UFC 177: Bethe Correia vs. Shayna Baszler preview

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The long-awaited UFC debut of Shayna “The Queen of Spades” Baszler (15-8) is just days away and the scrappy women’s MMA veteran isn’t nervous in the least about stepping into the Octagon for the first time. Amped by the gestures of Bethe Correia (8-0), who insinuated she would decimate “The Four Horsewomen” one by one, Baszler plans to fire back come Aug. 30 on UFC 177’s pay-per-view main card.

MMA Fight Corner spoke with Baszler ahead of her anticipated fight with Correia. A huge fan of pro-wrestling, Baszler along with UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke refer to themselves as The Four Horsewomen. When Correia disposed of Duke at UFC 172, she laid out her plan to dominate their crew until she gets to Rousey.

Obviously, Baszler wants to put an end to that quest come Saturday. If Correia can get past Baszler, it would be the crowning achievement of her three-year MMA career. But can Baszler edge out the undefeated Brazilian?

Baszler has been out of action since the summer of 2013. She lost to Julianna Pena on The Ultimate Fighter season 18, tapping to a rear-naked choke. After the season wrapped, she was injured in training and unable to compete at the TUF 18 Finale. She was later tapped to make her promotional debut against Sarah Kaufman this April, but withdrew due to another injury. Her last official outing was a loss to Alexis Davis at Invicta FC 4 over 20 months ago.

Despite the setbacks, Baszler’s ready to carve out a name for herself in the UFC. While most promotional newcomers suffer from cases of the dreaded Octagon Jitters, Baszler doesn’t believe those will be a factor come fight night.

“It’s been one hurdle after another,” Baszler said. “So now that [the fight] here I think it takes kind of some of the pressure off too. It’s more relieving than anything.”

“I don’t think that’ll hit me until that morning. The UFC keeps us pretty busy with the different obligations we have and things like that. I think that more morning will be when – it’s not nervousness, it’s more of like anticipation – I think that’s when it’ll get exciting.”

The 34-year-old South Dakota native is often regarded as one of the pioneers of women’s MMA. Her career has spanned over 10 years. In that time, she’s proven to have cunning ground skills, collecting 14 of her 15 wins by way of submission. She’s waged wars against some of the toughest names in the sport. Whether or not the long layoff will affect the women’s bantamweight has yet to be seen.

Where Correia’s concerned, the up-and-comer has only one career finish on her record. Though she hasn’t demonstrated finishing power, she has shown is fearlessness in the cage. Known as “Pitbull”, Correia will often go toe-to-toe with her opponents and pressure forward with her striking. She has a solid ground game, but chances are she’ll look to keep it on the feet against Baszler. While Baszler’s shown effective counter-striking, she’ll want to initiate contact and leave nothing to chance with Correia.

After competing on TUF 18, Baszler moved to Southern California to work with Rousey and her head coach Edmond Tarverdyan to round out her skill set. She also still works with UFC heavyweight Josh Barnett, a specialist in chain wrestling. Baszler’s used that skill in the past to stifle her opponents. Still, Correia’s proved she can neutralize her adversaries in the clinch and displayed effective takedown defense.

Baszler and Correia were initially slated to clash at UFC 176 on Aug. 2 and were shuffled over to UFC 177 once the card was scrapped. That added four weeks to what Baszler described as an intense camp. In the end, she hopes her efforts pay off at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.

“It’s been exhausting for sure, but in the end it’s all for the better. The fight’s been getting more attention, I’ve been getting in better and better shape. The only thing that sucks is having to miss the entire summer ale season for beer.”

If she can fend off the rising prospect who owns the #10 spot in the rankings, missing ale season may be worth it. At this phase of her career, Baszler needs to make an immediate impact to prove her worth to the UFC. And besides, Octoberfest is right around the corner.

Catch Bethe Correia vs. Shayna Baszler on the UFC 177 pay-per-view card on Aug. 30. UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw puts his title on the line against Renan Barao in the main event.

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