A year ago at UFC 177, Bethe Correia pinned opponent Shayna Baszler against the octagon fence and repeatedly rained blows upon the defenseless fighter. The onslaught forced a referee stoppage at the 1:56 mark in the second round and upped Correia’s perfect record to 9-0, including three straight victories since she moved up to UFC.
Afterwards, the 32-year-old Brazilian immediately called out bantamweight champion and immovable force Ronda Rousey.
“I want to leave a message for Ronda,” Correia said through a translator. “I’m the one that’s going to take that belt. I’m the one that’s going to beat Ronda.”
No. 5 ranked Correia’s demand was heard and now she’ll square off against Rousey (11-0) in UFC 190 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Saturday.
The odds and public’s perception are firmly against Correia, but there are glimmers of hope that she could derail Rousey’s reign. First, Correia may not have the most awesome striking ability, but she’s a well-tested fighter who has gone the distance in all but two of her nine professional fights.
In her UFC debut back in December 2013, Correia pulled off a split decision over American Julie Kedzie and followed up by handing Jessamyn Duke the first loss of her career via a unanimous decision. Duke has since lost her last two fights after Correia broke her confidence.
Going the distance or even past the first round is something no one’s accomplished against Rousey because of her overpowering strength and technical skill to turn almost any drop to the mat into a bout-ending armbar.
But Rousey has made her disdain for Correia well-known, and even said she’s considered prolonging the bout in order to punish Correia for her comments regarding suicide. Rousey’s father committed suicide when she was a child.
"To be honest, my mom's pissed and she doesn't want me to do it," Rousey said to Fox Sports. "And she chewed me out. She wants me to end it as quick as possible still. And I promised her that I'm going to be fine. I'm not going to take any damage.
"And if it goes any longer, it's just because I'm punishing her more, and I'm not going to purposely not finish her if I see something. But I could still drag it out and make the finish just a little bit more thorough."
Rousey, known for her fair amount of trash talk as well, has done nothing but back up her words. Yet no opponent to date has gotten into the 29-year-old Californian’s head quite like this before. And maintaining that mental edge is a big reason behind Rousey’s winning streak and overall success.
Not to mention that Correia, despite her lack of punching power, is still a highly-trained fighter who’s proficient in kung fu and Brazilian jiu-jitsu and could catch Rousey off her guard.
Size is a major factor, and one that’s squarely in Rousey’s corner. Standing two inches shorter than Rousey at 5-foot-5 and with a reach four finches shorter at 64 inches, Correia’s physical make up suggests the undefeated submission specialist Rousey will march on as UFC’s most dominant force.
Yet the roar and support of Correia’s home crowd could play a role. Since turning pro in 2011, Rousey’s fought outside of the United States once, her second fight which ended with an armbar applied to Charmaine Tweet at the 49-second mark in Calgary, Alberta. Now Rousey has traveled halfway around the world to South America’s biggest country and will face a raucous crowd firmly against her.
Still, that could serve as reason enough for Rousey to quickly end hers and Correia’s night likes she has 10 other fighters before. And for those in attendance or watching on pay-per-view, the undercards will likely provide much longer forms of entertainment.
The entire card features fighters from Brazil, each with something to prove. In the men’s light heavyweight division there’s No. 8 Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (22-10) battling No. 11 Antonio Rogerio Nogueria (21-6), a long-awaited rematch of their fight in Pride 10 years ago that Rua won after three brutal rounds.
Before that bout, featherweights Fernando Bruno and Glaico Franca will go, with the former a crafty submission artist who’s collected eight submissions over 15 victories.
Betting Odds: Rousey -1400; Correia +750