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Davis sees Carmouche as champ
Alexis Davis heard all about the famous "Octagon jitters" that happened to so many fighters the first time they stepped foot in the Octagon. The No. 6-ranked Canadian bantamweight had fought in a lot of big shows before making her debut in June, so she had no worries about butterflies fluttering in her stomach before facing Rosi Sexton at UFC 161.
Then Davis stepped out from behind the curtain and met the thousands upon thousands of fans in the arena. She saw the bright lights and felt the music pulsating through her skin, and once she reached the cage one thing was very clear — Octagon jitters are real.
"I remember before saying, 'Oh I fought in Strikeforce, it isn't going to be that bad' and I was seeing a lot of familiar faces, and people around you, it's really similar. But when you meet that crowd, when you come out it just this huge adrenaline rush and it's incredible," Davis told FOX Sports. "I was totally caught off guard by the atmosphere."
Davis was able to overcome the nerves and pull out a decision win over Sexton in a hard fought, three-round battle. As one of the first women signed to the UFC earlier this year, Davis was very excited to join the promotion and take a new step forward in her career, but that doesn't mean it didn't come with a slight bit of worry as well.
When the women were brought into the UFC, president Dana White made it clear that the entire division was created for one reason — Ronda Rousey was the game changer who made him alter course. For years, White scoffed at the idea of a women's division, but Rousey's unique combination of skill and charisma turned him into a believer.
Since Rousey debuted at UFC 157, a stable of women's fighters have been brought into the UFC and while the women's bantamweight champion still stands out as the star of the group, no one is being ignored when it comes to the promotion machine at the UFC. If anything, the women's fighters have taken on a bigger role and that's something Davis has been very happy to see.
"It's been great. Obviously a lot of us were kind of like, 'How's this going to turn out?' Are they really going to focus on just certain fighters — particularly Ronda (Rousey) or Miesha (Tate) or something like that, but it really hasn't seemed like that," Davis said. "It seems like we're all getting the same kind of attention. Like we're the co-main event for this, that's incredible. We just saw (Sarah) Kaufman and (Jessica) Eye. It's just been an incredible journey."
For her second fight in the UFC, Davis will face fellow Strikeforce and Invicta Fighting Championships veteran Liz Carmouche, who was the first fighter to take on Rousey earlier this year. Carmouche has turned into a fan favorite since coming to the UFC, and she can count Davis among them.
"A lot of people know who Liz is. If I wasn't fighting Liz, I'd be cheering for her because she's an exciting fighter and fans like that," Davis said.
Fan or not, Davis has no plans of standing in awe of Carmouche on Wednesday night at Fight For The Troops. She's studied her game and understands that one of Carmouche's greatest strengths is to try and negate Davis' powerful ground and submission tactics. Whether Carmouche can do that or not is where this chess match will play out.
"Liz has that anti-grappler capability where she's able to stop a lot of people with really good ground games. She's got to watch. We saw what happened in the Marloes (Coenen) fight, but I think she's learned a lot from a lot of previous fights. It's just being able to play it smart," Davis said.
"I'm trying to push it a lot more. Like you want to work on your wrestling and your stand up and you want to have a little bit of everything, but I love jiu-jitsu. It helps. We have mats in our living room. I feel like I’m at the top of my game, especially for women's MMA."
A win for Davis against Carmouche would go a long way in putting her name into title contention. The UFC women's bantamweight division title waters are muddy at best right now with top contender Cat Zingano out with a knee injury, and her last opponent Miesha Tate now getting a shot at the belt off a loss. There's also Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann, who made a successful debut earlier this year, but hasn't fought again since April.
Coming into the UFC, Davis was already looked at as a top prospect to get a title shot within a couple of fights, but wading into the unknown of where she stands in the division has been a much tougher battle than she anticipated. As much as Davis wants to focus on the gold, she's got to look at every fight as her chance to get there so for at least one night in Kentucky, Carmouche is the champion and she's trying to dethrone her.
"We don't know what's going on with Cat (Zingano) and we have December and we have Ronda and Miesha and who knows what's going to happen then, and we don't know when (Sara) McMann makes it back, but I'm going to get past this fight, I'm going to get a strong victory and that's what's going to help kind of propel me in this division," Davis said.
"Other than the obvious fighting Ronda, Liz is right up there with them. For me this is a huge fight, for me this is my title fight."