Hunting the Horsewomen: Bethe Correia's Path to Ronda Rousey

Fightland Blog

By Tom Taylor

Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

It’s suddenly crowded at the top of the UFC women’s bantamweight division. A shark tank of big-name, big-talent contenders—undefeated sluggers like Cat Zingano and Holly Holm to WMMA pioneer-turned-actress Gina Carano—now circle Ronda Rousey and her belt. And the champ’s challenges don’t end there. For every big name at the top of the ladder, there is an up-and-comer, quietly carving out a case for a crack at the title. There is perhaps no better example of this than Brazilian striker Bethe Correia.

This weekend, on the main card of UFC 177, Correia will look to extend her record to a perfect 9-0 with a win over WMMA veteran Shayna Baszler. Odds-makers say a victory for Correia would be a minor upset, but a win would be significant for more reasons than that. Baszler would be the second of “The Four Horsewomen” that Correia has defeated.

The Four Horsewomen, if you’re unfamiliar, refers to Ronda Rousey and three of her main training partners: Jessamyn Duke, Shayna Baszler, and Marina Shafir. The name is a play on professional wrestling’s Four Horsemen, and while the moniker might be a touch on the corny side, the Rousey-led foursome has become well known in the MMA landscape. A win over any member of the group is a sought after accomplishment for up-and-coming female mixed martial artists.

Correia has already accomplished that much, earning a unanimous decision victory over Jessamyn Duke at UFC 172. The win alone was impressive, but Correia’s post-fight actions may have held even more significance, as they kicked off a clever, Chael Sonnen-esque self-promotion scheme. After the win, she could be seen holding up four fingers, then lowering one. “One down, three to go,” she gestured, laying the foundation for a rivalry that she hopes will eventually lead her to Ronda Rousey’s title.

Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The strategy, at least so far, has paid off. At UFC 177, Correia will fight for the opportunity to lower a second finger (if she wins, you can bet the cameras will catch her doing just that). It won’t be an easy task, but if she beats Baszler, the Correia-Horsewomen storyline suddenly becomes very interesting. Technically speaking, Correia will only have defeated half of the group. But Marina Shafir competes as a featherweight outside the UFC, so a Shafir-Correia matchup is impossible. And that leaves just one final Horsewoman for the Brazilian to topple: Ronda Rousey.

Rousey’s last two title defences, against Sara McMann and Alexis Davis, have been respectful affairs. Trash talk played almost no role, as the champ did her talking in the cage. It appears, however, that we may soon be in store for a grudge match reminiscent of Ronda Rousey versus Miesha Tate. Correia’s strategy has set the scene for the re-emergence of a sharp-tongued and vengeful Rousey. The champ will, no doubt, have a thing or two to say about the woman who beat up her friends. And while it’s hard to imagine that grudge match taking priority over a lucrative fight like Rousey versus Carano, or long-awaited matchups between Rousey and Zingano or Holm, Correia has probably put herself ahead of the rest of the pack. And when we consider the overused, but absolutely true one-liner that in MMA, “anything can happen,” Correia might just get lucky and jump the line. If Zingano and Holm are upset in their upcoming matches, and Carano decides she prefers hanging out with Channing Tatum and Ewan McGregor to getting punched in the face, then suddenly a victorious Correia is a very clear number one contender.

Should it come to that, her chances of unseating the Queen of the UFC are undeniably slim. Rousey’s reign looks more like a dynasty each time she steps onto the canvas. All the same, it’s possible that Bethe Correia might have a chance to lower that third and final finger in the not-too-distant future. It all depends on her pursuit of the second Horsewoman at UFC 177 this Saturday. 



Check out this related story:

The Ballad of Shayna Baszler