Carmouche took Strikeforce women's welterweight champion Marloes Coenen perhaps as close to the brink of defeat as she could have without getting her hand raised, dominating the champ throughout the second and third rounds with a punishing ground attack – only to fall victim to a Coenen triangle early in the fourth.
But when Coenen told Mauro Ranallo in the cage that she believes Carmouche will one day wear the belt, Carmouche got a shot of confidence that may very well linger long after the pain of losing her shot at the title fades.
"I felt like I won for a second," Carmouche said after the fight. "To have the champion turn around and say that's going to be you one day – I can't express what that did for me. It definitely made me feel a million times better."
Carmouche (5-1, 2-1 Strikeforce), relatively unknown to the masses coming into the fight, no doubt gained many new fans thanks to her performance in the cage, despite the loss. The seven-year veteran of the Marine Corps took the fight on less than two weeks notice when Miesha Tate pulled out with an injury – and despite very little time to prepare for Coenen, Carmouche said she keeps herself always ready.
"It was an honor to be in the position I am," Carmouche said. "Conditioning wise, I felt like it didn't make a difference. I was ready to take the fight. You get caught. It happens. I'll be back to training on Monday – there's no rest."
Though Carmouche lost the first round on the judges' scorecards, she hung in with Coenen before turning up the volume several notches in the second and third rounds. In those rounds combined, Carmouche threw an amazing 271 total strikes, according to FightMetric – landing 202 of them, many from full mount with Coenen underneath her covering up.
The fact she came so close to championship upset glory – Coenen was a 5-to-1 favorite at some sportsbooks – is magnified by Carmouche's real-world issues leading up to the bout. A freshman kiniseology major, she was in the middle of finals. That reality might be as much on her mind as when she might get to fight again.
"We'll see what they have next," Carmouche said of Strikeforce. "I think I could've done better. I want to challenge myself and push myself to the extreme. The biggest challenge was that I had finals in school – so I was studying for finals while training. The biggest challenge was to concentrate on school and I managed to pass those exams while still going to training and coming to fight."
A Marine, a student, a fighter who books title fights on short notice and takes the champion to the brink – Strikeforce may not have gotten a new women's welterweight champion in Carmouche, but it certainly got another tough competitor for its women's division, and a budding new star.
Coenen may have said it best: "Liz was kicking my (butt), and I really want to be sure everyone gives a lot of respect to her – she will be a champ one day."
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