Ronda Rousey defends her title in what could is considered to be a squash match against Bethe Correia this August 1, 2015 at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
One Sentence Summary
Phil: A thrilling grudge match between the UFC's biggest star and one of her greatest rivals!(TM)
David: The challenger's O will definitely not go in what is a showcase for Ronda's bloodlust.
History / Introduction to Both Fighters
Phil: Ronda Rousey is by far the biggest star in WMMA history, and as I've said before, is probably the biggest crossover star the sport has ever seen. As she's steamrolled her opponents, there's always been a sense of the transitory there. When does she leave for Hollywood? When do people get bored of watching her wreck shop? Is she really as big a star as all that? It's difficult to know whether these are real concerns, or whether they belong alongside some of the forgotten musings of yesteryear. Remember the constant questions of when Anderson Silva was going to retire, which started up fairly soon after he won the middleweight belt? Like Ronda, he's a naturally capricious person who dominated a thin division, but he hung around for just a bit longer than everyone predicted.
David: She's never leaving for Hollywood. I mean, come on. Have you seen her in the Expendables, or even Fast and Furious 7? She's truly dreadful, not as some kind of screen presence (there she has potential), but as someone that can deliver even a single line convincingly. For as much as movie nerds make fun of Keanu Reeves, I totally bought it when he dramatically revealed to Bodhi that he was an FBI agent.
Anyway, I think she'll experience something Couture did. She'll just kind of do her own thing, probably find her way back to fighting because of some Apocalypse Now-like itch that has her armbarring the drapes in her apartment after a post traumatic flashback to being on set with a bunch of 80's action stars, and then call it a brilliant career.
Phil: Bethe Correia came into the UFC without much fanfare, and won a very, very thin decision over the ever-awesome Julie Kedzie. Subsequently she beat Ronda's friends Jessamyn Duke and Shayna Baszler, part of "the Four Horsewomen", setting up this title clash.
As an aside, lot of people have enjoyed laying into the quartet for how badly everyone apart from Rousey has done, but... it all seems just incredibly mean-spirited to me. It was a joke; a way for a few friends to band together under a common banner in a vicious sport. A depressingly large proportion of the media has delighted in pointing out just how poorly these women's careers are doing in comparison to their stratospherically successful friend, all because they had the temerity to jokingly compare themselves to some dorky pro-wrestling bullshit.
David: Despite being part of said group, I totally agree. I was pretty positive in my preview of Duke vs. Phillips just in case anyone questions my sincerity.
Unfortunately Correia's success is intimately tied to the joke, and thus keeps the story in focus. Bethe's rise to the top is an ignominious one, but with contenders in short supply, there were few options. Bethe should actually thank the four horsewomen. If Rousey wasn't a part of that group, there's no way Correia is able to build up the hype for this fight, and to her credit, she's done a good job of selling the grudge match from her end. A wise move? Not sure.
What are the stakes?
Phil: Realistically, quite high. The expectations for Rousey to wreck people in comically quick fashion have been brought to fever pitch by Cat Zingano's ill-advised kamikaze rush. Alternatively, if Correia somehow manages to win then she's won the belt and caused the biggest upset in UFC history (with the possible exception of GSP-Serra). People will lose their minds.
David: High for Bethe. For Rousey, it's just another armbar abattoir.
Where do they want it?
Phil: No surprises here. Ronda is incredibly aggressive. Her game has been rounding out in recent years, but it's still all based around the same core, as it should be. She's going to close the distance, punch into the clinch, and then take it from there with knees, uppercuts or judo tosses. She's been compared to Fedor but I still think the best comparison is Cain, particular the focus on the single jab to get in. Unlike Cain, she has very little head movement, but in a division with few power strikers this hasn't come up at all as a significant problem yet. Once she locks up the clinch it's a wrap- she has massive athletic and technical advantages over basically everyone.
David: No idea where the Fedor comparisons come from. His striking is what set him apart in his prime. Rousey reminds me more of scowling, mean spirited Sakuraba. Like Sakuraba, Rousey has that one of kind fight vision, setting up submissions with A-B-C-D plotting but getting there without the B & C. Just as Sak outwitted the prestigious Gracie family, Rousey continues to outwit modern grappling. It helps that Rousey has suddenly developed real striking power.
Phil: Rousey wants it on the inside, Correia wants it on the outside. Mostly. She's not specifically a distance striker like Jessica Eye or Holly Holm, with a nice left hook which she uses at a slightly closer range. This is the staple style of the Pitbull Brothers gym, where Bethe Pitbull trains under Pitbull, and also Pitbull. Her problem is that she doesn't really pivot out or use particularly quick footwork- she tends to just meet takedown attempts or clinches head-on, without either a real knockout punch or a spearing jab.
David: Despite the odds, which are justified, Correia is actually a solid compact striker. It's nothing that will threaten Rousey's title, but she works a blue collar jab with a solid right hand that she'll throw straight in, or loop wide. She has combinations, and while they're not threatening, they are efficient. If she can gameplan incorporating her leg kicks into the mix, she'll provide Rousey with more to think about than just an overhand right.
Insight from past fights?
Phil: The biggest takeaway has to be how easily Baszler clinched up with Correia. If we can put it the other way, the only time we've seen Rousey uncomfortable is when she's been forced to exchange on the feet with Miesha Tate. She was (contrary to some analysis) winning pretty much every exchange handily, but it was a couple of steps downward from instantly toasting everyone.
David: The Duke fight is why I can't give Correia a chance. If Duke could dump her on her head with Judo, why wouldn't Rousey Uchi-Mata Bethe Hulk vs Loki style? The other problem with Correia in that fight is that her striking only marginally gained her the advantage in that bout. She had to use kicks, moments of top control, and Duke's questionable strategy to find success, which does not in any way bode well for Correia.
Phil: I guess it's just how much Correia can improve. Women's bantamweight is a terrible division, but even so, the fact that Correia made it to a title shot in around three years with no prior combat sports experience is truly impressive. I do think that Correia is talented. Unfortunately I think her talents are in aptitude rather than physicality- she has a very good mind for the sport, but I just don't think she's physically ready for someone like Rousey, and she likely won't ever be.
David: Rousey's stridency. Let's face it. Rousey is already high strung. Correia has not only managed to physically beat, and then dismiss Rousey's friends (Duke and Shayna), but she's done it while inadvertently making light of her dad's suicide. Rousey may prolong this victory in Jigsaw like fashion, and who knows what happens at that point.
Phil: I do like Correia, I think she's a skilled fighter. However, I cannot see a way in which she wins. I just can't. At the absolute peak of potential improvements she could show, I could see her perhaps competing and picking up a round or two. That in and of itself would be utterly shocking, but I just can't see her winning, at all. Ronda Rousey by submission, round 1.
David: Not a whole lot to really unpack. Ronda Rousey by Armbar, round 2.