UFC Fight Night 31 Preview: Liz Carmouche vs. Alexis Davis

UFC Fight Night 31 – Fight for the Troops 3 is co-headlined by two of the top fighters in the UFC Women’s Bantamweight division. Former U.S. Marine Liz Carmouche, coming off of a dominant TKO stoppage over Jessica Andrade meets Alexis Davis, who was last seen winning a unanimous decision over Rosi Sexton.

Fighter Summary 

Alexis Davis (14-5 overall, 1-0 UFC)

Strengths: Submissions, toughness, conditioning

Weaknesses: Struggles against elite opponents

Liz Carmouche (9-3 overall, 1-1 UFC)

Strengths: Grappling, takedowns, strength and power

Weaknesses: Vulnerable to submissions

Fight Breakdown – These two will do the stand-up dance for as long as Davis wants to test Carmouche on the feet. Carmouche should feel comfortable in the stand up and would be better served by keeping it standing until she has Davis hurt or winded before looking for a takedown. That could take a while because Davis has shown that she can take a punch or two or three. Neither of these two has thunderous punching power, but both of them utilize an array of strikes and are both very durable and tough. It would be surprising to see a first round KO unless one of them lands something flush.

Carmouche is a great grappler and she implements a good mix of knees and elbows, and could do a lot to win this fight in the early rounds by locking Davis into a clinch against the cage and going to work. Taking the wind out of Davis opens up a lot of possibilities for later in the fight.

The flip side of that is Davis is not afraid to lock them up either and also works very well in the clinch and against the cage. We will probably see a lot of back and forth going on against the cage, lots of reversals and jockeying for position. Expect to see a lot of knees to the midsection and thighs between these two.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Carmouche shoot for a takedown immediately, so she can implement some of her ground and pound, but she may not need to. Carmouche is at her best grinding down opponents, taking them down with authority and looking for openings to work some ground and pound and find a submission. With that said, she should have a slight advantage in terms of pure striking, and it will be interesting to see how long she keeps it standing.

Davis on the other hand, may be eager to get this to the ground as soon as possible. Her striking is effective enough to keep Carmouche at bay, but it’s very unlikely she will have Carmouche on the ropes and backing up throughout the fight. Carmouche has gone up against some heavy hitters in her career and she has never been knocked out. Davis may have some success in the stand-up, but not so much that Girl-rilla will be wary and on the defensive.

So Davis has to have a back-up plan in case things don’t work for her standing up. She has to, absolutely has to be able to control Carmouche in the clinch and find a way to drag her down to the ground. That is much easier said than done and things could get ugly for her in a hurry if she finds herself in a clinch with Carmouche, but she has to find a way to control Carmouche, which is really the key to the fight. Control against the cage and on the ground is going to lead to victory.

Key to Victory: Who is better on the ground?

Davis is about the same height as Carmouche, so there won’t be a big size advantage/disadvantage. But Carmouche should have a bit of advantage in terms of strength and power. She will look to utilize that in every aspect from striking to clinching and grappling, to top control and GNP. If Carmouche gets her way, she’s going to take Davis down with bad intentions and look to throw some bombs and elbows.

In all likelihood, we are very likely going to see this fight hit the mat. Davis’s best chance at winning may be on the ground, where she has proven to be very good. Carmouche, for how great her ground game is, is also susceptible to getting caught in bad positions and Davis is great at capitalizing on those opportunities. Davis is capable of bringing Carmouche down, but Carmouche also has very good takedown defense and is able to get back to her feet most of the time.

But if they start rolling, it has to be on her own terms. The last thing Davis wants is Carmouche taking her down and getting top control in the center of the Octagon. That’s going to take Davis to a very bad place and could very well lead to a finish for Carmouche, either by submission or TKO.

Why It Matters – The UFC still only has one women’s division and the list of contenders just isn’t that deep. If Ronda Rousey continues to maintain her dominance at the top of the pack, then anyone and everyone could earn a shot, whether by truly earning it or by default. Look at Miesha Tate, who had her arm broken by Rousey in Strikeforce. She lost to Cat Zingano, but Zingano suffered a serious injury and Tate stepped in to coach TUF and get the next crack at Rousey.

Carmouche is currently ranked #4 by the UFC and Davis is #6. This is Carmouche’s third fight in the UFC and only the second for Davis. For how impressive the women’s fights have been, let’s not forget how very young the division still is and how the pecking order in the women’s division is still very much to be determined until more matchups are made.

Carmouche came very close to defeating Rousey in their first fight, so it wouldn’t be a stretch for her to get a rematch with an impressive win here and there. Both Carmouche and Davis are both ranked high enough to get a win here and maybe just one more to find themselves fighting for a title. That’s almost unheard of for most of the male divisions, but it’s one of the effects of installing a new division from scratch. It’s almost a demolition derby-style free for all, where top spots are definitely up for grabs for whoever is good enough to take them.

This likely isn’t a title eliminator with the few fighters in line ahead of them, but with the injury bug and scheduling issues and all of the other things that go into making matches, it easily could be. Davis is a great, tough fighter with a bright future, but she may not be ready for that big of a step yet.

Prediction – Carmouche

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