Top prospect Sheila "The German Tank" Gaff needed just 10 seconds to earn a spot in the finals of the inaugural Cage Warriors 125-pound women's tournament.
Gaff knocked out Brazil's Jennifer Maia at Cage Warriors Fight Night 4 on March 16 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The tournament-semifinal bout was not without controversy, however, as some felt Gaff (10-4-1) had faked a glove touch before immediately punching Maia (5-2-1) in the jaw at the beginning of the fight.
Gaff, who is known for her aggressive style, immediately swarmed her opponent with punches and knees to the body. Maia attempted to defend with a Muay Thai clinch, but Gaff flattened her with a left-right combination over the top. An unconscious Maia was sent crashing to the mat, and the brief bout was quickly waved off.
Following the fight, fans and media alike questioned whether Gaff had intentionally baited her opponent with a fake glove touch at the beginning of the fight (watch the Gaff vs. Maia fight video). In an interview with GroundandPound.de this past week, Gaff maintained that she had not intended to use any unfair or unsportsmanlike tactics and had merely wanted to start the fight right away. She said she even considered backing out of the tournament as a result of the backlash, but she will proceed on to the finals later this year.
The second Cage Warriors tourey semifinal, which pits Rosi "The Surgeon" Sexton (12-2) against Aisling "Ais The Bash" Daly (13-2), was originally set to take place in May. It will now likely be contested on June 2 when Cage Warriors travels to Daly's hometown of Dublin.
Gaff spent much of her career competing between 135 and 145 pounds before making the drop to 125 in February 2011. She has knocked out each of her three opponents since then in a combined time of just two minutes. The German striker will face the Sexton-Daly winner in the Cage Warriors tournament final to determine the promotion's first 125-pound women's champion.
LaRosa returns after one-year hiatus, faces Warren at RFA 2
Veteran pound-for-pound standout Tara LaRosa (20-2) steps back into the cage for the first time in more than a year at "Resurrection Fighting Alliance 2: Yvel vs. Alexander" on March 30 in Kearney, Neb. LaRosa faces Kelly Warren (3-2) in one of three women's bouts on the card.
LaRosa has not fought since a second-round submission victory over Strikeforce and BodogFIGHT veteran Carina "Beauty But The Beast" Damm at Shark Fights 14. She has lost just once in close to nine years and has battled many of the sport's best female fighters at 125 and 135 pounds during her storied career.
Warren enters the bout with LaRosa on relatively short notice and as a significant underdog. She opened her pro career with three straight wins, but she since has suffered back-to-back defeats in fights under the NAAFS banner. LaRosa was originally in talks to face Angela Magana (10-4) at RFA 2, but Magana was forced out of the fight due to injuries stemming from a car accident.
Also on the RFA 2 card, Elaina "Beef" Maxwell (6-4) takes on Ashley "Loca" Sanchez (4-2). Both women fought and won twice in 2011. Maxwell holds notable victories over past and present Strikeforce competitors Shana "Rock Solid" Nelson and Alexis Davis. Sanchez scored her biggest win this past April when she upset Erin "Steel" Toughill at Freestyle Cage Fighting 46.
Lastly, RFA 2 features an amateur women's title bout between Jessamyn "The Gun" Duke (4-2 amateur) and SikJitsu representative Elizabeth Phillips (2-0 amateur). Duke looks to capture her third amateur title in what is expected to be her final bout before turning pro. Phillips has won both of her fights since her July debut and picked up a decision win in February.
Katja Kankaanpaa victorious in Botnia Punishment 11 main event
Unbeaten Finnish prospect Katja Kankaanpaa (6-0) earned a big victory on March 23 in Seinajoki, Finland. Kankaanpaa defeated final Valkyrie featherweight champion "V.V" Mei Yamaguchi (9-4-1) by unanimous decision in the Botnia Punishment 11 headliner.
Kankaanpaa countered an early clinch from Yamaguchi by throwing her to the mat, and she trapped the Japanese challenger in a guillotine choke as the fighters stood. Kankaanpaa took down Yamaguchi again, but Yamaguchi framed up a triangle choke from the bottom and landed punches as Kankaanpaa tried unsuccessfully to slam her way free.
Kankaanpaa scored a takedown in the opening minute of round two and battered Yamaguchi with a series of elbows from the top. Yamaguchi managed to fight her way back to full guard, but not before eating more punches and elbows from the hometown favorite. The fighters stood, and Kankaanpaa held an edge in the striking exchanges as the round ended.
With the bout seemingly up for grabs heading into round three, both women landed punching combinations right away. Yamaguchi took down Kankaanpaa very briefly in the corner, but Kankaanpaa reversed and escaped from a triangle-choke attempt. Back on the feet, Yamaguchi punched her way into a clinch. Kankaanpaa slammed her to the mat and closed out the fight with a series of hammerfists that sealed her victory on all three judges' scorecards.
