On Friday, Aug. 27, Invicta Fighting Championships returned to pay-per-view, hosting Invicta FC 44: A New Era. The night’s main card aired on FITE following a preliminary-card on AXS TV and Invicta FC’s YouTube channel.
In the night’s headliner, Emily Ducote captured strawweight gold by scoring one of the greatest knockouts in Invicta history. She started the bout against UFC veteran Danielle Taylor by taking the center of the cage. She flicked her lead head kick repeatedly, keeping Taylor from advancing. Ducote wasted no motion, as she used feints to set up openings. Midway through the round, she unleashed a vicious overhand right that caught Taylor clean. A stunned Taylor froze in place while Ducote followed with a left head kick that put Taylor out for good. Ducote celebrated wildly as the belt was wrapped around her waist.
The new queen of the bantamweight division is Phoenix Tournament 3 winner Taneisha Tennant. She used clean striking to get the better of Lisa Verzosa over five hard-fought rounds. The first round featured a lot of range-finding strikes from both fighters. They exchanged low kicks and jabs to get a read on one another. Tennant fired multiple spinning heel kicks to Verzosa’s midsection. Verzosa switched stances often to keep Tennant from getting rhythm. Round two started much like the first, but Tennant began to settle in as the round progressed. Her jab frequently found its mark and Verzosa’s nose began to bleed. Late in the round, a combination from Tennant hurt Verzosa badly. She crashed to canvas but the round expired before Tennant could find the finish. Tennant again used her boxing to frustrate Verzosa in round three. Verzosa did connect with counter shots, but Tennant was able to stay at the end of the strikes. A flurry from Tennant stunned Verzosa late in the round and the fighters traded punches in the pocket. Verzosa initiated the clinch to recover. Tennant looked for another spinning attack in round four and it allowed Verzosa to close the distance and clinch. They traded short knees before separating. Verzosa landed a body shot, but Tennant responded with a combination as the frame ended. Down on the scorecards, Verzosa pressed the action in round five. She waded into range throwing punches, but absorbed heavy counters from Tennant. Verzosa powered into the clinch midway through the round. Tennant calmly worked free and held her range with kicks and jabs. There was no doubt on the scorecards as Tennant claimed the belt.
Guam’s Brogan Sanchez got back in the win column, submitting Emilee King in the first round. Sanchez quickly took the fight to the ground and moved to side control. King countered with a buggy choke from the bottom. Sanchez dropped knees to the body and then an illegal knee to King’s head. The referee deducted a point from Sanchez and restarted the fight in the choke position. Sanchez worked out of the choke attempt and passed to mount. She dropped massive elbows and punches that hurt King. Sanchez slapped on a rear-naked choke and forced the tap from a battered King.
Oregon’s Liz Tracy welcomed strawweight Jodie Esquibel back to the promotion on the night’s main card. Esquibel went straight to work with her boxing, prompting Tracy to fire front kicks to keep her out of range. Esquibel caught a kick and cracked Tracy with a right hand. The speed of Esquibel allowed her to repeatedly land her lead hook and frustrate Tracy. In round two, Tracy chewed up the lead leg of Esquibel with low kicks. Esquibel’s nose trickled blood from counter shots from Tracy. Tracy was relentless coming forward. Her front kicks and counter punches found their mark over and over as Esquibel wore more damage as the round progressed. Round three was a chess match on the feet as Tracy’s pressure and front kicks kept Esquibel from getting into the pocket. Tracy put it on Esquibel late. Esquibel answered with a late takedown at the horn, but the judges rendered a split decision in favor of Tracy.
