It's fight week in Kansas, as Kansas City's Memorial Hall plays host to the "Invicta FC 2" event on July 28.
Here's my picks and predictions for the main card of the event:
Liz Carmouche (6-2) vs Kaitlin Young (7-5-1)
When you talk about raw athleticism in women's MMA, Kaitlin Young tops the list. She always comes to fight, and she became a fan favorite for her epic night in Nov. of 2007 when she knocked out three girls in one evening, including a highlight-reel head kick KO of former Strikeforce bantamweight champ Miesha Tate.
Young is absolutely beastly, and a win over Carmouche would easily propel her into the top five in the women's bantamweight ranks, closer to perennial title contenders like Sarah Kaufman, Alexis Davis and Marloes Coenen.
I would love to see Young utilize her elite standup skills to earn a victory over Carmouche, as that would perhaps set up the long-awaited rematch between her and Miesha Tate in early-2013.
Tate would love to avenge that early-career loss, and Young would be smart to step up in competition against a high-level title contender if she ever hopes to stand in against the likes of Ronda Rousey for the bantamweight belt.
I like her chances against Carmouche, another bantamweight who loves to stand and bang toe-to-toe. I see this one becoming a standup slugfest, with Young working the leg kicks and head kicks that made her a star.
The Pick: Young by first-round TKO
Shayna Baszler (14-6) vs Sara McMann (5-0)
31-year-old bantamweight Sara McMann, currently ranked No. 5 in the world in the division, heads into her tilt with Baszler on a seven-fight win streak, but this will be her toughest test to date.
In her five pro fights, the only names that really stand out are Tonya Evinger and Hitomi Akano, so it's clear that the 31-year-old Baszler, a 20-fight MMA veteran, is a true step up in competition.
Baszler is riding a four-fight win streak of her own, including convincing victories over Alexis Davis and Elaina Maxwell.
I definitely see McMann turning this fight into a wrestling match, and earning the victory with a combination of heart, strength, determination and superior grappling skills.
McMann was a silver medalist in women's wrestling in the 2004 Summer Olympics, and she's inching her way towards a spot in the top ten in the women's pound-for-pound MMA rankings. A win here easily propels her into the top ten.
The Pick: McMann by submission (rear-naked choke)
Alexis Davis (11-5) vs Hitomi Akano (18-9)
This is a classic matchup of striker versus grappler, as Davis loves to stand and trade blows, while Akano is a submission expert. Davis is a grinder, and she'll likely look to keep this one standing to avoid Akano's ridiculous skills on the mat.
Even at age 37, Akano hasn't slowed down a bit and she looks fresher than ever. If she can get Davis to the mat, I wouldn't be shocked to see her notch a victory by one of her signature armbars.
My gut tells me to stick with Davis on this one, as she's coming into her prime at age 27 and her punching power has never been better. She held her own with Sarah Kaufman, the premier striker in the bantamweight ranks, just four months ago, and she knocked out a talented Amanda Nunes less than a year ago.
I'm going to go with Davis pulling a "Cyborg" by knocking out Akano.
The Pick: Davis by second-round KO
Ayaka Hamasaki(7-0) over Lacey Schuckman (7-4) by submission
Amanda Nunes(6-2) over Raquel Pa'aluhi (2-2) by knockout
Vanessa Porto(14-4) over Sarah D'alelio (5-2) by submission
Eric Holden is a lifelong fight fan and supporter of women's mixed martial arts. Follow him on Twitter @ericholden.
- Sports & Recreation
- Kaitlin Young
- Hitomi Akano
- Alexis Davis
- Miesha Tate
- Liz Carmouche