With her first title defense out of the way, Jinh Yu Frey can now adjust her crown, look down from her throne and ask, “Who’s next?”
On Saturday, Frey once again went the distance with Minna Grusander, the same woman she defeated in July to win the Invicta FC atomweight belt. Frey prevailed by way of a split decision that nonetheless felt more definitive than the unanimous decision she took in their first meeting. The result leaves Grusander in a difficult spot; while she was ultra-competitive in both bouts, she has now put in 50 minutes against Frey this year and come away 0-2. “Brutsku” may need to tally another win or two over other contenders before anyone is clamoring for another five rounds.
For the champ, on the other hand, the possibilities are considerable. In spite of the absence of previous champions Ayaka Hamasaki and Herica Tiburcio -- thanks to Rizin FF and motherhood respectively -- Invicta’s 105-pound division is growing rapidly and has no shortage of interesting challengers.
In the aftermath of Invicta FC 33 “Frey vs. Grusander 2,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Jinh Yu Frey vs. Ashley Cummins: Cummins dropped a unanimous decision to Frey at Invicta FC 24 last July but has built a compelling case for a rematch, going 2-0 since and stretching her overall record to 4-1 since dropping to 105 pounds. Most recently, Cummins defeated Jessica Correa Delboni at Invicat FC 32 last month. Frey and Cummins’ first fight was a lively, hard-fought affair; “Smashley” is a come-forward, high-pressure fighter who can draw fireworks from the normally buttoned-up, counter-oriented Frey. Run it back.
Danielle Taylor vs. Mizuki Inoue: Coming off a UFC campaign in which she went 3-3, Taylor impressed in her Invicta debut, stuffing nearly all of Montserrat Ruiz’s takedown attempts and lumping her face up over three strong rounds. The mononymous Mizuki bounced back from her title fight loss to Virna Jandiroba in March with a solid three-round decision over Viviane Pereira last month. Timing is crucial: in an Invicta strawweight division rich with rising prospects but short on veterans putting together winning streaks, a Taylor-Mizuki matchup would launch the winner directly into contention.
Kay Hansen vs. Brianna Van Buren: After fighting twice in the past month -- the second time on only nine days’ notice -- what Hansen probably needs more than anything right now is a vacation. While her armbar submission of Sharon Jacobson on Saturday was an instant highlight and a late candidate for “Comeback of the Year,” the fact remains that Hansen was 13 seconds from losing her second fight in a month. Still only 19, and with physical gifts and attitude to spare, Hansen looks like a fighter in need of reps as much as a step up. Meanwhile, Van Buren impressed on Saturday in dominating Jamie Moyle to move to 2-0 since her comeback from an over-three year absence from the sport. “Tha Bull,” who sprawled-and-brawled Moyle, refusing to let the fight go to the mat until it suited her, would also offer Hansen a different look from the elite wrestling Jacobson used to dominate her over 14 and a half minutes.
Alesha Zappitella vs. Kelly D’Angelo: Zappitella moved to 5-0 (1 N/C) in her professional career with a thorough domination of Amber Brown on Saturday, taking the veteran down at will and applying suffocating top control for what felt like the entire first two and a half rounds. In light of that performance, a matchmaker might be tempted to rush “Half-Pint” to a title shot against Frey, who fought later that same evening. Here’s hoping they don’t. While Zappitella’s record and amateur wrestling background certainly suggest she is a future title contender, Frey has enough viable challengers in place that there’s no need to hurry. D’Angelo, who won her atomweight debut in September after going 2-1 at strawweight -- and 3-0 as an amateur -- would be an appropriate next test: a physically powerful, hard-punching atomweight who might test the well-roundedness of Zappitella’s evolving game.