Invicta FC 25: Kunitskaya vs. Pa’aluhi Results & Recap

Invicta FC 25: Yana Kunitskaya vs. Raquel Pa'aluhi
Credit: Scott Hirano/Invicta FC

Invicta FC returned to action Thursday night, live from the Tachi Palace in Leemore, CA. Airing exclusively on UFC Fight Pass, Invicta FC 25: Kunitskaya vs. Pa’aluhi was set to crown a new bantamweight champion following the exit of Tonya Evinger to the UFC. A second title fight between Livia Renata Souza and Jodie Esquibel at strawweight was scrapped when Esquibel was forced off the card due to injury. Souza, however, would remain on the card, and instead face the undefeated Janaisa Morandin.

Also on the card, Alexa Conners made her return to the Invicta FC fold when she took on undefeated German standout Katharina Lehner. Scheduled for bantamweight, Lehner missed weight Wednesday, coming in at 140.5lbs. She’ll forfeit 25% of her purse, and the bout went forward at a catchweight.

Check back come fight time for a recap and full results from the evening’s action! The show gets underway 9PM EST.

Ashley Medina vs. Jillian DeCoursey

Invcita FC 25 opened with an atomweight scrap between Sacramento’s Ashley Medina and Queens, NY native Jillian DeCoursey. Both fighters were making their pro debut Thursday evening. Medina opened by taking the center of the cage and pressing forward with combinations, pushing DeCoursey up against the fence. DeCoursey would get in some offense of her own just over two minutes in, reversing position and pushing Medina against the cage, looking for an opening for a takedown. With that not panning out, they moved back to the center, with DeCoursey firing off some shots of her own. With just over a minute in they’d clinch and exchange knees, with DeCoursey pressing and Medina working to get her back off the fence and move back into the middle. A right hand by DeCoursey landed flush with about thirty seconds remaining; Sacramento’s Medina seemed unphased, and they exchanged til round’s end.

Ashley Medina opened round two with a leg kick, which DeCoursey answered with a combination. Medina continued to use her jab in this round, as she had in the first. She then pressed the action against the fence, looking for a takedown that just wasn’t there. Back in the middle, DeCoursey circled out of harm’s way, using a jab of her own to set up a right hand. By the midway point of the fight, DeCoursey had been opened up under the left eye after continuously tasting the jab of Medina.

Heading into round three, the momentum seemed to be on Medina’s side, but the first round could easily have gone to DeCoursey. Early in the third, DeCoursey finished the first takedown of the fight, and soon moved to side control. Medina gave up her back, which allowed DeCoursey to look for the rear-naked choke. With hooks in, she had a full half round the sneak her arm under Medina’s chin. Medina was unable to escape, but managed to fend off her opponent into the final minute. DeCoursey would try to pepper her foe with strikes to force an opening. It wasn’t there, and instead things would go to the scorecards. DeCoursey picked up the split decision win on the first anniversary of her father’s death.

Jillian DeCoursey def. Ashley Medina by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) 

Cheri Muraski vs. Tracy Cortez

Flyweights were up next in Muraski vs. Cortez. It was youth vs. experience as the 23-year old Cortez was making her pro debut against the older Muraski, at 38. Muraski clinched early, and ate a knee by Cortez, who began pressing forward with punches. They would clinch against and trade knees; Cortez would then press the action against the fence and bloody her opponent with some well placed punches and elbows. A game Muraski returned fire despite a bloodied nose; she found a home for some solid right hands in this round. Both fighters were landing with 90 seconds to go; Cortez hit home with a hard combination and shot for a takedown with a minute to go. Muraski would defend admirably, attempting a kimura in the process. Before round’s end she’d give up her back and get dragged down, but the bell sounded shortly after as Muraski threw elbows at Cortez, who was still clinging to her back.

Early in the second they were clinching again, with Cortez looking for a takedown. Using underhooks she put her weight on Muraski up against the cage. Muraski would land a heavy left shortly after the break the knocked Cortez’s mouthpiece out, which earned her a reprieve as the ref paused the action so she could retrieve it. At the midway point, Muraski would catch Cortez in a standing guillotine, and after spinning around a number of times they hit the floor with Muraski holding the choke. Cortez would take after being up-ended, and Muraski spoiled the Cortez debut party in the end.

Cheri Muraski def. Tracy Cortez by submission (guillotine choke), Round 2, 2:42

Yaya Rincón vs. Courtney King

With both fighters in Rincon vs. King 1-0, someone was losing their perfect record in the third fight of the evening. Rincon wasted no time is securing a takedown, pressing Courtney King against the fence. King (who walked out to the Lion King soundtrack) would eat a number of punches, but would make it back to her feet. After tying things up and buying time to recover, the pair would break and engage back in the middle. This time, King was able to fire off some offense. Yaya Rincon was again able to get the fight down with a trip, but King threatened to take the back. Rincon would defense, but King was able to secure the back in the final few moments of the round.

