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The most dominant athlete in sports gets back in action this weekend as Ronda Rousey puts her UFC women's bantamweight title on the line against undefeated Brazilian contender Bethe Correia.
Rousey has annihilated the competition at 135 pounds and beaten every woman the UFC has put in front of her, but Correia believes she has what it takes to dethrone the champion and bring the title to Brazil. Correia beat two of Rousey's teammates to earn the title shot, but does she have what it takes to hand the former Olympian her first loss in MMA?
Also at UFC 190 this weekend, legendary fighters Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira get a sequel to their first bout that took place in 2005, and now a decade later, they will look to duplicate what is still called one of the greatest fights of all-time.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira will also return this weekend as he faces Dutch striker Stefan Struve in an interesting bout on the main card while Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva looks to bounce back from recent adversity when he faces heavy-handed Australian Soa Palelei.
With seven fights on the main card and a loaded preliminary card, there are plenty of good matchups, and in today's fantasy preview we're going to examine some of the key fights taking place at UFC 190: Rousey vs. Correia and see who has the advantage going into Brazil this weekend.
These are the fights that appear to be a little more one-sided, but remember that this is MMA, where anything can - and usually does - happen.
Ronda Rousey (-1500 favorite) over Bethe Correia (+1000 underdog)
It's hard to doubt Ronda Rousey's dominance when she displays it with such regularity and such unrelenting brutality.
Rousey has dispatched her last three opponents in a combined one minute and 36 seconds, with two coming by way of KO and the third by her signature armbar submission. Rousey is not only beating opponents, she's breaking UFC records while competing at the highest level of the sport. She's the best of the best right now and it's tough to see anyone beating her within the next few years.
Bethe Correia believes she's up to the challenge and she'll get her chance to prove the naysayers wrong. Correia is a punishing striker with fast, accurate hands and good conditioning. She lands over six significant strikes per minute, which is more than double the UFC average. Correia has also displayed 80-percent takedown defense although she's never faced a Judo practitioner like Rousey before so it's hard to gauge how she'll do against the Olympic level takedowns and throws she'll face on Saturday night.
For all the trash talk and bad blood circulating between these two fighters, it's hard to imagine anyone beating Rousey while she's still at the top of her game. The scariest part about this fight is that Rousey has had more time to train and has stated numerous times that she wants to make an example out of Correia. In other words, expects something bad to happen in a hurry when they step into the Octagon together.
Prediction: Ronda Rousey by TKO, Round 1
These are the fights that are just too close to call, but a few minor differences between favorite and underdog could lead one fighter to victory and the other to defeat.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
If the main event seems slightly lopsided, don't worry because that might be the only fight on the entire card where it seems like one fighter has that much of an advantage over the other. The remaining main card and prelims are stacked with fights so razor close it's nearly impossible to pick a winner.
It starts out at the top with the co-main event in Brazil, as former UFC champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua takes on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in a rematch 10 years in the making. Their first bout took place in 2005 in PRIDE Fighting Championships, with Rua winning a decision over Nogueira in a fight that was, by all accounts, an instant classic.
Now facts are facts - 10 years have passed and both fighters are at the tail end of their respective careers, but if there was a matchup to bring the best out of them, this is the one.
Rua has struggled lately while facing the young bucks of the division, but still possesses the ability to pull out a big win against the right competition. He was up huge during his second fight with Dan Henderson before a haymaker right hand in the third round changed everything. He never even got a chance to get going in fights with Ovince Saint Preux and Chael Sonnen and sandwiched in the middle is a first-round slaying of James Te Huna in his lone win over the past five fights.
Nogueira is more of an anomaly. He got scorched by fire in his last fight against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, but that came just one fight after he beat former champions Rashad Evans and Tito Ortiz in consecutive bouts. Injuries and time off have been Nogueira's biggest opponents because the Brazilian just can't stay healthy enough to fight on a regular schedule, and even this time around he's been out for just over a year as he steps in to face Shogun for the second time.
