If you didn't see these two signings coming you haven't been watching very carefully. Sergio Pettis is probably the biggest name in flyweight prospects in the world of MMA right now. He's been on the radar of the UFC since making his pro debut back in September of 2011. For Bethe Correia, her time in the cage has been brief, but the Team Pitbull Brother's prospect was teased as a UFC signing just two months ago and it looks like the UFC has finally pulled the trigger on her contract.
While Sergio Pettis was going to be hyped no matter how well he performed in the cage, his career so far has done little to dim expectations of him as the hottest prospect in the 125 lb division. At only 20 years old he's unbeaten at 9-0 with three knockouts, three submissions, and three unanimous decision victories. While his competition hasn't been stellar thus far, it's been consistently improving and wins over current Super fight League Champion Tom McKenna and young up-and-comer James Porter show that he hasn't been avoiding decent competition on the regional circuit.
At 5'6" he's got good size for Flyweight or bantamweight, and his long arms make him a confident striker and grappler. He's been a bit notably lackluster in his defensive striking thus far in his career, but it's hard to think that that won't get ironed out as he continues to improve under the tutelage of Duke Roufus. MMAjunkie confirmed his signing and reports that he will be making his debut at UFC 167: St-Pierre vs. Hendricks on November 16th. Combate reports that he'll be facing off against Vaughan Lee in his bantamweight debut.
It's a better test for Pettis than it first appears. While Lee has gone on record to say that he struggles to stay focused in the cage, his only recent losses have come to stiff competition in Rafael Assuncao, T.J. Dillashaw, and Chris Cariaso. He's most dominant on the ground, however, which is where Pettis excels. I expect Lee to give him a good fight and make it messy, but this is a fight Pettis should be able to win.
The second signing, reported by Tatame, is of women's bantamweight Bethe Correia. As I stated above, Correia has been on the UFC's radar for the past few months. Training with Patricky and Patricio Pitbull out of their gym in Natal, Brazil, the undefeated bantamweight will bring a 6-0 record with her into the octagon. Like many prospects in the women's division Correia's first test will be one of size. At 5'4" she's not exactly Alexandra Albu small (5' 2") and she's built like a fire plug, but she'll be competing against women like the 5' 11" Germaine de Randamie and the 5' 7" Amanda Nunes, a far cry from the regional circuits where up and coming women fighters tend get fed smaller, weaker opponents. Her last win did come over the larger Erica Paes who is the only woman to defeat Cris Cyborg, so perhaps that portends well for her ability to compete physically in the UFC.
Beyond that Correia has to overcome a major hurdle in terms of experience. With only two years of pro-MMA cage time, she definitely needs a lot of polish on her skills. Her striking is not bad, but it's not particularly powerful or varied. Her grappling is more of a power/grinding style than anything else, displayed by the fact that she's seen the judges in 5 of her 6 victories. Her greatest quality is probably her patience in the ring. She's not a brawler and as such doesn't get drawn into sloppy exchanges. At 30 she's not a terribly young prospect, but with so little experience I expect her to show distinct improvement in every fight. No official announcement has been made of her signing yet, and no debut date has been suggested.
As always here are a couple of videos to get us acquainted with the UFC's newest talent pickups:
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