Round two saw Rincon duck under a King punch early and land another takedown. King’s scrambles were solid earlier in the fight but this time, Rincon was able to mount. King turned over to her back as a result, and Yaya was soon having her way with her, landing some hard punches and elbows from the top. After working for a choke briefly as King again gave up her back, Rincon again found herself in mount dropping bombs. King was unable to do much more than cover up, and eventually the ref had seen enough. After the bout, Rincon thanked Shannon Knapp for hiring her and blew her boss a kiss. Invicta has such fun moments. Picture someone blowing Dana White a kiss…

Yaya Rincón def. Courtney King by TKO, Round 2, 3:41

Amberlynn Orr vs. Sarah Kleczka

Kleczka wasted no time in pressing forward early in this bantamweight tilt. After being reversed in the clinch against the fence, she found herself with her back to the cage, with Orr throwing knees. Back in the middle Orr would land a well-executed side kick, then work a takedown only to find herself in Kleczka’s guillotine. She’d break free and work to pass guard. After some scrambling, Amberlynn Orr would attempt a mounted guillotine, but couldn’t hold on. Back on the feet they’d clinch again with Orr pressing Kleczka against the fence once more. Kleczka would then work for an arm-in guillotine, which allowed her to land some knees before the bell rang to end the first.

Once again in round two, Kleczka was strong out of the gate, but Orr wasn’t far behind. When the action went to the ground, a smooth reversal by Orr allowed her to get on top of her opponent and work in some shots to the body. The pair stayed active throughout the round, with Kleczka utilizing front kicks on the feet, and Orr grinding her opponent up against the fence. Things were close headed into the third.

For the third time in three rounds, Kleczka surged forward to start the round, this time leading with a punch and pressing Orr up against the cage in a clinch. The pair would once again fight out a close round, with Kleczka utilizing some strong clinch work in the third. A lot of fighting for position went down in this round, and throughout the fight, making it a tough one to score.

Sarah Kleczka def. Amberlynn Orr by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)

Shino VanHoose vs. Alyse Anderson

With the action getting back to the atomweight division, Alyse Anderson started strong, looking to land a takedown early against Shino VanHoose following an initial exchange. Anderson held on to a single leg with dogged determination while her opponent showed superb balance, but eventually was dragged down only to pop right back up. Back in the clinch against the cage Anderson was active with knees, and once again worked for a takedown. She’d eventually get her way, working within VanHoose’s guard. However with little progress made the fight was soon stood back up, and with a minute to go, VanHoose looked to turn the tide. Anderson, though, once again took things back down before long. While she was able to land some decent strikes while on top, VanHoose started to light her up back on the feet just as the round came to an end.

In round two some early exchanges on the feet once again led to an Anderson takedown. She then found herself inside VanHoose’s closed guard. This time out, there was no standup as Anderson stayed busy, while VanHoose herself was active off her back with strikes.

Round three saw the action stay standing through the first ninety seconds, until Anderson found herself on her back this time, with VanHoose managing to score a takedown of her own. VanHoose quickly found herself in mount, with Anderson giving up the back. An excellent scramble ensued, but the action was paused due to a wardrobe malfunction. Not long after that, the pair was stood back up. With a minute to go in the fight, Anderson pressed VanHoose against the fence, looking for a final takedown. While she was able to finish and look for a rear-naked choke after working towards her opponent’s back, VanHoose was able to turn and wind up on top as the bell rang.

Shino VanHoose def. Alyse Anderson by split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)

Sharon Jacobson vs. Kali Robbins

Robbins ate some big shots early, with Jacobson letting the fists fly right off the bell. Kali Robbins would try for a takedown only be be dumped on her back herself, but moments later Robbins had an arm trapped, and the (verbal) tap came seconds later!

Kali Robbins def. Sharon Jacobson by submission (armbar). Round 1, 0:42

Alexa Conners vs. Katharina Lehner

Conners utilized her jab early, creating some space, but soon ate a couple of shots for her troubles. Conners worked with her back to the fence, looking to circle away from Lehner’s punches. Lehner, for her part, threw a number of combinations and seemed to do some damage around the ninety second mark. The German fighter would land a number of shots while Conners looked to sneak in some uppercuts. Aside from a brief clinch, it was nothing but exchanges early. Lehner soon began to land some uppercuts that seemed to hurt Alexa Conners. While she’d survive and fire off some kicks, Lehner dropped her within the final minute with a left, and the ref would quickly wave the action off!