While Nogueira has picked up the better wins in his last few fights, those victories came in 2011 and 2013. Shogun has certainly faced some serious adversity from the hardest punchers in the light heavyweight division, but he still has quick movement and knockout power on his side. Conversely, Nogueira looked sluggish and slow in his last fight against Johnson and you have to wonder if time off and his body have finally just rejected the notion of going forward any longer.
All of those factors make it really hard to favor Nogueira to win in this rematch.
Prediction: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua by unanimous decision
Stefan Struve vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Another incredibly hard fight to predict is the heavyweight bout on the main card between Stefan Struve and former champion “Minotauro” Nogueira.
Just like his brother, Nogueira has suffered a tough run lately, with his last fight ending in a brutal knockout after facing Roy Nelson in 2014. Nogueira has gone just 1-3 in his last four fights while battling inactivity due to several injuries. Struve has been dealing with the same kinds of problems after a heart ailment nearly ended his career, only to return to the Octagon and get blasted by Alistair Overeem in his first fight back.
Struve has shown a ton of potential in the past, but you have to wonder what the 6-11 ½ “Skyscraper” from Holland has now with so much time off and a heart problem that nearly forced him to stop fighting altogether. Nogueira answered more questions about his potential retirement following his last fight than who he wanted to face next, so both of these guys have something to prove on Saturday night.
If there's one edge that favors one guy over the other, it's the hometown advantage Nogueira will enjoy fighting in Brazil. He's a legendary figure in the fight community in his home country and that will always bring the best out of Nogueira. As a matter of fact, Nogueira's last two wins have both come in Brazil and this weekend might bring his third.
Struve is a notoriously tall fighter, but rarely fights with length to keep his opponents away from him. Nogueira may be a little slower these days, but he's still got top-notch boxing, and speed probably won't be a factor with the lumbering Struve. Nogueira also has a devastating ground game, and if he can drag Struve to the mat, he might be able to lock up one of his famous submissions to make the crowd roar in Brazil at least one more time.
Prediction: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by submission, Round 2
Antonio Silva vs. Soa Palelei
Another toss up in the heavyweight division is the fight between Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Soa Palelei. Silva is a former title challenger who has fallen on hard times lately, losing by knockout in his last two fights. Palelei has gone 4-1 since coming back to the UFC, with his only loss coming by way of decision against a top-notch wrestler in Jared Rosholt.
Silva's once durable chin that held up for five hard rounds with Mark Hunt in an all-time classic less than two years ago has turned shaky in his past two fights, as he's been knocked out in the first round by both Frank Mir and Andrei Arlovski. Now, chances are Silva won't have to deal with a dominant stand-up game from Palelei, who is best known for his punishing ground-and-pound attack on the mat.
Silva still possesses better than average boxing for the division, but he has to work on his defense if he hopes to break the two-fight skid while fighting in his home country of Brazil. Palelei certainly knows that Silva is also a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but his best place to win this fight is to drag it to the ground and look to open up his offense there.
On the feet, Palelei is awkward at best, and that won't do him any favors against a fighter like Silva, who still possesses one-punch knockout power on the feet. Silva is smart enough to avoid the takedowns and open up the attacks with his hands and hurt Palelei and maybe even finish the fight on the ground himself. The last thing Silva wants, however, is to land on the ground with Palelei on top of him. That's a recipe for disaster.
Prediction: Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva by TKO, Round 1
Claudia Gadelha vs. Jessica Aguilar
Maybe the most intriguing fight on the entire UFC 190 fight card pits Claudia Gadelha against Jessica Aguilar in a bout that will likely determine the next title challenger in the 115-pound women's division.
Gadelha has been searching for a fight for months, but injuries have kept her sidelined and now she has a chance to potentially earn a rematch against strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk with a win this weekend. Aguilar comes to the UFC after amassing a very impressive record in other promotions and she holds wins over several notable names, including former champion Carla Esparza and Ultimate Fighter veterans Lisa Ellis and Angela Magana.
