With a victory in her Ultimate Fighting Championship debut in the rear view and her feet firmly and comfortably situated in Southern California as part of arguably the most popular and regarded stable of female mixed martial arts fighters, Jessamyn "The Gun" Duke has reason to be excited about her future.
Her immediate future is UFC 172 on Saturday in Baltimore and an undefeated three-round bantamweight showdown with Bethe Correia. The bout will air on Fox Sports 1 as part of the preliminary card beginning at 5 p.m. PST.
Duke is excited about her choice of walk-out song — though she's keeping it a secret until she makes her walk to the octagon. She's excited to have plenty of family support in the stands and the fun she'll have after the fight seeing them.
As for the task at hand that is Correia, Duke sees handing her Brazilian counterpart her first loss as a rather simple quandary.
"It is nothing but a problem to be solved in front of you," said the Glendale Fighting Club's Duke, who made her UFC debut against friend Peggy Morgan and won a unanimous decision in December. "It's just a problem to be solved and I find her easier to solve [than Morgan]."
Duke (3-0, one no-contest), ranked No. 14 in the division, is always careful with her words as not to come off as boastful, but she's plenty confident heading into her fight with No. 12 Correia (7-0).
"I know how she fights and what she does. I'm confident," Duke said. "It's not an easy fight, but it's a simple fight."
At first glance at the combatants' professional records, one would surmise that Correia, 30, has an experience edge over the 27-year-old Duke.
However, Duke went 5-2 as an amateur, beginning her fighting days in October of 2010. Her professional career began in July of 2012 and she's built a 3-0 pro record with one no-contest. After fighting thrice under the all-female Invicta Fighting Championships banner, Duke made her UFC debut following her tenure as a member of Team Rousey on the 18th season of "The Ultimate Fighter." She defeated Morgan, her Team Rousey teammate, via unanimous decision in a fight that was relatively one-sided before Duke lost position in the third round after an ill-fated headlock. Though it was her UFC debut, Duke credits her late lapse not to octagon jitters, but just inexperience.
"That wasn't nerves, that's being green as a fighter, that's being inexperienced," Duke said. "It actually took days after I fought Peggy for it to sink in that I fought in the UFC."
Duke said her mindset and focus is always on the fight, rather than getting distracted by the setting and the magnitude of the bout.
"I try to keep it that way and not focus on the scope of the situation, just on the 15 minutes in the cage," Duke said. "You just have to remember, 'What happens in the cage is all that matter.'"
Duke has finished two of her pro fights and five of her amateur wins.
Correia, on the other hand, is very much a grinder, who has gone the distance in all seven of her bouts, including her UFC debut on Dec. 7, 2013, when she defeated Julie Kedzie via split decision in a very close bout in Queensland, Australia. It was Correia's first fight outside of her native Brazil, as Saturday's showdown will mark her United States debut.
"Obviously, I'm not taking her lightly, she beat Kedzie by decision," said Duke, who trains alongside UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, fellow UFC fighter Shayna Baszler and undefeated mixed martial arts prospect Marina Shafir. "She's aggressive. She's not afraid to throw down."
The most noticeable difference with the combatants is in height, as Duke is 5 foot 11 and Correia is 5-4.
"Keeping the distance for where we want to go; using her height and her reach," said GFC's Edmond Tarverdyan, Duke's lead corner man and trainer. "Using her height and her boxing skills is gonna be key to winning the fight.
"[Correia's] a tough girl. She comes in with wide hooks and every once in a while changes it up and goes for a shot."
For Duke, the fight will mark a return to Maryland, where she lived briefly, and a close destination for her family driving in from her native Kentucky.
"They are 100% supportive, so having them there is normal. This time, I'll just have even more people," Duke said of her family. "It doesn't affect the fight, it just affects how much fun I have after the fight."
More than anything, Duke views the bout as her opportunity to take the next step in her burgeoning career.
"I feel like it's a good platform if I can establish myself as a fighter who should be on bigger cards," Duke said. "I want to prove I'm an entertaining fighter worthy of the pay-per-views. I'm gotta start establishing myself."
UFC 173 is headlined by UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones defending his title against Glover Texeira live on pay-per-view. On the earlier prelims available on UFC Fight Pass, men's bantamweight "The Real Deal" Chris Beal (8-0), who was a member of Team Rousey on "The Ultimate Fighter," will make his UFC debut against Patrick Williams (7-3).
Follow Grant Gordon on Twitter: @TCNGrantGordon.