From The Key Arena in Seattle, Washington, UFC on Fox 8 takes flight this Saturday night. Facebook (est. 3:30 ET) and the FX Channel (5:00 p.m. ET) will share the broadcasting load for the eight-fight preliminary card that will lead into the four-piece featured ensemble on the Fox channel at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Captaining the Fox channel's lineup is Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson defending his 125-pound crown against a particularly violent challenger in John Moraga while welterweights Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger land the co-main honors. Fellow Strikeforce migrants Robbie Lawler and Bobby Voelker clash in the welterweight division and the ladies will christen the festivities as bantamweights Liz Carmouche and Jessica Andrade open the show.
29-year-old Liz "Girl-rilla" Carmouche (8-3) is fresh off a highly respectable loss to reigning champion Ronda Rousey. It was a heated scrap -- the first female fight in UFC history -- in which the ever-feisty Carmouche put her crafty scrambling skills on display by securing back control before succumbing to Rousey's signature sit-back armbar. Though she arrived at the UFC 157 title bid against "Rowdy" with a 50/50 record in her last four outings (losses to top-shelfers Sarah Kaufman and Marloes Coenen were offset by wins over Ashleigh Curry and Kaitlin Young), Carmouche gave the queen bantamweight her toughest challenge yet, and gained much respect for her valiance.
UFC newcomer Jessica Andrade (9-2) is a 21-years-young Brazilian prospect who goes by "Bate Estaca," which translates to "Pile Driver" in Portugese, a term that commonly refers to picking up and slamming your opponent to defend triangles and armbars (thanks to Marcelo Brigadeiro for the translation). Of her nine career wins, Andrade has finished each (4 TKO's, 5 submissions) within the first two frames. Since her MMA debut in 2011 at age 19, the team Parana Vale Tudo fighter has suffered just two bumps in the road: a TKO loss in her 3rd pro fight to Kinberly Tanaka Novaes and a recent decision defeat to Chute Boxe's Jennifer Maia, who went on to best Zoila Gurgel at Invicta FC 5.
Since fans should be fairly familiar with Carmouche after her Strikeforce stint and competing in such a landmark UFC contest against Rousey, I've dialed up some giffage on Andrade from her win over Team Nogueira's Duda Yankovich at Bitetti Combat 12 in September 2012 so you can get a feel for her style. These animations far from encompass her overall fighting prowess but still capture some of her pros and cons.
There's no question that Andrade is most comfortable when connected to her opponent, and this sequence reinforces that. It takes her about three seconds after the glove touch to lock horns with Yankovich and bully her against the fence. The positive: Andrade shows fearless aggression and strong determination to close distance and impose her strength. The negative: her method of entry is pretty risky here. Though she does a good job of swinging her head wide-left (over her left knee) during the level change, the absence of set-up strikes, shooting in a straight line and keeping both arms out-stretched could all pose defensive liabilities.
Though again showing the aforementioned concerns associated with her entries, you have to applaud Andrade's fierce tenacity here. Her initial double-leg is easily stuffed but she's crafty enough to force a ground fight; really more by just pulling guard and immediately transitioning into a sweep than with a traditional takedown. She capitalizes on Yankovich's loose armbar attempt in order to pass and assume back control.
It can be easy to anticipate and defend a bull-rush type fighter like Andrade, but it's still tough to move forward and mount offense of your own against an opponent who loves tying up. After being stalked nonstop, Yankovich finally presses the attack with punches and pays the price. Notice how Yankovich has to pull back her initial combination to avoid being taken down when Andrade first drops a level, and wisely fires a knee to Andrade's lowered head. However, Andrade sees it coming, retracts her head just enough to avoid contact, snatches up the right leg and sweeps out Yankovich's support leg to secure the takedown.
Andrade taps her out with a guillotine here after laudably battling her way out of an unfavorable position with a power-based takedown.
Tenacity and willpower seem to be her greatest strengths, but the question is whether she'll be able to apply that against Carmouche. Liz fights in a similar way: she's not the most polished striker but she does have decent and straight combinations on the feet. She definitely won't be as easily to handle as Yankovich, as evinced by her hard-nosed showing against Rousey.
Carmouche is justifiably heralded for her scrambling skills, but it's worth noting that she achieved back control on Rousey because the former Olympic Judoka powered her down and went to the Kesa Gatame or Scarf Hold position. This is a standard pin/control technique in Judo but still fairly uncommon in MMA because of the ease with which the defender can slip around to the back. My point is that I'm unsure if Carmouche is an elite scrambler or merely capitalized on the clear benefits of an atypical control position.
Since Andrade is generally untested against top competition, I don't have a strong opinion on whether she'll be able to glue herself to Carmouche and wreak havoc with her frenetic intensity. I think it's wholly possible but that the odds favor Carmouche being a little better and more experienced at the same game, and also a tad more diverse on account of her slightly sharper striking. Carmouche's hands might seriously enter the equation if she can put Andrade on her back, as her top control and ground-and-pound is fearsome.
My Prediction: Liz Carmouche by GnP Stoppage.