The gore factor was off the charts.
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 28 semifinalist Julija Stoliarenko emerged victorious in perhaps the bloodiest confrontation in Invicta Fighting Championships history, as she nailed down a split decision over Lisa Verzosa and captured the promotion’s vacant bantamweight crown in the Invicta Phoenix Series 3 headliner on Friday at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas. Scores were 49-46 for Verzosa, 48-46 and 49-46 for Stoliarenko.
By the time it was over, both women and much of the canvas had been soaked in plasma. Stoliarenko (9-3-2, 1-0 Invicta) was the primary culprit, as she opened multiple cuts on her counterpart—a vertical laceration that ran from Verzosa’s forehead down through the middle of her eyes and a less-serious horizontal gash on her left cheekbone. Verzosa (5-1, 4-1 Invicta) was effective in standup exchanges throughout the fight, but the damage she sustained was impossible to ignore. Stoliarenko set the tone with an aggressive first round that saw her threaten with multiple armbars and never completely surrendered her momentum.
The 26-year-old Stoliarenko has rattled off five straight wins.
In the Phoenix Series 3 bantamweight tournament final, Taneisha Tennant leaned on crisp boxing, stellar movement and airtight takedown defense in laying claim to a unanimous decision over Taylor Guardado. All three judges struck 30-27 scorecards for the unbeaten Tennant (3-0, 2-0 Invicta).
Having advanced to the final by taking one-round decisions from Claire Guthrie and Serena DeJesus, Guardado (0-1, 0-1 Invicta) saw her luck run out. Tennant unleashed a wide variety of weapons, a consistent jab chief among them. Sneaky left hooks and kicks to the legs, body and head also found their intended marks in the three-round scrap. Guardado tried and failed to turn the tide in her favor in the third round, blood leaking from her nose as her gas tank neared empty.
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Spawned by the Budokan Martial Arts Academy in Lynnbrook, New York, Tennant outpointed Brittney Victoria Grizzelle in the quarterfinals and Hope Chase in the semis to reach the tournament final.
Meanwhile, repeated takedowns, suffocating top control and steady ground-and-pound carried 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu prospect Kay Hansen to a unanimous decision over Liana Ferreira Pirosin in a three-round strawweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it for Hansen (6-3, 5-3 Invicta): 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26.
Pirosin (7-4, 0-2 Invicta) spent a majority of the match swimming upstream. Hansen executed takedowns in all three rounds, settled in half guard and chipped away with punches and elbows. She was particularly dominant in the middle stanza and managed to withstand a Hail Mary armbar attempt from Pirosin in the waning seconds of Round 3.
The 20-year-old Hansen has won three of her last four fights.
In other tournament action, Chase took a unanimous decision from Julia Ottolino, and DeJesus captured a unanimous verdict over Kerri Kenneson in the quarterfinals; Kelly Clayton submitted Florina Moeller with a rear-naked choke 4:51 into the first round of one reserve bout; and Mitzi Merry was awarded a unanimous decision over Morgan Hickman in the other.