The headline fight of this weekend’s UFC 190, between women’s bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey, and undefeated Brazilian, Bethe Correia, is about as personal as it gets.
If you are a fight fan who likes to see real hatred between two competitors then this battle from Rio de Janeiro is for you.
Rousey is known for her ability to finish opponents quickly. Astoundingly, she has only been extended beyond the opening round once in her entire career, professional or amateur. On that occasion she finished Miesha Tate via submission in the third round.
The intense nature of her personal dislike for Correia has, however, inspired the champion to suggest that she might decide to “drag out” and prolong the beating she gives her challenger.
The feud started because Correia habitually fired trash-talk in the champion’s direction upon her arrival in the big leagues. Correia also defeated a pair of Rousey’s training partners, in Shayna Baszler and Jessamyn Duke. Although, these factors alone do not account for the intensity of this rivalry.
The point at which it crossed the line and became extremely personal in nature is easily identifiable. Correia made some ill-advised comments about Rousey’s past, intimating that she was mentally weak and incapable of handling defeat. “The Pitbull”, as the Brazilian is known, added that she hoped Rousey would not commit suicide in the aftermath of their fight.
It was a tasteless comment under any circumstances, but it was even more so given the champion’s family history.
Rousey’s father took his own life when she was just a child. Thus, she was hit hard by the despicable words of her challenger. Correia would later claim that she was unaware that Rousey’s family had such a painful association with suicide, and apologized, but the damage had been done.
It is a matter that should not be used to build a fight, but it provides a context for the emotionally charged encounter ahead.
“Rowdy” Ronda is one of the biggest stars in MMA. More importantly she is one of the most dominant champions in the history of combat sports.
She is 11-0 as a professional, with five of those wins coming inside the UFC octagon. She has finished every single one of those fights inside the distance, submitting nine opponents and scoring two KO/TKO victories.
Rousey, who was a bronze medalist in judo at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, is one of the best grapplers in all of MMA and can pull a fight finishing armbar out of anywhere.
The Brazilian challenger is a tough competitor with a 9-0 record. Three of those wins have come in the UFC.
Correia is primarily a Muay Thai stylist, who throws a lot of strikes and mixes her attacks well. In her fight with the aforementioned Shayna Baszler, Correia showed one of the best body punching games in the sport.
Even when she had her opponent in serious trouble against the cage she didn’t fall into the trap of head hunting. She continued to throw punishing hooks to the body, which in turn opened up the head of a desperately hurt Baszler. This was a key element in securing the TKO.
Rousey will try to close the distance as quickly as possible, just as she did against quality striker Sara McMann, and will look for the takedown.
Correia will do everything possible to fight the rush of Rousey and stay on her feet. If she can’t keep the champion at a distance, where she can utilize her boxing and leg kicks, she will try to land knees and elbows from the clinch. Even with her decent infighting game, this sort of clinch warfare is not what Correia wants as it will eventually result in her being taken to the floor.
Correia’s ground game looks suspect. She handed Baszler a triangle choke and armbar opportunity early in their fight, and such a mistake will not go unpunished against the slick submission game of Rousey.
Unfortunately for the challenger, she does not possess real one-punch power. Only two of her nine wins came by way of stoppage and it took a preposterously prolonged punching onslaught to get rid of Baszler, who despite eating a huge number of shots was stopped on her feet. Therefore, he chances of stunning the world with a sudden and spectacular KO are slim.
Correia’s best shot in this fight is that Rousey’s emotions get the better of her, due to the personal nature of the build-up and the cauldron like atmosphere that is sure to face her inside the arena. If she really is intent on punishing Correia, like she says, Rousey could stray from her game plan and make mistakes.
Unless this happens the fight will eventually find it’s way to the mat and from there Correia will inevitably drown in Rousey’s sea of submission skills.
Though Correia will have the home the support of a frenzied Brazilian crowd, it seems imprudent to predict anything other than Rousey via armbar induced submission in the first round.
Elsewhere on the card….
There are plenty of home fighters on the card to satisfy what is sure to be a raucous Brazilian crowd.
In the main support to the women’s title bout, Maricio “Shogun” Rua takes on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
The Brazilian light-heavyweights met previously when both were stationed in Japan with the now defunct Pride FC. In a lot of ways, as sad as it is to admit, this is something of a nostalgia match-up.
Both men have seen better days and neither is a legitimate contender in today’s 205lb division.
Former champion “Shogun” has lost four of his last five fights and suffered KO/TKO defeats in his last two. “Little Nog” has been quite inactive. He didn’t fight at all in 2012, and only once in each of the following two years. Like his opponent, this fight marks his first appearance in 2015. Nogueira has lost three of his last five.
While it is a fight that has little bearing on the light-heavyweight rankings it is one that has the potential for excitement. Both men like to trade punches and have been in a number of exciting wars. I expect this to be another.
In the end, I think Rua’s edge in power will lead him to a knockout victory in a scrappy but wildly entertaining slugfest.
“Big Nog”, the older of the two Nogueira brothers is also in action on the undercard as he takes on the Dutch “Skyscraper”, Stefan Struve.
The seven foot tall Struve will be too fresh for Nogueira, who like his brother has declined significantly in recent years.
All the wear and tear from years of tough battles are catching up on the 39 year old former Pride and UFC heavyweight champion. Struve, who is twelve years Nogueira’s junior, may have lost his last two by stoppage, but this time around it will be his turn to get the knockout.
It won’t be a popular result in Rio, as the elder Nogueira is a true legend in his homeland.
Another aging Brazilian will also look to get his career moving again in front of his home fans, as Antonio “Big Foot” Silva makes his return to action against Soa Palelei. Silva was last seen being obliterated by the vicious elbow’s of Frank Mir.
The card will be televised in the UK and Ireland on BT Sport 2.
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