Following more than a decade in the world of mixed martial arts, Shayna Baszler finally made her first walk to fight inside the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s octagon.
And for the first five minutes of her women’s bantamweight bout against undefeated Bethe Correia, the Glendale Fighting Club’s “Queen of Spades” had things going her way.
But Correia wasted little time in the second stanza in establishing her striking game, eventually using elbows from the clinch to hurt Baszler before opening up with digging shots to the body and following with a seemingly never-ending barrage of right and left hooks to the face.
A bloodied Baszler never left her feet, but following a steady stream of unanswered, stiff shots by Correia, referee John McCarthy intervened as Correia earned the technical knockout win over Baszler at 1:56 of the second round Saturday night at UFC 177 inside Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena.
Correia, ranked 10th in the UFC women’s 135-pound rankings, improved to 9-0, earning her second consecutive win over a GFC trainee and didn’t waste any time following the win to call for a UFC title shot against champion Ronda Rousey.
“I wanna leave a message for Ronda,” Correia said through a translator in a postfight in-cage interview. “I’m gonna be the one that’s gonna take the belt. I’m the one that’s gonna beat Ronda.”
While there would seem to be a good number of potential challenges ahead in line – such as top-ranked Cat Zingano and eighth-ranked Amanda Nunes, who fight in September – Correia’s win over Baszler (15-9) follows a UFC victory over Jessamyn Duke. Baszler, Duke, Rousey and featherweight (145 pounds) Marina Shafir comprise the GFC-trained quartet known as “The Four Horsewomen.” Hence, there’s already a built-in storyline and perceived animosity.
“My message to Ronda: If there’s someone who will retire without any losses in the UFC, it’s going to be me,” Correia told the UFC backstage. “I’m going to retire with the belt, not her.”
While Correia has her sights on Rousey, Baszler gave her plenty to handle in the opening round, which was scored, 10-9, for the local by all three judges and the Glendale News-Press.
Ushered into the cage by Metallica’s “Four Horsemen,” Baszler took a few pump-up slaps from longtime trainer Josh Barnett and hopped into the UFC’s caged confines. It was a debut a longtime coming as Baszler, who was cornered by Barnett, Duke and GFC’s Sevak Ohanjanyan, is considered one of the pioneers of women’s MMA, having begun her career in the autumn of 2003.
In the opening round, Baszler walked forward to take the center of the octagon. She jabbed her way forward and tied up Correia and eventually dragged the Brazilian down to the canvas.
However, Correia was on top in Baszler’s half-guard with Baszler on her side. Baszler was eventually able to pull Correia into full-guard.
Baszler, who owns 14 wins via submission, worked aggressively from the bottom, throwing her legs up and appearing to go for an armbar and a triangle choke, while landing elbows and punches from the bottom. Correia was able to scoot out of the guard and stand up. Baszler landed a stiff right cross in front of another clinch. Correia defended well and landed some solid left uppercuts. Baszler then dived down for a single leg and Correia landed some more powerful punches, but Baszler would secure the takedown and worked deftly for a guillotine choke, but the round expired.
“In the first round, she was grappling with me, but I had a chance to adjust a little bit,” Correia said. “My corners told me to use my hands and that’s what I did in the second round. I’ve been working on my boxing for the last two months. My plan was to go for the body and gas her out and that’s exactly what I did. When I was on the ground, I was basically defending because I didn’t want her to take my arm. It was close.”
Correia landed solid punches from the start of the second round and Baszler wrapped up. But Correia broke up the clinch with elbows to the head that appeared to stun Baszler. Then Correia began digging in punches to the body that landed heavy, alternating with rights and lefts as Baszler was up against the cage. Correia began mixing it up with rights and lefts to the body and head and was landing heavily with Baszler only firing back sparsely. Baszler showcased a helluva chin and two-dollar-steak toughness, but couldn’t move off the cage as she looked gassed, though she refused to fall. Correia landed three straight unfettered punches, the last a right to her bloodied nose before McCarthy stopped the bout.