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Invicta FC 15: Cyborg closes out exciting night in impressive fashion

Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino continued her dominant ways at The Hangar at the OC Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa, California on Saturday night, patiently waiting to find her opening before blasting Daria Ibragimova with a heavy right hand in the final seconds of the first round to retain her featherweight title in the main event of Invicta FC 15 seen live on UFC FIGHT PASS.

The challenger started the bout smiling and dove in on a single leg early, but Cyborg was able to defend and maintain her balance on one foot, peppering Ibragimova with short shots along the fence. When the fight broke into space and was contested in striking range, Cyborg landed crisp and clean, stinging her Russian foe with every strike.

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Right as the “10 second clappers” rang through the venue, Cyborg connected flush with a right hand that spun Ibragimova to the canvas and brought the fight to a close.

This was another devastating performance from the Brazilian, who runs her winning streak in the Invicta FC cage to five with each of the last three ending in the first round. She’s cleaned out the division and solidified herself as the most dominant force on the female side of the sport, leaving everyone to wonder what comes next for the featherweight juggernaut?

In the co-main event of the evening, Brazilian strawweight champion Livia Renata Souza sent DeAnna Bennett from the unbeaten ranks, connecting with a vicious body kick early in the first round that sent the challenger crashing to the mat. A flurry of punches followed as Bennett covered up and referee Jason Herzog jumped in to wave it off.

This was a standout performance for the diminutive and dangerous Souza, who claimed the title last April with a fourth-round triangle choke win over Katja Kankaanpaa. Now 9-0 for her career, the reigning champ showed new wrinkles in her game on Saturday night, catching Bennett with a big right hand right out of the gate and finishing her with a nasty liver kick shortly thereafter.

Now entrenched atop the division, Souza’s next outing may be a date with 22-year-old prospect Alexa Grasso, whom she called out earlier in the week after the 7-0 upstart was forced out of a bout between the two not once, but twice.

Colleen Schneider vs. Raquel Pa’aluhi

This one was delayed after the fighters made their way to the cage as the ambulance on duty at the venue was called away, leading to Schneider and Pa’aluhi spending a good 10 minutes trying to stay loose in the cage before the action got underway.

Once the fight started, Schneider almost instantly opened up Pa’aluhi, catching her with a quick left hand inside that sent crimson running down the Hawaiian’s face. Undeterred, Pa’aluhi continued to wipe away the blood, pressing forward and looking to turn this into a grappling match, ending the frame on Schneider’s back.

In the second, Pa’aluhi kept grinding, trying to close the distance and fight in close, forcing Schneider to carry her weight, but the CSW product did a great job of defending and picking her spot with her strikes, attaching Pa’aluhi’s battered left eye. Early in the third, Schneider wobbled Pa’aluhi with a stiff 1-2, but she couldn’t capitalize, allowing her opponent to recover and continue pressing forward, looking for the takedown along the fence.

Though Schneider faded down the stretch and was content to play defense, Pa’aluhi wasn’t able to find a finish and Schneider emerged with the split decision win (29-28 twice, 28-29) in her return to the Invicta FC cage.

Amber Brown vs. Shino VanHoose

Originally scheduled to face veteran Lisa Ellis, Brown stepped into the cage and made a statement against the 20-year-old late replacement VanHoose instead.

The Albuquerque native cemented her standing as the top contender in the atomweight division, snapping VanHoose’s head back with the first left she threw before “The Bully” locked up a guillotine choke and earned the submission victory just prior to the midway point of the round. Now riding a four-fight winning streak with the last three coming in the Invicta FC cage, the FIT-NHB product called out champion Ayaka Hamasaki during her interview with Laura Sanko and it’s a fight we should see at some point in 2016.

Lacey Schuckman vs. Mizuki Inoue

Invicta FC veterans and underrated strawweights squared off here with the 21-year-old Inoue looking to get back into the win column in the promotion at the expense of the Colorado native Shuckman. Both women have fought a bunch of tough competition to this point in their careers and that experience and hunger to stand out in the 115-pound ranks turned this into a terrific fight.

The initial five minutes saw the duo trading submission attempts and top position, each having moments where they were attacking and defending. There was some controversy late in the first, as Shuckman had Inoue locked in an inverted triangle choke and it looked as if the 21-year-old Japanese fighter offered a single tap. Referee Jason Herzog didn’t step in and Inoue escaped soon after, but the moment seemed to rattle Shuckman.

In the second, Inoue came out quickly, tossing Shuckman to the ground with a nice throw and advancing straight into mount. When the ground and pound started coming, Shuckman gave up her back and Inoue kept firing away, peppering with punches while looking to attack submissions. Diving at an armbar with two minutes left, Shuckman escaped, but Inoue didn’t give her space, keeping her pinned to the mat and covering up to avoid further damage.

Early in the third, Shuckman attacked a guillotine, but Inoue defended well and it turned into a bad spot for “The Ladie.” Once Inoue escaped, she climbed to mount and unloaded hammerfists, setting up another armbar attack, finally extending the arm and forcing Shuckman to tap at the 3:41 mark of the final round, bringing this entertaining contest to a close.

Angela Hill vs. Alida Gray

Fighting for the first time since being released from the UFC, “Angie Overkill” got loose in the Invicta FC cage and showed a glimpse of the upside and potential she possesses.

From the outset, Hill’s superior speed and movement was a problem for Gray, as she sniped in a straight right hand almost immediately and never let off the gas from there. Mixing body and head shots, Hill crashed home a powerful right that forced Gray to cover up and that’s when the Invicta FC newcomer turned it on. A string of punches and knees followed and when a body shot sent Gray crashing to the canvas, referee John McCarthy saw enough and stepped in at the 1:39 mark.

Megan Anderson vs. Amber Leibrock

Invicta FC featherweight sophomores Anderson and Leibrock kicked off the action in Orange County, with the animosity that permeated their staredown at weigh-ins carrying over into the cage on Saturday night. Both women made their promotional debuts last year, with Anderson falling to veteran Cindy Dandois in an entertaining back-and-forth tussle, while Leibrock made waves by stopping Marina Shafir in 37 seconds in her pro debut.

After both came out throwing smoke and connecting with power early, this one turned into a clinch battle, with Anderson controlling the action along the cage between brief stretches of action in space when referee John McCarthy split them up.

Late in the second, Anderson opened up with her hands and appeared to be close to getting Leibrock out of there, but the horn sounded before the Aussie could finish things off. Leibrock briefly threatened with a triangle choke in the third, but Anderson defended well, rose to her feet and got the stoppage win soon after, dropping the American with a couple big right hands and follow-up knees along the cage. The official time of the stoppage was 2:33.

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