Valentina Shevchenko vs. Liz Carmouche: Women's flyweight title fight preview, breakdown

Yahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports
(L-R) Valentina Shevchenko and Liz Carmouche face off during the Ultimate Media Day at Sheraton Hotel Montevideo on Aug. 8, 2019 in Montevideo, Uruguay. (Alexandre Schneider/Zuffa LLC)
(L-R) Valentina Shevchenko and Liz Carmouche face off during the Ultimate Media Day at Sheraton Hotel Montevideo on Aug. 8, 2019 in Montevideo, Uruguay. (Alexandre Schneider/Zuffa LLC)

UFC women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko (17-3) is so good that not a single one of her mere three career losses is without controversy. Her losses to now bantamweight and featherweight world champion Amanda Nunes in 2016 and 2017 were both close decisions that could have reasonably gone the other way.

Shevchenko’s only other loss was to Liz Carmouche (13-6), back in September of 2010. Footage of that fight, physical or digital, is rare and may not even exist.

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Officially, the fight was a loss for Shevchenko due to “retirement,” which is almost always a strange and misleading result label. Carmouche hit Shevchenko with an upkick that cut her, ending the bout via doctor’s stoppage, according to both fighters.

Carmouche emphasizes the shenanigans allegedly played on her by the promotion, as well as the fact that Shevchenko was much more experienced at that point.

“The first time I was tricked, honestly, by the … promotion I was fighting for,” she told reporters this past winter.

“I was supposed to fight her sister, who had just as little experience as I did. I ended up going up against someone who had ten years more experience than I had. At that point, I wasn’t willing to say ‘no’ to an opportunity to fight so I took it, and somehow managed to come out with the win. This will be very different. I’ve been training now for 10 years. I have a lot more experience and I know that it will be in my favor, without a doubt.”

Carmouche, who has won four out of her last five, rematches Shevchenko on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+) in Montevideo, Uruguay and gets a chance to become the new flyweight world champion. True enough, Carmouche was still just months into her pro MMA career the first time she faced Shevchenko, while the future champion was already a seven-year veteran.

Still, that’s a complicated thing to consider, all in all, because Shevchenko is younger than Carmouche and her first several years as a pro fighter came while she was still an underage child. Again, another example of how good Shevchenko is and was – that she successfully competed against adults as a teenager in MMA.

In any case Shevchenko – who has won three-straight and five out of her lasts six contests – insists that the blow Carmouche hit her with back in 2010 was a banned one. “It was one illegal kick. I don’t think I [lost] this fight,” she told media members in 2015.

Both women are far more experienced than they were when they first fought, nearly a decade ago. They’re also both much more skilled than ever before.

It’s impossible to tell how the rematch will go down, but here are a few crucial points to consider:

Carmouche brings the pressure

(R-L) Liz Carmouche kicks Jennifer Maia in their women's flyweight fight during UFC Fight Night inside CenturyLink Arena on July 14, 2018 in Boise, Idaho. (Getty Images)
(R-L) Liz Carmouche kicks Jennifer Maia in their women's flyweight fight during UFC Fight Night inside CenturyLink Arena on July 14, 2018 in Boise, Idaho. (Getty Images)

The military veteran and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt has an assortment of effective pins that she uses against the fence and on the mat. Carmouche uses excellent head position and wrist control while pressing opponents against the floor or against the mat, and is a submission threat from on top.

Carmouche is particularly good when she takes an opponent down right along the fence, where she takes a low mount, locking her legs underneath her opponents’ legs. The position doesn’t allow for a lot of posturing potential to generate big punching power, but it does afford great control.

Off of her back, Carmouche works great angles from the full guard and looks to climb up high and control her opponents’ posture. She is also a leg lock threat, confidently able to lace up legs off of her back and threaten with heel hooks.

Shevchenko is hard to catch, harder to hold onto

Shevchenko uses her quick strikes with all limbs and footwork to dissuade opponents from storming her recklessly with takedown attempts. The kickboxer’s takedown defense begins before contact is ever made, as she uses excellent lateral footwork and stance-switching, along with feints to make it hard for opponents to get a bead on her legs or hips.

When opponents do grab her and press her against the cage or on the mat, she is great at staying safe, landing strikes, and reversing positions (on the cage), as well as submitting opponents off of her back (on the mat).

Shevchenko isn’t just a kickboxer

Though she’s most known for her highlight reel stand-up striking abilities, Shevchenko is also an adept offensive wrestler who increasingly makes takedowns a big part of her offensive output. On top on the mat, Shevchenko is patient and uses good connection and pressure on her opponents’ hips and face to make it difficult for them to escape.

Shevchenko has nasty timing and power

Shevchenko’s raw striking is considerable on the feet. The elaborate traps she sets and her fantastic timing make her strikes downright lethal.

She punches and kicks opponents with shots they don’t see coming, which is what makes her such a dangerous finisher.

Both women have fantastic conditioning

Though Shevchenko has the big-fight, long-distance experience advantage here, Carmouche always comes into bouts in excellent condition, is efficient with her expenditures and keeps a constant pace.

Shevchenko has looked almost unbeatable for the past decade, barely losing only to another future Hall of Famer in Amanda Nunes, who just happens to be the world champion at a weight class 20 pounds heavier than her own division. For that reason, she is the favorite this weekend.

Still, Carmouche is a dangerous challenger capable of winning. She won’t be beat, mentally, has the skill set to slowdown and threaten Shevchenko if she can effectively close the distance, and has considerable physical strength and conditioning.

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