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Champion vs. Champion: Is Evinger Ready for Rousey?

Scott Hirano, Invicta FC

Invicta’s best-kept secret is no longer flying under the radar after leaving Pannie Kianzad a broken, bloody mess in Saturday’s Invicta FC 14 main event.

For all of the talk surrounding Ronda Rousey and Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, Invicta bantamweight champion Tonya Evinger looked every bit the stone cold killer as she forcefully handled the previously unbeaten Kianzad by second round TKO.

Evinger, a nine-year MMA veteran, is experiencing a rebirth of sorts similar to UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler. The 34-year-old fighter is currently riding an eight-fight win streak with victories over Kianzad, Irene Aldana, Ediane Gomes and Sarah D’Alelio.

Before the fight with Kianzad, Evinger told Today’s Knockout she believed she could beat Rousey, along with top UFC contenders Miesha Tate and Holly Holm:

“I think I beat most of them. They don’t want to fight me. It doesn’t matter, they’re in one promotion, I’m in another. When it comes down to it, I probably won’t get that fight. They could’ve fought me a long time ago and they had a million opportunities, they just didn’t want to take it. Obviously I think I’m ranked higher and I think I’ll whoop their ass, but until it happens, the media’s going to talk, the fans are going to talk and we’re going to talk.”

While many may not agree with the talk, Evinger backed up her words when it mattered most against one of the bantamweight division’s most touted prospects.

Kianzad looked like a wounded victim trapped in a water tank with a shark. The cage violence for Evinger was seamless, as she coupled her relentless wrestling with thunderous ground-and-pound.

From opening bell until the referee pulled her off Kianzad, Evinger stuck to the 23-year-old fighter like glue. It was the type of performance that spotlighted her comments before the fight and made you wonder if she really could hang with the best of the best in the bantamweight division.

We won’t feign as if Evinger is competing against the top fighters in the world, but likewise, it would be unfair to simply gloss over her experienced resume. She has been in the cage with the likes of Gina Carano, Sara McMann, Alexis Davis and Julie Kedzie.

Granted, Kedzie was the only fighter out of the four that Evinger actually defeated, but four years can make a world of difference. The last fight Evinger lost was a unanimous decision to McMann back in July 2011. Since that fight, she has gone on an absolute tear, effortlessly destroying nearly every opponent in her path and finally emerging as an MMA star.

You know you’re somebody when Tommy Toe Hold pokes fun at you (Warning: NSFW Language).

A fight against Evinger might be the only sensible cross-promotional fight available to Rousey, who has flat out declined moving up in weight to fight Justino. There is much to like about Evinger’s soaring confidence as she would need plenty of it to deal with a fighter like Rousey.

However, the brutish fighting style that has helped her earn eight consecutive wins also has weaknesses. In five of Evinger’s losses, four have come by submission. She tends to leave a lot of openings on the ground, and Rousey is as slick as they come among men and women in grappling transitions.

Evinger would have to fight a perfect fight to protect her arm from being mugged. She also doesn’t boast the kind of footwork or one-punch knockout power needed to keep Rousey’s clinch game and Judo in check.

As for the other contenders at bantamweight, Evinger would certainly be in the mix, but it would also be a monumental leap in competition from the opponents she is currently competing against in Invicta.

Everyone’s a shark in the UFC.

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