The stakes for the main event of Invicta Fighting Championships 21 were raised Friday when the all-female promotion announced that it will now be for the Invicta FC interim featherweight title. Megan Anderson and Charmaine Tweet will do battle over a belt that may become an official title depending on the results of reigning queen Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino's pending USADA suspension. Justino was notified of a potential violation stemming from an out-of-competition sample collected on December 5 of last year.
Invicta FC has not given an official reason as to why the fight is being moved to interim status, but Justino has not defended the featherweight title since January 16, 2016 against Daria Ibragimova. She has had two UFC catchweight fights during the past year but has not competed in Invicta. A USADA suspension usually puts an athlete on the shelf for at least a year, and it is not clear whether or not Cyborg will ever return given the expansion of the UFC to include a women's featherweight division. Allowing an interim champion makes sense given the uncertain future of the champion.
Invicta FC looks like a solid card even if it may not be filled with Invicta's biggest names. Two of its fights made our list of must see MMA matches for January, and it features the MMA debut of undefeated women's boxer Heather Hardy. Hardy is 19-0 as a pro boxer and faces Brieta Carpenter, an 8-2 amateur MMA fighter making her professional debut.
DeAnna Bennett pulled out of her fight around the same time as the title announcement and was replaced with promotional newcomer Kali Robbins. She faces Jodie Esquibel in what will now be a catchweight bout. Esquibel is a 5-2 atomweight who is coming off of a loss against recently signed UFC talent Alexa Grasso.
Amy Montenegro meets Celine Haga, and Rachel Ostovich meets Christine Ferea in the opening bouts. The co-main features what looks to be a scorcher as bantamweights Pannie Kianzad and Raquel Pa'aluhi collide. Both fighters are swingers and bleeders so it may be a slippery gorefest. Kianzad had her undefeated streak broken at 8-1 by Tonya Evinger in a catchweight bout. She is the first female bantamweight champion for Cage Warriors and debuted in Invicta FC with a win over Jessica-Rose Clark in July 2015. Pa'aluhi is an even 5-5 as a pro who had a three win streak snapped by Colleen Scheider at Invicta FC 15, the last Invicta card headlined by Cyborg.
The main event features 2016 Fight of the Year and Knockout of the Year winner Megan Anderson fighting for interim gold against Canadian Charmaine Tweet. The Australian Anderson is 7-2 running a three win streak, all of which she racked up in 2016. She has two performance of the night awards and faces a tough veteran of the sport in Tweet. Tweet is 9-5 and also has a three win streak. She captured the Prestige FC title after a loss to Cyborg in 2015. She last defeated Latoya Walker with a crushing spinning backfist at Invicta FC 17.loss to Justino in 2015.
Invicta FC 21 takes place Saturday, January 14 at 8PM EST from the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, MO. Join our Invicta FC picks tournament to leave us your winners and don't forget to join us for live results and discussion Saturday night. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for results and round by round scores.