Invicta 4 scores inside the cage, falters outside

Invicta 4 is now in the books and ultimately will be remembered as an event that scored inside the cage, but was a letdown in what happened outside of it.

The main event saw Carla Esparza capture the promotion’s inaugural strawweight title by grinding out a decision over a fired-up last minute replacement in Australia’s Bec “Rowdy” Hyatt. The challenger was game, but Esparza’s superior wrestling was able to neutralize Hyatt’s attack and enable her to leave with the title around her waist.

The co-main event saw one of the greatest women’s fights of all-time as Alexis Davis exacted a measure of revenge in her rematch with Shayna Baszler, choking out Baszler in the third round. The Davis-Baszler fight was a sight to behold, and will leave the much more hyped UFC offering of Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche in an unenviable position to try and match the action and intensity that both combatants put forward last night.

Davis was relentless in the fight, refusing to give an inch to Baszler, willing to engage in the striking battles and knocking Baszler down at the end of the second round. On the mat where the Josh Barnett-trained catch wrestler Baszler assumed she’d have the advantage, Davis was equally as tenacious attempting submission after submission and at no point ever letting being on her back keeping her from attempting to win the fight. UFC fighters could take note. The fight finally ended when Davis kicked out the legs of a fatigued Baszler and cinched in a rear-naked choke that sent Baszler into dreamland.

Also on the main card, the old adage “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” proved to be apt as the bad blood between Leslie “The Peacemaker” Smith and Raquel “Rocky” Pennington spilled over and provided an entertaining three-round tilt. The Cesar Gracie-trained Smith showed she has every bit the attitude of the famed “Scrap Pack” in both battering and taunting her opponent.

The undercard was also rife with action, as both Tecia Torres and Veronica Rothenhausler made their cases for more high-profile fights in the promotion. Torres was dominant in a decision win over Paige Van Zant and increased her status as a player in the strawweight division. Rothenhausler built on her reputation as a KO artist, sending Katalina Malungahu to the canvas in just 1:12.

But despite all the in-cage action, this card may be more remembered for its flubs outside the cage. This card was to be Invicta’s big move into a “for-profit” company, charging a modest $7.95 to watch a web stream of the card. But things, mildly put, didn’t go as planned. While those who pre-purchased early experienced no difficulty, many of those who attempted to purchase the event as it began found that the Ustream system would not accept their order, instead just being caught in a never-ending purchase screen.

To their credit, when Invicta was made aware of the problems, they decided to put consumer confidence ahead of profit and made the call to take down the pay wall, refund everyone’s purchase and stream the event free as they had before. Unfortunately, the sudden influx of viewers caused the stream to collapse for some and become intermittent for others. Many who were inclined to pay for the event were forced to not only watch for free, but seek a pirated source to do so. Among those were Sarah Kaufman, a contracted Invicta talent who decided to partake in a third-party site’s chat room in order to see the event.

While much of the blame should be shouldered by Ustream, as they apparently decided to ignore Invicta as complaints from the company rose and were described on Invicta’s twitter as “battling” with the company, Invicta must also take responsibility. The stream quality of Invicta’s events has ranged from “unacceptable” to “adequate”. It’s clear that the Ustream partnership is not serviceable at this point. While the UFC streams their preliminary cards flawlessly on YouTube, Invicta remains caught in a technological quandary. If the company truly wants to grow, this issue needs to be addressed.

The card also bemoaned regular play-by-play man Mauro Ranallo’s absence. While Invicta was able to replace Ranallo with arguably the biggest name they could have in his former Pride commentary partner Bas Rutten, it only showed to underscore how valuable a presence Ranallo is. Rutten is quite possibly the most charismatic and entertaining personality in the sport, but without a Ranallo or Stephen Quadros to guide him he often veered off into rambling or singing along with the songs playing on the arena’s PA. Julie Kedzie did her best as the show went on to keep things on track but Ranallo was proved to be the commentary unit’s centrifugal force. Rutten and Invicta President Shannon Knapp have a long history, and if Knapp is able to talk “El Guapo” into coming back as a colour commentator, a three person team featuring Ranallo, Rutten and Kedzie would really add to Invicta’s fifth card.

Even with the mishaps outside the cage, Invicta once again proved that WMMA is for real and is much more than the UFC and their Ronda Rousey experiment. Every single competitor gave their best effort to both win and entertain the crowd, and viewers were left with one all-time classic and many entertaining fights. Davis’ victory even sets her up for a rematch with Kaufman at Invicta 5 in April, which is as big a main event as Invicta could offer at this point. As long as people are able to view it, Invicta 5 should draw a lot of eyeballs.

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