Liz Carmouche knew finishing Kana Watanabe had to happen to ensure PFL playoff spot

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Liz Carmouche went a little above and beyond to be in the field anyway, so she wasn’t about to start resting on her laurels against Kana Watanabe.

Carmouche (22-7), Bellator’s women’s flyweight champion, submitted Watanabe (13-3-1) with just seven seconds left in their fight at PFL 4 this past Thursday at Mohegan Sun Arena. With just 3 points from her opening fight of the season, Carmouche knew the difference between a 4-point finish in the third round and a 3-point decision could be the difference between fighting for $1 million and a title in August and November, or sitting home.

“Initially, before she stood up, I felt like when she brought her hand under that she actually tapped, but I wasn’t sure if it was her trying to grab her own arm or an actual tap,” Carmouche said of her armbar finish. “I knew the ref didn’t pull me off, so I was like, ‘Whatever I have to do, I’ve got to get this arm. I’ve got to take it home with me.’ That’s all I know.

“I’ve lost so many decisions (thinking I won on) the points card, I won every element of fighting, and it still went to the other opponent. So no way was I walking out of there thinking that I won – I just knew that I had to finish that fight. And even just for my advancement, I knew how important it was to secure an actual finish.”

Had Carmouche not gotten Watanabe to tap and gone to the scorecards and lost a decision, she’d have missed the postseason. And even a mere decision win instead of the finish would have drastically reshaped the women’s flyweight playoff field.

Her 4 points for the finish meant Carmouche had 7 for the season, good for the No. 3 spot. That left Jena Bishop with 6 at No. 4 and set to take on top seed Dakota Ditcheva in the semifinals. Carmouche is matched up with No. 2 Taila Santos.

But a decision win would have meant the potential for her to be No. 4, leaving Ditcheva as her semifinal opponent instead of Santos. Ditcheva was a 40-1 favorite in her win over Chelsea Hackett to secure the top spot.

Early against Watanabe, the fight was on the canvas enough that Carmouche may have figured she’d be in for a 3-point grind.

“I always find a way,” Carmouche said. “She came out and I was like, ‘Wow, I wasn’t expecting her to shoot.’ I expected her to immediately clinch – I thought for sure that’s what she’s going for. The shot was not what I expected. I was definitely down there like, ‘Well, we weren’t really working on this.’ I’m spending way too much time thinking about ‘Wow, this is not where we’re supposed to be’ and I’m like, ‘Hey, you’ve got to get your head back in this. You’ve got to do this. You came here to finish this fight and to advance in the playoffs the right way. Let’s do this. We’re not just going to be an alternate fight. We’re going there to get this belt. So come out and find a way to finish it.'”

Check out Carmouche’s full post-fight interview above.

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for PFL 2024, Week 4.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie