Liz Carmouche has been keeping a watchful eye on Valentina Shevchenko ever since she first arrived in the UFC.
At the time, the former bantamweight title contender wasn’t looking at Shevchenko as a potential opponent but rather someone she remembered from the early part of her fighting career after they first met in 2010.
Back then, Carmouche was still getting her feet wet in mixed martial arts while competing in Strikeforce but she was offered an opportunity to compete on a card in Oklahoma where Shevchenko was offered to her as an opponent.
Actually as Carmouche reveals, she was originally supposed to face Antonina Shevchenko but she was quite surprised when she arrived at the event and discovered she was actually taking on her sister.
“When they originally offered the fight, I was supposed to fight Valentina so we had done some research and my coach at the time was like ‘[Liz] is brand new, she’s way too green to be facing this veteran in Muay Thai and boxing’ so then I was contracted to fight her sister [Antonina],” Carmouche said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “We signed the fight agreement, told everything was going to be her sister and I show up and on the poster it’s Valentina, not her sister.
“So they kind of pulled one over on me but me being me, I’m always down to fight.”
The fight with Shevchenko ended after the second round due to a nasty cut that was opened over her eyebrow and Carmouche earned the TKO victory.
As much as it meant to her to get the win over a Muay Thai champion like Shevchenko, Carmouche isn’t looking at their first fight as some kind of road map that will lead her to glory when they meet for a second time this weekend at UFC Fight Night in Uruguay.
“I really don’t take anything from that fight for so many reasons,” Carmouche explained. “One, where I was at in my own life, where I was training, taking care of myself in terms of recovery, how to train, at that point I don’t think I had even touched weights. I wasn’t doing any weight training, it was just cardio stuff. So I really didn’t have a full grasp of what it took to be a mixed martial artist.
“Fast forward 10 years, I know what it means to be a professional athlete and to treat it as such. It’s like apples and oranges.”
Since Shevchenko arrived in the UFC, she’s been one of the most successful fighters in the women’s divisions with high profile wins over Holly Holm, Julianna Pena and Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Her career at flyweight has been even more impressive with Shevchenko going 3-0 thus far including a highlight reel head kick knockout in her first title defense against Jessica Eye earlier this year.
Shevchenko’s current streak has made her an overwhelming favorite in her most recent fights with many believing she will be virtually untouchable while competing at 125 pounds.
Now Carmouche isn’t going to discount Shevchenko or her abilities in the Octagon but she’s also looking at her through a microscope as they prepare to fight again, which led her to believe that wins over Jedrzejczyk and Eye shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
“I think you have to really take things into perspective,” Carmouche said. “If you look at Joanna, she moved up simply for this fight and then went right back down to her weight class. So she was mismatched because she was in the wrong weight class, didn’t even have to worry about cutting weight so already there’s going to be a strength advantage. Add to that, they’d already faced each other three or four times in Muay Thai and [Joanna] had been defeated. In my eyes, she stood no chance so really just scrap that fight and look at the Jessica Eye fight.
“Unfortunately [the fight with Eye] went exactly how I expected. Actually I thought it would happen in the first round instead of the second. So you can really go off of one fight and to me that doesn’t really show someone that’s unstoppable or has this mystique around them that they should be someone to be feared.”
As confident as Carmouche might be, she’s walking into the fight as more than a 10-to-1 underdog according to some odds makers, which statistically would make a win on Saturday one of the biggest upsets in UFC title fight history.
None of that matters much to the 35-year old veteran because even when she’s been counted out, Carmouche always seems to find a way to make her opponent regret stepping into the cage with her.
“I’ve been having like one fight a year because I tell them I want to fight more and people say ‘we don’t really want to fight Liz because even if we win, we’re going to pay for it, we’re going to have to take six months to recover’,” Carmouche said. “As much as it might be a win on your record, it’s not a win.
“So I’m hoping that she has that same thought in her mind. It isn’t going to be an easy fight and I hope she has it in her mind as such.”