious damage to Esparza for the few seconds they were on their feet. This led the audience to acknowledge that Esparza put on by far the superior show while secretly hoping that Hyatt could score the Hail Mary knockout, as the potential for a Aussie comeback was the element that made the fight exciting.
These events perfectly mimic every fight that UFC welterweight kingpin Georges St. Pierre has put on against a fan-loved challenger. Expect hard core MMA fans to yell about how Esparza is ruining Invicta, citing that they watch the women’s fights because the ladies aren’t afraid to scrap and that conservative game plans don’t move the needle. Esparza, known for being a scrappy finisher who herself has taken on opponents even though she was over-matched, will become the first woman to learn that MMA fans think you’re only as good as your last fight. WMMA will take it’s next step forward into the main stream by having athletes people hate for no good reason.
Bas Rutten Loves Music and Possibly Alcohol, and Sometimes That’s Just What the Comment Box Needs: Former UFC heavyweight champion and general MMA legend Bas Rutten joined the Invicta FC commentating team for the first time at last night’s event. Rutten opened by quoting Dutch rock band Golden Earring and would frequently just start singing along to whatever music was played by the DJ between rounds. For some reason this worked beautifully.
Fellow Invicta commentator and recent addition to the Bellator stable King Mo Lawal has proven on many occasions that he has a fantastic eye for details in the fights he’s watching. But Lawal’s commentating delivery is simply too sparse and not animated enough to carry the production. Rutten’s full-on silliness at times and high energy all the time played the perfect foil to his fellow commentators and proved to be one of the highlights of the evening.
From his speech patterns, God bless him, Bas may have had a few to drink during the show. Or maybe it was just Bas being Bas. Either way, it worked.
Invicta Needs Competent IT Solutions Planned Well Ahead of Time: Perhaps the most memorable thing about Invicta FC 4 was that the internet Pay Per View system didn’t work forcing Invicta to issue full refunds to all buyers and make the stream free half-way through. This turn of events not only resulted in no iPPV profits and pushing away potential viewers who would have watched if the stream started out free, it also actively discouraged anyone from buying an iPPV of Invicta if the promotion ever finds a way handle the logistics of such a venture.
For the promotion’s overall growth, this technical SNAFU was an unmitigated disaster. Invicta is going to have to do a lot to bring confidence back to its viewer base before attempting anything other than a free stream.
Hiroko Yamanaka Was Never All She Was Made Out to Be- In the only fight of the evening that could safely be called a disappointment, Japanese star Hiroko Yamanaka got smashed for one round by Ediane Gomes, before Gomes completely gassed. Gomes, making a common error that comes to even the best fighter who loses composure, had nothing left but to valiantly struggle to the end. Luckily for the Brazilian, that end did not come as Yamanaka’s spindly arms are apparently only good for crushing cans in JEWELS.
Yamanaka proved far too timid to take advantage of her opponent’s gaff and ended up dropping the decision. In spite of Yamanaka’s almost comical reach advantage and Gomes’ inability to close after spending her tank too quickly, Cat’s Eye cautiously refused to put anything behind her punches to take advantage of the situation.
While the commentating team claimed that Yamanaka was too respectful of the takedown, her awkward punches and kicks were exactly par for the course for anyone who has followed Yamanaka’s career. While clearly tough and skilled at surviving a submission assault, Yamanaka has never been a serious striking threat. Her comparison with other, better Japanese talent has been a result of some convenient matchmaking and Yamanaka’s career in the West should be proof of that.
She’s no Mega Megu is what I’m saying.
Even One of the Weaker Invicta Cards is Still Pretty Great: When compared to Invicta FC 3, one of the better cards ever for all eternity ever, last night’s iteration didn’t have quite the same flare. However, it was still a pretty damn solid card. The majority of bouts featured great performances with Shayna Baszler and Alexis Davis being the standouts among the standouts. There was heart. There was action. There were comebacks and narrow escapes. The only time I stopped watching the action in order to talk about how Looper was actually a pretty good movie was when Yamanaka was in the cage.
Ultimately, Invicta can still deliver everything a fan can ask for, thanks largely to a combination of the efforts of Invicta CEO Shannon Knapp and the deplorable pay expectations female athletes have.
The only reason why its logistically feasible to get the sheer amount of exciting matchmaking available in every Invicta card is because female athletes in MMA are tougher, hungrier and much, much cheaper than their similarly-ranked male counterparts. In the future, should Invicta FC’s mission statement of developing the women’s divisions to the point that they are on equal footing with the men’s be realized, cards as good as last night’s may very well be impossible. The women will start caring about their well-deserved sponsorship money and sensible matchmaking. They will train full-time and incur as many injuries as the men: screwing up many well-marketed main events at the last minute.
But, until that day comes, rock on Invicta. All the promotion’s cards have ranged from great to awesome and technical problems have left its head bloody but unbowed. I am very much looking forward to Invicta FC 5 and will be the first one to pay $7.95 if the iPPV system ever actually ends up working.