Michelle Waterson had plenty to smile about on Saturday night. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Michelle Waterson’s grip on the Invicta Fighting Championships atomweight throne grew stronger at the expense of Yasuko Tamada.
Waterson retained her 105-pound title with a stellar performance in the Invicta FC 8 headliner on Saturday, as she dispatched Tamada with a third-round knee strike and follow-up punch at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo. The end came 4:58 into round three -- and mercifully so.
Tamada (15-9-3, 0-1 Invicta), who had never before been finished, was never competitive. Waterson set the tone for what was to come with a dominant first round, as she stayed busy with her kicks, tore into the Japanese veteran with savage knees from the clinch and later dropped her with a beautifully timed front kick. Tamada’s situation did not improve as the fight deepened, the champion slowly dissecting her with a diverse and precise standup game.
Waterson, 28, has rattled off six straight wins.
In the co-main event, Cage Warriors Fighting Championship veteran Katja Kankaanpaa laid claim the vacant Invicta strawweight championship, as she coaxed a tapout from Stephanie Eggink with a fifth-round brabo choke. Kankaanpaa (10-1-1, 2-1 Invicta) finished it 2:03 into round five, winning for the fourth time in five appearances.
Eggink (4-2, 0-1 Invicta) had her moments. The promising Shayna Baszler protégé threatened Kankaanpaa with a triangle choke and armbar in the third round before stepping on the gas in the fourth. There, Eggink moved to full mount after a failed takedown attempt from the Finland native, forcing her to surrender her back. A steady stream of lefts and rights to the side of the head followed, but Kankaanpaa survived. Her fortitude paid off.
Meanwhile, EliteXC veteran Tonya Evinger submitted American Top Team export Ediane Gomes with a first-round armbar in a bantamweight showcase. Gomes (10-3, 2-1 Invicta) conceded defeat 3:31 into round one, her four-fight winning streak snapped.
Evinger (14-5, 2-0 Invicta) blitzed the Brazilian with takedowns, scoring with three of them. She eventually achieved full mount, dropped fist- and elbow-laden ground-and-pound and framed the armbar. After a brief struggle, Gomes tapped out. The 33-year-old Evinger has won five fights in a row.
Elsewhere, an active and multi-faceted standup attack carried Syndicate MMA’s Roxanne Modafferi to a unanimous verdict over longtime rival Tara LaRosa in a featured tussle at 125 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it for Modafferi (16-11, 1-0 Invicta): 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
LaRosa (21-5, 0-2 Invicta) never seemed to get in gear. Modafferi landed more often and with more authority throughout in their 15-minute rubber match, as she mixed power punching combinations with an effective jab and kicks to the legs and body. The 31-year-old “Happy Warrior” floored LaRosa with a right hook in the third round and punctuated her first victory in more than four years with an exquisite counter right hand with roughly a minute remaining on the clock.
The win put an end to a six-fight losing streak for Modafferi.
Finally, DeAnna Bennett (5-0, 1-0 Invicta) stopped Team Quest representative Michelle Ould (7-4, 0-1 Invicta) with a body kick 94 seconds into the second round of their duel at 125 pounds; Charmaine Tweet (6-4, 1-1 Invicta) put away Team Alpha Male’s Veronica Rothenhausler (1-1, 1-1 Invicta) with punches 4:05 into round one of their lightweight encounter; Irene Aldana (4-1, 1-0 Invicta) submitted “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 18 alum Peggy Morgan (2-2, 0-1 Invicta) with a rear-naked choke 2:50 into the first round of their bantamweight affair; undefeated Mexican prospect Alexa Grasso (5-0, 1-0 Invicta) notched a unanimous decision over Ashley Cummins (3-3, 1-3 Invicta) in their battle at 115 pounds, securing 30-27, 29-28, and 29-28 nods on the scorecards; Jodie Esquibel (4-1, 2-1 Invicta) eked out a split verdict -- 29-27, 29-28, 28-29 -- against the previously unbeaten Jinh Yu Frey (2-1, 0-1 Invicta) in an atomweight scrap; and J.J. Aldrich (1-0, 1-0 Invicta) picked up a unanimous decision over Delaney Owen (2-1, 0-1 Invicta) in their clash at 115 pounds, earning 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26 marks from the judges.