Aguilar is a legitimate threat to anyone in the strawweight division, but she's facing possibly the second best fighter at 115 pounds in her debut and that could lead to a loss at UFC 190.
Gadelha is a brute for the weight class, often muscling her opponents around and using sheer force of will to take them to the mat and open up a devastating ground game. Gadelha won't surprise anybody with her method of attack because she wants this fight on the ground like she wants all of her fights on the ground, and if Aguilar can't stop the takedowns, she's going to find herself on the mat, gasping for air for three rounds.
Gadelha believes she beat Jedrzejczyk the first time they met and she wants nothing more than to earn the chance to prove it in the rematch. Aguilar will have a bright future in the UFC, but it probably won't start well while facing a committed grappler like Gadelha in her first fight.
Prediction: Claudia Gadelha by unanimous decision
Rafael Cavalcante vs. Patrick Cummins
The light heavyweight matchup between Rafael Cavalcante and Patrick Cummins is the classic striker versus grappler fight and it's hard to imagine this bout going any other way.
Cavalcante is a hard-hitting, brutal striker with dangerous hands and powerful kicks. He's worked tirelessly on his takedown defense over the years while developing even better weapons to counter wrestlers by using his knees and a lower stance when facing the best grapplers in the world. That lower stance has helped, but it still didn't get him past a top-flight wrestler like Ryan Bader in his last fight. Cavalcante has been so painfully inconsistent that it's always hard to predict which version will show up on fight night.
On the other side of the Octagon, Patrick Cummins has two lopsided losses bookending his UFC career against two of the best light heavyweights in the world, while getting a trio of wins against competition outside the top 15. Cummins is facing another ranked fighter this time, but styles make fights, and if he can get an early takedown, that could make all the difference in getting past Cavalcante at UFC 190. Cummins is aggressive with his wrestling and while he certainly doesn't have the hands to make Cavalcante fear his power, the former Penn State wrestler may only need to dominate on the ground in the first round to take over in rounds two and three as well.
Cavalcante has faced conditioning problems in the past and given his inability to put together more than a single solid performance since joining the UFC, he might end up on his back searching for answers with Cummins raining down punches from the top. Make no mistake that if the best Cavalcante shows up, he should win this fight each and every time, but there's no telling which version will appear on Saturday night and that's just too big a risk to take.
Prediction: Patrick Cummins by split decision
Neil Magny over Demian Maia
It's tough to find any potential upsets on a card as stacked as UFC 190 because almost all of the matchups are so close that it's hard to call anyone a favorite versus an underdog. The only one that sticks out as an upset to watch on Saturday night is the welterweight bout between Demian Maia and Neil Magny.
Maia is coming off a dominant, lopsided victory over Ryan LaFlare in his last fight that put him back on the map in the top 10 of the welterweight division after a couple tough outings, while Magny has steadily climbed into the rankings while winning seven fights in a row against better and better competition.
Now let's get this out of the way right now - on paper, Maia should win this fight with superior wrestling and grappling because he just happens to be one of the best in the world when it comes to having a powerful ground game. Maia is possibly the best jiu-jitsu practitioner in the UFC, and his wrestling has gotten even better since dropping down to 170 pounds.
The reason why Magny could be an interesting choice is his ability to stop the takedown while developing a nasty striking game that might give Maia problems. During his win streak, Magny has gained a ton of confidence in his hands and he just recently shut down Korean striker Hyun Gyu Lim for one of the most impressive wins during his current run. Magny defends just over 71-percent of the takedowns attempted against him while landing more than double the significant strikes per minute than Maia.
It's definitely an uphill battle for Magny if he can't stop the takedown, but if he can shut down Maia's ground game, this is a golden opportunity for the former Ultimate Fighter competitor to pick up his eighth win in a row and first over a legitimate top 10 fighter.
Prediction: Neil Magny by unanimous decision