By: Jesse Donathan
The UFC Fight Night 156 main event between flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko and challenger Liz Carmouche was simply put, terrible. If Liz Carmouche’s game plan was to force the disciplined, ever patient counter striker in Shevchenko to come to her than perhaps she can claim some kind of marginal success. Because all Carmouche did throughout round one was run a glorified sparring session at best against Shevchenko, putting on a demonstration for fans on how to move in the cage without actually fighting. It was a terribly boring performance, not the kind of fight that had you looking forward to round two.
Unfortunately, the second round was marked with more of the same from round one. Carmouche at one point went for a takedown, shooting from a mile away, which Shevchenko easily defended. Baring this break in the action, the remainder of the round was little more than a mirror image of the first. The exact kind of fight you know for a fact you do not want to watch for another three full rounds.
The problem with attempting to out counterstrike the counter striker, forcing them out of their element and into your own counterstriking glory is once the terribly boring game plan begins to work, you have to actually do something once your opponent begins engaging you. Otherwise, it’s a game of pity-patter; less than a glorified sparring session bordering on a direct insult to our intelligence. The third round was little more than a continuation of the previous two rounds, a glorified sparring session marked with a lot of movement from Carmouche but not much in the way of offense or even a pulse in the fight.
Quite honestly, it appeared as if Carmouche was shadow boxing in an actual championship bout, literally punching at and catching air. The only ray of light in an otherwise dismal fight throughout three rounds was Shevchenko finally catching up with Carmouche with a straight left hand, planting the veteran firmly on the canvas with just under two minutes left to go in the third.
With Carmouche grounded on her back, Shevchenko would begin to work leg kicks before the referee Keith Peterson made the decision to stand the combatants back up. From there the fighters would find their way into the clinch, with Shevchenko impressively throwing her Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belt foe to the mat with a variation of an upper body takedown, ultimately trapping Carmouche against the fence. Carmouche would begin to work heel kicks to Shevchenko’s thighs from her back, the effectiveness of which being open for debate. This was perhaps exactly where you would expect Carmouche to shine in the fight, the exact place Liz needed this contest to go and unfortunately, she failed to capitalize on her good fortune.
The fourth round was more of the same from Carmouche, going through the motions on her feet before Shevchenko strung a combination together off of a superman punch that drew applause from the otherwise tame crowd. Carmouche would again shoot for a takedown from a mile away, which not surprisingly was defended by the well-rounded champion who moments later actually chose to chase Carmouche down to the ground where she immediately pulled rubber guard. Again, Carmouche would start heel kicking Shevchenko from her back instead of looking to improve her position or fish for a submission.
Shevchenko literally followed Carmouche down to her own world and yet Liz failed to capitalize. The fighters would jockey for position on the mat for sometime before the referee decided he had seen enough and once again stood the fighters back up. The fight would continue briefly on the feet, before Carmouche rushed in for a takedown, eating a spinning back fist for her efforts before once again ending up on her back with Shevchenko in dominant top position. The fourth would end with Carmouche down four rounds to zero and getting thoroughly outworked by the champion Shevchenko.
The fifth and final round began much the same as the second, with Carmouche going through the motions on her feet before shooting in for a takedown and ending up on her back once again. Shevchenko would slowly push Carmouche across the cage and into the fence, where Liz still could not manage to threaten any kind of legitimate submission attempt despite having a perceived advantage in the grappling department on paper. The fight would come to an end with Shevchenko standing up and frustratingly biding Carmouche to follow her to the center of the Octagon before the final bell sounded drawing an end to one of the most uneventful championship fights in UFC history.
Valentina Shevchenko may have defended her title Saturday night, but the real loser of the fight wasn’t the heartless Liz Carmouche but the fans themselves. An insult to our intelligence, UFC light heavyweight contender Thiago Santos was prepared to die in the cage to defeat Jon Jones and claim the UFC light heavyweight title. Santos will be recovering from the injuries he sustained in that fight for months to come. In contrast, Liz Carmouche put on the exact opposite performance of Santos leading one to question to whether she came to win or collect a pay check and go home at UFC Fight Night 156 on ESPN.
By: Jesse Donathan
Valentina Shevchenko (17-3, 5 KOs) is one of the most decorated fighters in women’s mixed martial arts history. According to an August 8, 2019 msn.com article titled, “UFC Uruguay: Valentina Shevchenko focused on improvement, not being best in the world,” Valentina is a, “A 17-time Muay Thai and K1 world champion. Combined with her MMA record, Shevchenko is a staggering 71-5,” in her professional fighting career. The UFC flyweight champion, Shevchenko faces challenger Liz Carmouche (13-6, 6 KOs) in the main event at UFC Fight Night 156 this Saturday live on ESPN+.
Known as a counter striker, Shevchenko exercises a great deal of patience in the ring or cage and forces her opponents to come to her. This can at times work against the Kyrgyzstan fighter who fights by way of Lima, Peru, resulting in boring fights without a lot of action. There is no question Shevchenko is comfortable, fluid and at home in the striking department but her style alone can lead to opponents outworking and outpointing her in the cage.
Young fighters could stand to learn a lot from watching Shevchenko fight, her poise and patience in the cage denote the experience and comfort level of a seasoned professional. Generally speaking, the techniques she throws are simple: Leg kicks and basic one, two combinations from the southpaw position. Shevchenko will use the front kick, teep/push kick to maintain distance and is not afraid to use various spinning techniques with great efficiency when necessary.
Carmouche would be wise to work on recognizing and defending the “Superman punch,” a sneaky, unorthodox technique Shevchenko uses with relative frequency to disguise a zinger of a left hand behind it. Valentina Shevchenko is a master counter striker who possesses beautiful technique, rarely finding herself overextended as she touches opponents up with relative ease. Her ability to maintain distance, next to her poise and patience in the Octagon may be one of her strongest and least appreciated skillsets in the cage.
Today, women’s two-division champion Amanda Nunes is regarded as the best fighter in the sport, but back at UFC 215 in 2017 Shevchenko lost a razor thin decision to Nunes in a chess match many thought could have went the other way. It was a close fight, which may have come down to Nunes securing a takedown late in the fifth and final round to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The second time the two had fought, Nunes ended taking home a split-decision victory to take a 2-0 lead in their rivalry but not before Valentina Shevchenko had put her name on the map.
Shevchenko’s opponent, Liz Carmouche, is a veteran mixed martial artist on a two-fight winning streak having decisioned opponents Jennifer Maia in July of 2018 and Lucie Pudilova back in February of this year. A former United States Marine, Carmouche fought bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey in the UFC’s first ever inaugural women’s MMA fight at UFC 157 in 2013, losing via submission (armbar) to the WMMA icon at just 4:49 into the first round.
As good as a fighter as Shevchenko is, having fought and lost to Amanda Nunes twice there remains one other blemish on her mixed martial arts record. A September 2010 TKO (retirement) loss to none other than her opponent this coming weekend, Liz Carmouche. Saturday nights main event will be a rematch for all the marbles as the UFC flyweight champion “Bullet” Shevchenko looks to avenge one of three losses on her professional MMA record and “Girl-Rilla” Carmouche looks to make it 2-0 against perhaps the best female mixed martial artist on the planet.