Tonya Evinger can rest easy again.
The Invicta Fighting Championships bantamweight titleholder retained her title in decisive fashion, as she submitted Yana Kunitskaya with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their Invicta FC 22 main event on Saturday at the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Missouri. Kunitskaya -- who saw her Nov. 18 victory over Evinger changed to a no-contest due to referee error -- conceded defeat 4:32 into Round 2.
Evinger dodged her share of bullets, most of them in the form of sneaky submission attacks from the challenger. Triangle chokes, guillotines, armbars, heel hooks and kneebars were all in play for Kunitskaya. Admirable though her attempts were, they ultimately proved fruitless. Evinger freed herself from a guillotine in the second round and advanced to top position before climbing to the back. The choke was in place soon after, as Kunitskaya’s situation became untenable and left her no choice but to tap out.
In wake of Invicta Fighting Championships 22, here are four matches that ought to be made (online betting):
Tonya Evinger vs. Raquel Pa’aluhi: Evinger last lost a fight on July 29, 2011. She has gone 10-0 with one no-contest in 11 appearances since, having turned away Kunitskaya, Irene Aldana, Cindy Dandois and Ediane Gomes, among others. Evinger, 35, remains one of the premier bantamweights competing outside the auspices of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and shows no signs of slowing down as she drifts through her mid-30s. Pa’aluhi has won four of her past five bouts, a contentious decision loss to Colleen Schneider her only misstep. The 26-year-old Hawaiian last fought at Invicta 21 in January, when she submitted Pannie Kianzad with a rear-naked choke.
Livia Renata Souza vs. Jodie Esquibel: In her first outing since she surrendered the Invicta strawweight championship to Angela Hill, Souza was cold, calculated and downright frightening. The Brazilian obliterated Ayaka Hamasaki in less than two minutes, as she cut through the Megumi Fujii protégé with punches in the first round of their anticipated co-main event. Hill’s move to the UFC has left the 115-pound throne vacant, and Souza seems intent on reclaiming what was once hers. Jackson-Wink MMA’s Esquible outlasted DeAnna Bennett to a split decision on the main card and bounced back from a lopsided decision loss to Alexa Grasso in July.
Yana Kunitskaya vs. Pannie Kianzad: A hyperactive submission game nearly netted Kunitskaya the Invicta bantamweight championship, as she came within a breath of tapping Evinger with an armbar in the first round. However, when her attempts failed, her situation spiraled in a hurry and led to the Russian being tapped by an Evinger rear-naked choke in Round 2. What comes next for Kunitskaya remains anyone’s guess, but she figures to be a factor in the Invicta bantamweight division for however long the promotion can keep her under contract. Kianzad, who started her professional career 8-0, finds herself in a backpedal following consecutive defeats to Pa’aluhi and Evinger.
Ayaka Hamasaki vs. Jinh Yu Frey: Hamasaki’s decision to test the waters at 115 pounds did not go according to plan, as the reigning Invicta atomweight champion found herself on the receiving end of a brutal beatdown from the aforementioned Souza. The technical knockout loss -- it was Hamasaki’s first since her ill-fated encounter with Claudia Gadelha on July 13 -- snapped a five-fight winning streak for the Japanese judoka, who turns 35 on March 31. Frey has a sore to settle with the Abe Ani Combat Club rep. Her bid to dethrone Hamasaki was cut short in September, when a cut resulted in a second-round stoppage at Invicta 19.