Katharina Lehner def. Alexa Conners by TKO, Round 1, 4:21

Livia Renata Souza vs. Janaisa Morandin

The co-main event of the evening was a strawweight title fight until Jodie Esquibel was forced off the card. Instead, it became a showdown between former champ Livia Renata Souza nd fellow Brazilian Janaisa Morandin. Morandin pressed the action early, touching Souza often while Souza looked to counter. Souza then landed a perfectly timed takedown, landing in half guard. Morandin was able to latch on a closed guard, but Souza was active on the top, dropping punches.  Back on the feet, they clinched along the fence with Souza eventually climbing up her opponent’s back and dragging her back down. Souza quickly transitions to the top, and they would scramble, in north-south briefly before Souza again had top control. She landed some heavy shots until Morandin grabbed an arm, but the submission wasn’t there.

The second frame saw Morandin launch a powerful overhand right early, but Souza was able to cover up. They stayed standing through the first minute, with Morandin continually pressing forward. Souza shot in at about the ninety second mark, and after a brief sprawl by Morandin was able to finish. She’d land some body shots with Morandin stacked up against the cage. Once in the middle, with Souza still on top, she looked for a head and arm choke while peppering Morandin with short punches. The ref, however, opted to stand them up, a bit premature. Morandin took advantage, landing an elbow on the feet, but was soon taken down again.

Round three started with Morandin knowing she needed to keep the fight standing. However, after a couple of minutes that’s exactly where she wound up. Despite the early ref standup in round two, Morandin could not rely on the third party in the cage and needed to get back to her feet. Souza, however, was staying active on top, posturing up and working both body and head. Souza would maintain this position through the end of the round, and ultimately Morandin just spent too much time on her back.

Livia Renata Souza def. Janaisa Morandin by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)

Raquel Pa’aluhi vs. Yana Kunitskaya

Kunitskaya was looking for gold for the third straight fight, after a win against former champ Tonya Evinger was overturned, and a follow-up fight saw Kunitskaya taking a loss. Early on she pressed Raquel Pa’aluhi up against the fence, adding knees and looking for a trip. Most of the round would be contested along the fence, until the final minute which saw the pair back in the center of the cage. A takedown attempt saw Pa’aluhi land on top, with Kunitskaya looking to land an upkick. The Hawaiian worked to move to mount, but found herself reversed with Kunitskaya ending the round on top.

The second of five scheduled rounds saw Kunitskaya take the center of the cage immediately and open with a front kick. After some exchanges, the Russian again pushed the fight up against the fence and seemed to have the strength advantage. Off the break, Kunitskaya tagged her opponent, but it wasn’t long before they were right up against the cage wall again. Breaking once more, Pa’aluhi would try to catch a Kunitskaya kick but fail. Through the first two rounds, it appeared Yana Kunitskaya was in control.

Round three saw the pair once again trading early, with Pa’aluhi seemingly unable to solve the puzzle of Kunitskaya. The Russian would work a number of knees to the body in the clinch, and Pa’aluhi, bloodied and bruised, seemed to be losing a step. She’d work in a leg kick, but it was the front kicks of Yana Kunitskaya that proved more effective. She was also the much fresher fighter at this point, light on her feet and circling out of harm’s way. Pa’aluhi would attempt some desperation takedowns in this round, but never came close to landing any.

Heading into the championship rounds, Pa’aluhi was no doubt behind but still game. Kunitskaya was now stalking her in the cage, and her kicks continued to wear her opponent down. Pa’aluhi frequently grabbed at her own nose, which may have been broken earlier in the fight. Between injury, fatigue, and the oppressive onslaught of Yana Kunitskaya, she was unable to get much offense off. Towards the final minute of round four she’d again work for a takedown, to no avail.

Round five started with Pa’aluhi needing a finish. Instead, it was Kunitskaya who continued to attack, maintaining her composure and tying up the action. The Russian played it smart, avoiding some wild punches by Pa’aluhi. Kunitskaya grabbed Pa’aluhi in a guillotine on the feet as she shot in, using the hold to land a number of knees. A Pa’aluhi later in the round was reversed, and it seemed like Pa’aluhi was finally loosening up too little, too late. They’d go the distance, and after twenty-five minutes, Yana Kunitskaya was crowned Invicta FC bantamweight champion.

Yana Kunitskaya def. Raquel Pa’aluhi by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)

Invicta FC 25: Kunitskaya vs. Pa’aluhi Results:

Yana Kunitskaya def. Raquel Pa’aluhi by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)  – for the vacant Invicta FC bantamweight title
Livia Renata Souza def. Janaisa Morandin by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Katharina Lehner def. Alexa Conners by TKO, Round 1, 4:21
Kali Robbins def. Sharon Jacobson by submission (armbar), Round 1, 0:42
Shino VanHoose def. Alyse Anderson by split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
Sarah Kleczka def. Amberlynn Orr by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Yaya Rincón def. Courtney King by TKO, Round 2, 3:41
Cheri Muraski def. Tracy Cortez by submission (guillotine choke), Round 2, 2:42
Jillian DeCoursey def. Ashley Medina by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)