Bec Hyatt earned respect in her decision loss at Invicta 4. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
When “Rowdy” Bec Hyatt stepped up on short notice to meet Carla Esparza for the vacant Invicta Fighting Championships strawweight belt at Invicta 4 on Saturday at Memorial Hall, nobody expected much from her. In fact, the Australian striker walked into the cage as a 10-to-1 underdog.
Although Esparza, a two-time All-American wrestler in college, won every round of the title bout, Hyatt’s phenomenal striking, impressive submission defense and unquestioned heart left its mark in the cage.
Hyatt is not the only 115-pounder poised to leave her mark on the division. Esparza, along with American Top Team’s Jessica Aguilar and submission phenom Megumi Fujii, may be dancing atop division rankings, but Invicta 4 offered a brief glimpse into the future of the division.
Take Joanne Calderwood, a Scottish muay Thai champion who turned heads at Invicta 3 on Oct. 6 by defeating the previously unbeaten Ashley Cummins by knockout with a knee to the body, winning a “Knockout of the Night” bonus in the process. At Invicta 4, Calderwood walked through the previously undefeated Livia von Plettenberg. Calderwood was training to fight Hyatt before the lineup change, and that matchup has now become even more attractive.
Although Rose Namajunas was making her professional debut on the undercard, she definitely made a dent. The Academy fighter won the “Submission of the Night” bonus for a third-round victory via rear-naked choke over Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts export Emily Kagan. Namajunas is one to watch; her smooth transitions, straight punches, explosive kicks, excellent submissions and overall scrappiness bode well for her future in this division. Namajunas, who has also trained at Roufusport in Milwaukee, has an extensive striking background, with years of karate and tae kwon do.
Tecia Torres put on a clinic in her unanimous decision victory over durable opponent Paige VanZant. After compiling a 7-0 record in the amateur ranks, Torres made her first professional appearance in October. Although this was only her second pro fight, one certainly could not tell from watching. “The Tiny Tornado” strung together combinations, showcased both defensive and offensive grappling and used speed and conditioning to earn 30-27 nods on all three judges’ scorecards.
Add 18-year-old Japanese kickboxer Mizuki Inoue to the mix -- she has quietly compiled a 4-1 record in Jewels -- and you can see the future of the 115-pound division beginning to unfold. With Invicta providing space for promising up-and-comers to gain some experience and showcase their skills, the depth of the strawweight division will likely continue to grow.