"Crushen Russian" to make Bellator debut this Friday
American Top Team's Marianna "The Crushen Russian" Kheyfets (5-0 MMA, 0-0 BFC) makes her Bellator Fighting Championships debut this Friday at Bellator 63 in Uncasville, Conn. Kheyfets faces off against Munah Holland (3-1 MMA, 0-0 BFC) on the Spike.com-streamed preliminary card.
Kheyfets, a Connecticut native, has spent the majority of her pro career fighting in the Florida-based Xtreme Fighting Championships promotion. She most recently stopped Heather "Hurricane" Clark via first-round doctor stoppage at XFC 16 in February. Her Bellator opponent, Holland, is a former Golden Gloves boxing champion who has become a mainstay in the Ring of Combat organization. Holland was also victorious this past month, and she has won two straight since her lone professional setback.
Amateur fighters shine at "Midwest Combat Challenge 19"
The Ohio-based NAAFS organization showcased five amateur women's bouts on Saturday night at "NAAFS: Midwest Combat Challenge 19" in Akron. On the main card, Ricardo Almeida understudy Rachel "The Black Widow" Sazoff overcame a size disadvantage to defeat NAAFS mainstay "Rowdy" Ronda Gale via unanimous decision. Scores were 30-27 twice and 29-28 for Sazoff, who controlled much of the bout on the ground.
Other NAAFS results:
Rebecca "Trainwrecka" Gruitza def. Ashley Delk via submission (straight armbar) - Round 2, 2:21
Ashley "Smashley" Hawkins def. Angie "Domino" Reinhardt via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Ashley "The Bully" Rickard def. Trisha "The Phoenix" Barr via submission (armbar) - Round 3, 0:31
Rebecca Heintzman def. Roya Darvishian via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
Tuff-N-Uff books five women's bouts for April 7 card
More of MMA's top amateur female fighters will be in action on April 7 at "Tuff-N-Uff: The Fist-ival" in Las Vegas. Twins Jillian "Justice" Lybarger and Jocelyn "Lights Out" Lybarger both will compete on the card before turning pro later this year. Jillian looks to avenge her twin sister's most recent loss when she defends her 115-pound Tuff-N-Uff title against unbeaten Stephanie "The Shark" Gonzalez. Jocelyn battles Xtreme Couture's Ashley Yoder at 125 pounds.
In other scheduled women's bouts, Jordan McDonald faces Paulina Granados, Bridgette "Black Wolf" Batch takes on Ashlee Evans-Smith, and Jamie "The Hurt" Herod meets Christine Ferea.
Lina "Lynx" Eklund (2-1) defeated Fran Vanderstukken (0-1) by unanimous decision at "Staredown 6: Octagon Edition" on March 17 in Deurne, Belgium. Eklund got back on track with the victory after suffering a one-sided defeat to a much larger Shana Nelson in February.
Jasminka Cive (5-0) defeated Eva Henesova (0-1) by TKO (punches) at the 2:10 mark of round three at "MAX FC 5: Liechtensteiner Fight Night 2012" on March 17 in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. All five of Cive's pro wins have come inside the distance, and she has knocked out each of her past four opponents.
Hannah Stephens (2-0) defeated Chloe Hinchliffe (0-1) by majority decision at "KORE MMA: Cage Fighting Championships" on March 24 in Austell, England. Stephens earned her second win as a pro after a successful debut in October. Hinchliffe suffered her first official defeat after a controversial loss in February was overturned to a no-contest.
Stephanie "Snowflake" Eggink (1-0) faces Kaline Medeiros (0-2) at "Extreme Beatdown: Beatdown at 4 Bears 10" on March 31 in New Town, N.D. Eggink returns to action for the first time since a quick submission victory in June. Medeiros fought twice in 2011 and remains in search of her first pro win.
Singapore's first female MMA fighter, Nicole Chua (0-0), makes her pro debut against India's Jeet Toshi (1-0) at "ONE FC 3: War of the Lions" on March 31 in Singapore. Both fighters bring strong backgrounds in kickboxing into the bout, which streams live on YouTube. Toshi won her MMA debut this past month.
Milana Dudieva (7-1) faces Danielle "The Curse" West (4-2-1) at ProFC 40 on April 1 in Volgograd, Russia. Dudieva has won seven straight fights since dropping her pro debut, but she has not fought since August due to a series of bout cancellations. West has tasted defeat only once in her past five fights and picked up a TKO win in February.
Naoko Omuro (12-8-4) faces "Happy" Fukuko Hamada (7-6-1) in a rematch at Pancrase Progress Tour 4 on April 1 in Tokyo. Omuro submitted Hamada when the fighters faced off in 2007. The first fight marks the only time that Hamada has ever been finished in her career.
On the same Pancrase card, pro wrestler Kyoko Kimura (1-0-1) returns to the promotion to face South Korean kickboxer Sung Eun Kim (0-0).