Tonight, at UFC 157, history will be made as two women fight for the first time ever inside the Octagon. The vast majority of the pre-fight hype has focused on only one of those women - UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey. That's no surprise - Rousey has seen her profile on the rise ever since her impressive run of 1st round armbar victories began two years ago. But it's not only Rousey who is making history tonight.
Liz Carmouche is, in some ways, an unlikely challenger. Her last high profile fights were in Strikeforce, where she faced back to back losses against Marloes Coenen and Sarah Kaufman. Since then, she's earned a pair of wins in Invicta FC. Where Carmouche is concerned, the majority of the talk has been focused on her extracurricular activities - both her status as a US Marine, and as the first openly gay fighter in the UFC. What has not been discussed enough is what Carmouche will actually bring to the cage tonight.
The best way to get a feel for Liz Carmouche as a fighter is to watch her fights. Here then, are Carmouche's two most recent fights, both in Invicta, along with some thoughts on how they play into tonight's showdown with Rousey:
Liz Carmouche vs. Ashleigh Curry, April 28, 2012
Against Curry, Carmouche showed off her good ground game. She is able to take the less experienced Curry down, control her on the mat, and unleash some hearty ground and pound for the easy stoppage win. While Curry may not have offered the most resistance (this was Curry's 2nd MMA fight), she's far from the only fighter Carmouche has treated this way. This style of grounding an opponent and then unleashing the ground and pound is a Carmouche favorite. She showed it off to solid effect for much of the Strikeforce title fight against Coenen. However, that Coenen fight also showed a real flaw in Carmouche's ground game. As the fight wore on, Carmouche became a bit careless. In the 4th round, the veteran Coenen was able to capitalize on a Carmouche mistake, lock in a submission, and get the tap. That's a bad sign for tonight's fight, as Rousey is not a fighter who you can afford to make a single mistake against, especially on the ground.
Liz Carmouche vs. Kaitlin Young, July 28, 2012
Here, we see more of Carmouche's stand-up game. She has decent striking, and is able to get inside on Young, but she also does get tagged on more than one exchange. That's partly because Carmouche keeps her chin up too much when striking. Rousey herself is not the best technical striker, so in this particular area, I would probably give a slight edge to Carmouche. That said, a stand-up edge against Rousey may not matter, as Ronda likes to quickly get in and initiate the clinch. Here, Carmouche also finds herself frequently clinching with Young (a position Carmouche was also in quite a bit during the Strikeforce Kaufman fight). Carmouche is able to eventually get the fight to the ground, but she struggles with Young's clinch a fair amount. Kaufman had even more success clinching with Carmouche, grinding her way to a decision win. In the clinch, Rousey should have the advantage, and that's another bad sign for Carmouche.
So what will Carmouche's game plan be tonight? Based on her previous fights, I would think she'll likely look to gain top position, then pound Rousey out - a strategy that has worked very well for her in the past. But her previous troubles with both the clinch and submissions will make that a tricky proposition against the Judo and submission specialist Rousey.
See how it all works out tonight, live at UFC 157. And be sure to join us here at Bloody Elbow for live coverage.