May turned out to be a rather busy month for women in the sport. A ton of fights that had very important divisional consequences for the participants involved, including some shocking upsets and surprisingly great performances.
First off Invicta FC put on another action-packed card with some of their better talents on one card and delivering some great action, capped off with two title fights at the top. Hawaiian mainstay Rachael Ostovich weathered a very rough storm to take a close decision against Ariel Beck in a fight that Ostovich made as ugly as possible and with a steady amount of pressure wrestling, especially towards the end. Christine Stanley defeated Shannon Sinn by decision in a very tough bout, where Sinn survived everything Stanley threw at her and Stanley showed off some serious improvement in her grappling. Megan Anderson continued to impress with her second straight win in a row over Amber Leibrock in a dominant TKO win that started with a body kick and went on from there. Anderson has a bright future, and it becomes evident with each and every outing. Her Invicta debut loss against Cindy Dandois really doesn’t seem like that big a setback these days and it’s great to see her improve between performances at such a great rate. It’s really a treat to see Anderson become the de facto face of the organization’s efforts at rebuilding a feasible featherweight division.
Former Bellator talent and New England veteran Kaline Medeiros stepped in as a replacement for the very beloved Mizuki Inoue against Brazilian fighter Aline Serio in a fight that saw Medeiros overpower less athletic and undersized Serio despite her best efforts. Medeiros would win that fight by TKO in the second round. In another featherweight tilt, Charmaine Tweet blasted Latoya Walker with a highlight reel spinning backlist KO for the ages. The final seconds certainly don’t tell the full story, as Walker had connected repeatedly with some great overhands and was working well with managing the range of the taller Tweet. Tweet improves to 3-0 since her loss to Cris Cyborg in February of last year, winning two fights in Canada under the Prestige FC banner prior to the Walker fight.
In what was perhaps the most surprising development that night, former UFC fighter Angela Hill took strawweight champion Livia Renata Souza to the limit in an exciting back and forth where Souza’s improved striking was just as impressive as Hill’s improved grappling. Hill fended off multiple submission setups and attempts, working well to stay in dominant position when possible and landing some great shots against the very durable Brazilian, snapping Souza’s undefeated streak. Hill is now the champion with a 5-2 record, and despite the small roster, Invicta is doing some great work bringing in new talent and managing what they have left after some of their talent went on to the UFC.
In the main event, the seemingly unstoppable Tonya Evinger had another great performance against seasoned veteran Colleen Schneider, who gave Evinger a lot more than anyone bargained for. There were a lot of great exchanges in every facet of the fight, yet it was still yet another win for Evinger, who is one of the best career resurgences we’ve seen in the sport since Mark Hunt.
The day after that event we were treated to UFC Figh Night 87: Overeem vs Arlovski. The first of two women’s fights featured former KSW champion, Polish striker Karolina Kowalkiewicz defeating Heather Jo Clark by decision. Clark had not fought since her decision win in the TUF finale in December of 2014, and despite some good moments, seemed a bit behind more and more as the fight wore on. Kowalkiewicz remains undefeated at 9-0, and is now set to fight fan favorite Rose Namajunas at UFC 201.
Further up on the card was the fight between lethal Dutch kickboxer Germaine de Randamie taking on newcomer Anna Elmose. Elmose gave it a good go, but de Randamie was far too much with her physicality and technique, crumbling Elmose with body attacks. While it seemed that Elmose’s signing was a sign of further expanding the women’s bantamweight division, she’s opting now to drop to strawweight. de Randamie improves to 3-1 in her UFC run with wins over Julie Kedzie and Larissa Pacheco and a lone loss to Amanda Nunes, who is set to fight champion Miesha Tate at UFC 200.
The week after that was the amazing UFC 198, live from the Arena de Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil and featuring the triumphant arrival of Cris Cyborg taking on the always resilient Leslie Smith. Justin’s won via TKO in just under a minute and a half in what was a somewhat controversial finish, but the statement was still made. Cyborg’s work with boxing coach Jason Parillo was on full display with a lot of poise and polish in her game, and she showed a much more expanded game than just rushing in and swinging hooks in the old Chute Boxe manner. What happens next is anyone’s guess, as Ronda Rousey isn’t expected to come back until later in the year and Dana White appears adamant to have her fight the champion upon her return after her loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193 in Novermber of 2015.
Bellator had some more women’s fights as well as Stephanie Frausto was defeated by underdog Jamielene Nievara at Bellator 154. Nievara won via TKO in a surprising display given the early displays of talent from Frausto in her career. Bellator 155 had the inaugural women’s featherweight title fall apart after Julia Budd pulled out due to injury and replaced by former UFC talent Alexis Dufresne to take on WMMA legend Marloes Coenen. Dufresne would get a shocking upset win after setting up a beautiful triangle arm bar in the very first round. Dufresne was winless in the UFC at 0-2, losing to Marion Reneau and Sarah Moras, and was subsequently release after poor performances and difficulty making weight.
Finally, what could very well end up being one of the top ten exciting fights of the year took place on ONE Championship’s headlining effort on May 6th between Mei Yamaguchi and rising star Angela Lee. I can’t do this fight justice, you have to see it for yourself. It’s not the most technical fight at every moment, but there was a lot of everything for everyone with some great close calls. Yamaguchi continues to gain the reputation of the “anywhere, anytime” fighter she is, while Lee justified the decision to have her headline the card, and shortly after re-upped her deal with ONE.
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