UFC Uruguay: Can Liz Carmouche Go 2-0 Against Valentina Shevchenko?

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Liz Carmouche UFC Prague
Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Valentina Shevchenko has looked nearly unstoppable at 125 pounds, but she faces a powerhouse in Liz Carmouche and will look to even their scorecard at UFC Uruguay.

This time a year ago, the women’s flyweight division was in limbo. From the champion downward, it seemed as if things were at a stand-still for all fighters involved. This Saturday, the division is active and healthy as the electrifying Valentina Shevchenko will look to notch her third victory in nine months as she takes on familiar foe Liz Carmouche at UFC Uruguay.

“The Bullet” has hit her targets with scary precision over the last year and a half. Since dropping to flyweight, Valentina Shevchenko has had a throttling performance over Priscila Cachoeira, neutralized former champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk, and most recently stopped Jessica Eye with arguably the most devastating knockout ever turned in by a female in the UFC. That victory was just two short months ago in June, and she is already making the turnaround to take on arguably her toughest test at 125 pounds.

The nature of Shevchenko’s victories has had many pegging her as one of the top female MMA fighters ever seen and one of the top talents overall of the past decade. Consider that she announced herself as a major player in the game in 2016 by out-pointing former champion Holly Holm and followed it up by snapping the four fight win-streak of Ultimate Fighter winner Julianna Peña.  Should she continue her campaign, she is a frontrunner for Female Fighter of the Year with time to even add one more fight by year’s end if timing and her health allow.

Liz Carmouche is technically the only woman besides Amanda Nunes to have ever defeated Shevchenko. Although to hear her tell the story, the experience did not provide a game-changing secret. Carmouche faced Shevchenko at a regional show in Oklahoma back in 2010 where she was under the impression that she would fight Shevchenko’s younger sister Antonina. Carmouche ended up fighting the more experienced “Bullet” and in the second round landed an up-kick that caused a cut that ended the fight. The challenger has repeatedly said she does not feel she carries anything from that fight into Saturday due to the nature of the fight and where both women were in their respective careers.

“Girlrilla” would go on to Strikeforce and eventually the UFC where she is best known for being the other half of the first women’s fight in the promotion’s history against Ronda Rousey. At bantamweight, she has faced top competition such as former UFC champion Miesha Tate and former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman.  She has notched victories over notable names such as current strawweight champion Jessica Andrade and top flyweight contender Katlyn Chookagian.

Stylistically, the key to a Carmouche upset is to use forward pressure and keep the champion with her back to the fence. “Girlrilla” is arguably the most physically gifted fighter in the division and should look to tie up Shevchenko against the fence where it is easier to drag the fight to the ground. While Shevchenko is a competent grappler, Carmouche figures to be able to maintain top position with ground-and-pound and focusing on strikes rather than going for submission attempts where Shevchenko can escape in transition.

The key to a Shevchenko victory remains the same as always: keep the fight in the center of the Octagon where she can get in-and-out with strikes. The champion is the superior striker and figures to be able to out-work Carmouche if she can keep the fight at mid-range. Defensively, she should look to avoid getting pushed up against the fence and circle her way back to the center of the cage if she does get tied up.

While several contenders are working their way up the rankings, top-ranked Katlyn Chookagian figures to be next for a shot at the flyweight title. Another key bout that is set to take place in September is Andrea Lee against Joanne Calderwood where the winner could find themselves in line for the belt should Chookagian be unavailable. Depending on how the fight between Valentina Shevchenko and Liz Carmouche plays out, a November or December appearance is not out of the question for the winner.

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