One of my favorite fighters is Barb “Little Warrior” Honchak the Invicta FC flyweight champion. She defends her title on November 1 against Takayo Hashi at Invicta FC 9. Here we will look at her last three Invicta fights. They were three tough challenges for her to face in becoming the champ and defending her title.
First will be her battle with TUF 20 cast member Aisling Daly from Invicta FC 3. Then it will be her fight with Vanessa Porto for the belt at Invicta FC 5 and finally we will examine her title defense against Leslie Smith at Invicta FC 7. Three very different fighters that posed three unique challenges for Honchak and they provide excellent insight to what makes her one of the most complete champions in MMA today.
The un-orthodox Aisling Daly
When it comes to MMA, Daly has one of the more unique styles. It’s based around what seems like perpetual motion as she is never really still and constantly switches her stances. The movement is bolstered by a strong grappling game and a lot of heart. Daly is the type of fighter that keeps coming at you. She is a tough challenge for anyone.
With her awkward movement, Daly makes it difficult for her opponents to read and time her. It is easy for a fighter to get frustrated against her because it looks like they should be able to hit her but often end up missing. This will often slow down an aggressive fighter or force one into a mistake.
Here is an example of some of that movement.
Aggressive is a word you will hear a lot from announcers when she is fighting but it is not reckless aggression. What you see from Honchak is a controlled attack like a predatory cat staying balanced, focused and ready to pounce on the slightest opening. Then attacking with ferocity. Daly definitely wanted to slowdown Honchak and did for the opening minutes of the fight. Then Honchak started working her way inside by being aggressive.
Honchak was able to stay aggressive because of her strong technique, strong will, her own movement and ability to fight from all distances, levels and angles. Her basics are sweet and solid. They give her the foundation for her aggression. The will and ability to endure punishment means that she can take a shot or two to put herself into a position to do damage and win the fight. Her movement means that she often can avoid the strike to land her own. She has excellent footwork and head movement that allows her to close the distance from the right angle to deliver the strike. While not taking damage doing it.
In this fight Daly was looking to stay on the outside as the taller and longer fighter. During the first round you could hear her corner telling her to “take the center of the cage” and “stay at distance.” Coming from Straight Blast Gym Daly was a strong grappler but not quite at Honchak’s level. In close, Honchak had more weapons available to her and showed a strong clinch game early in the fight.
Honchak was able to continually get inside and do some damage from the clinch like this knee later in the first round.
In the second and third rounds Honchak continually got the fight to the ground. Once it went there she forced Daly to display her strong submission defense and toughness. It was a brilliant display of grappling control combined with an aggressive submission attack aided by her ground and pound.
Here is the first takedown and you can see the power of Honchak when she just rips her down to the ground.
From there Honchak showed a remarkable ability to maintain a controlling position while still finding a way to attack. Here we see her use some ground and pound while still working for the choke.
It shows her controlled aggression in this situation too often you see a fighter only go for the choke and waste time. In other cases you see a fighter get overly aggressive and not only do they lose the position they often finds themselves on the bottom. In the remainder of this fight Honchak countered everything Daly tried on the ground and continued to inflict punishment. The fight showcased Daly’s toughness as she battled until the end trying to find a submission but Honchak was too slick and strong.
We also saw work as a true mixed martial artist utilizing all the different elements of the sport to take all three rounds. In the first it was a standup fight that saw Honchak use her aggression to land more strikes. The second and third was a masterful display of grappling. Honchak mixed her wrestling and jiujitsu to smother Daly and her hopes of winning this fight. This win would put her in place to challenge to be the first Invicta FC flyweight champion against Vanessa Porto.
Winning the belt
The title fight with Porto was a much different challenge for Honchak. Porto was extremely tough and coming into their fight her only losses had been to bantamweights and one to Cyborg at featherweight dropping a UD to her back in 2005. That makes Porto only of only two fighters to go the distance with Cyborg.
Along with toughness, Porto is also a finisher. She came into this title fight with a 15-5 record with 13 stoppages. Ten of the finishes were via submission. Her fighting style is more straight forward aggressive with solid striking and strong submission skills. She brought a little more one strike power than Daly. Honchak also had to be aware of Porto’s leg kicks. In her previous fight against Tara LaRosa she had destroyed LaRosa’s legs with them.