The main card opened with a memorable bantamweight match-up between Serena DeJesus and UFC veteran Lauren Mueller. DeJesus delivered a heavy kick to the liver of Mueller in the fight’s opening seconds and applied pressure. Mueller stayed on the outside and looked to counter. After trading in the pocket, DeJesus cracked Mueller with a massive left hand that dropped her. DeJesus followed her to the ground and went to work. She passed to mount and took the back as the round expired. Round two was very competitive. Mueller landed a power right hand that slowed the forward advance of DeJesus for a moment. DeJesus went back to her body kick and powered into the clinch. She controlled Mueller with underhooks. There was a sense of urgency from Mueller to start the last frame. She landed a slick combination, but it did not slow the advance of DeJesus. Mueller threw with more volume late in the fight and DeJesus responded with shots of her own. They exchanged until the final bell, with DeJesus edging out the split decision.
In the preliminary headliner, flyweights Helen Peralta and Caitlin Sammons engaged in a grueling, 15-minute bout. Peralta marched forward early, looking to land a power shot. Sammons did well to evade, but she was forced to deal with the advance of Peralta throughout. The pair exchanged heavy shots, but neither fighter went down. The fight found the clinch and they jostled for position while landing short knees. In round two, Peralta connected with a heavy right hand and then a big head kick. Sammons stayed upright, but Peralta used her strength to control the clinch. It was more of the same in the final stanza as Peralta kept Sammons from mounting offense by scoring with knees in the clinch. The judges were all in agreement, as Peralta swept their scorecards.
Atomweight Marisa Messer-Belenchia clashed with Canada’s Katie Saull in a back-and-forth battle. The boxing of Saull scored early and often in round one. She popped her jab repeatedly to turn Messer-Belenchia’s face red. She used her reach to frustrate Messer-Belenchia throughout the round. In round two, Messer-Belenchia powered into the clinch and forced Saull to work with her back to the cage. She wasn’t able to bring the fight to the ground, but the clinch work prevented Saull from mounting offense. The final round saw Messer-Belenchia work hard for a takedown, only for Saull to reverse the position and gain top position. After a triangle and armbar attempt from Messer-Belenchia, Saull opted to return to her feet. The fight’s final round was a war of attrition. Messer-Belenchia came forward with pressure, looking to close the distance. Saull did her best to score at range. The judges were split in their verdict, with Messer-Belenchia eking out the victory.
Making her pro debut, atomweight Natalie Salcedo put on an absolute show against Phoenix Tournament veteran Katie Perez. Salcedo started fast with punches, then stuffed a takedown attempt. Perez pulled guard and Salcedo went to work from the top with strikes. Perez powered to top position, but was quickly forced to defend a triangle choke from Salcedo. The newcomer was relentless with her transitions. It was more of the same in round two as Perez looked to take the fight to the ground and Salcedo was able to control her on the mat. Salcedo again attacked with a triangle from her back and peppered Perez with elbows. Round three was a showcase for the scrambling ability of Salcedo, as she was a step ahead of Perez on the mat. She worked hard for a finish, but ultimately the fight was sent to the judges. All three rewarded Salcedo for her efforts.
The action kicked off with newcomers Kayla Yontef and Carlene Chandler in the featherweight division. Yontef quickly powered Chandler to the mat and began dropping heavy strikes. Chandler worked back to her feet, but Yontef wasted little time putting back on the ground. Chandler attacked with a kimura, but ended up mounted and absorbed even more punishment. Yontef was relentless from the top, battering Chandler with heavy shots. Chandler scored with her hands to start round two, but it was short-lived as Yontef put her on the canvas once more. She moved to mount and then took Chandler’s back. From there, she rained punches and elbows until the referee intervened to save Chandler from further punishment.
Emily Ducote def. Danielle Taylor by knockout (punch, head kick). Round 1, 2:51 – for strawweight title
Taneisha Tennant def. Lisa Verzosa by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46) – for bantamweight title
Brogan Sanchez def. Emilee King by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 1, 4:28
Liz Tracy def. Jodie Esquibel by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Serena DeJesus def. Lauren Mueller by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Helen Peralta def. Caitlin Sammons by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Marisa Messer-Belenchia def. Katie Saull by split decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28)
Natalie Salcedo def. Katie Perez by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
Kayla Yontef def. Carlene Chandler by TKO (strikes). Round 2, 3:13