Also, Honchak was in the blue corner for this fight and came out first. That is usually the role of the challenger in a title fight. It made it seem like at the least that many were viewing Porto as the favorite going into the matchup. Honchak quickly showed that they were wrong.
Early in the opening round she landed this nice counter.
When it comes to effective leg kick defenses one of the best is to counter punch off of it. If you time it correctly you can land a clean shots. On one of the early kicks from Porto we see Honchak counter with another combination.
The counter is one of the more aggressive defenses of the low kick and it is not surprising to see Honchak use it. Some speculated before the fight that Honchak might try to get the fight to the ground early to avoid the leg strikes. Instead she came out early looking to punish Porto for the kicks. Then more of it in the second round.
Later in the round we see Honchak string together a nice combination counter off of a low kick.
The third round saw Honchak continue to land consistently and used her combinations to often counter many of Porto’s one strike attacks. Porto was finding the range on her leg kicks and landed several solid ones on Honchak. They did not slow her down much though as she seemed to be frustrating Porto with her movement. Which aided her ability to avoid Porto’s attacks and effectively counter them throughout the fight.
More and more you saw fast combos like this one from Honchak in the fourth round.
And this one. Which shows how Honchak was able to keep Porto moving backwards during the fight.
After five rounds it was clear that Honchak was the new and first Invicta FC flyweight champion. She had consistently used her combinations to offset Porto’s more single strike focused attack. Porto might have expected a takedown attempt or two from Honchak with her strong wrestling background. Instead Honchak was content to take the title by out striking Porto in the standup.
With her new title the challenges did not get any easier for Honchak. Instead of an easy first title defense her first challenger was Leslie Smith.
An amazing title fight
The fight was a brilliant technical battle between two warriors. Smith was a much different challenge for Honchak and one of the more difficult ones. There are several similarities that Smith shares with the Diaz brothers. Given that they all are Cesar Gracie trained fighters that is not surprising. Some of difficulties of dealing with Smith are her length, strong inside game and excellent ground skills. She also brings an aggressive go forward at all times attitude into every fight.
There are many taller fighters who never really understand how to use their length at all. Smith is not one of those as she is excellent at distance using her strikes to back her opponents against the cage. Almost everything is within some combination and she has weapons at all distances and levels. As she moves inside of the mid to close ranges she has the uncanny ability to land head kicks. This weapon is combined with a strong clinch game making her very dangerous everywhere on her feet.
When the fight goes to the ground she is aggressive at going for submissions. She can afford to be aggressive because of her ability to get out of bad positions with her sweeps and reversals. It was the grappling area that the wrestling based Honchak was able to exploit in their fight by consistently getting the fight to the ground. Once it went there she effective enough to successfully defend her title.
The striking battle was a close one as both fighters landed throughout the fight. It was a back and forth battle that ebbed and flowed as each time one fighter landed something clean the other came back with their strikes. They both like to work their combinations as well. They both also brought an excellent sense of timing into the matchup.
One way Honchak was able to get the fight to the ground was due to her great sense of timing. The first one came off of a Smith kick that Honchak read easily, ducked under and stepped in perfectly.
On the ground Smith did a good job of not taking too much damage and was able to get back to her feet. Neither fighter was close to getting submitted but it was Honchak’s ability to get the fight to the ground and do enough damage to help her take a hard fought fight. Smith battled until the end but Honchak got her to the ground every round and retained her belt.
A complete champion
When you think of the different elements and traits of champion Honchak checks off all of the boxes. She is tough, fierce, versatile, has unlimited cardio, fights with a high fight IQ, and is capable of taking the fight were she has the advantage in the fight. Honchak is able to do this in part because she is so technically sound and always balanced allowing her to be a true mixed martial artist. Using all elements of the sport to her advantage and we saw that in these three fights.
In the Daly fight we saw her standup adapt to the tricky awkwardness of Daly’s movement and her ability to get the fight to the ground to earn her shot at the title. In the title fight against Porto she had to deal with a tricky ground fighter with powerful leg kicks. Honchak used her aggression and combinations to become the first Invicta FC flyweight champion. Her first title defense was against the bigger, longer and taller Smith. In this battle we saw her sense of timing her in her ability to land her takedowns to defend the belt.
It is difficult to imagine Honchak losing the title anytime soon. She has not lost since 2010 and is currently riding an eight fight win streak going into this title defense with Hashi. Honchak is also simply the best female fighter at flyweight in the world today.
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