One strawweight will leave the Octagon on Saturday with the first defeat of her professional career, and Viviane Pereira believes her experience could be the key to spoiling Tatiana Suarez’s perfect record.
Suarez won the 23rd edition of The Ultimate Fighter in July 2016, submitting Amanda Cooper in the first round in Las Vegas, but hasn’t fought since due to injuries.
Pereira, who has more than triple the MMA bouts of her opponent, has already beaten Valerie Letourneau and Jamir Moyle by decision in her UFC fights, and sees this match-up as the perfect chance to show what she can do in the UFC.
"I think experience is important, but I can’t underestimate any opponent,” Pereira told MMA Fighting ahead of her fight at UFC Norfolk. "I’m focused on winning. If I have to win by one point, I will.
"I watched some of her fights, her style, that she likes to fight close to the cage, but I don’t take that into consideration,” she added. "I only think about getting better as a fighter instead of looking too much to my opponents."
“Sucuri" finished six of the 11 opponents she’s faced in the Brazilian circuit between 2013 and 2016, and doesn’t seem too bothered with lack of finishes in the UFC even though she aims for a stoppage victory.
"I’m in the biggest MMA promotion in the world, so everyone there is in a higher level,” she said, "but I expect to finish so I can prove that I have really arrived in the UFC. I don’t want to be just another one there. I want to show what I can do and go as far as possible in the UFC.”
Pereira returns to action in a big moment for the UFC strawweight division, just seven days after Rose Namajunas shook the world and stopped Joanna Jedrzejczyk in one round at UFC 217 to claim the 115-pound belt.
“Sucuri” didn’t expect that outcome at first, but started to have doubts due to Jedrzejczyk’s aggressive and “cocky” behavior at the ceremonial weigh-ins.
"It surprised me,” the Brazilian said of the fight. "At first I thought (Jedrzejczyk) would win, but when she started to talk trash at the weigh-ins and Namajunas didn’t fall in that game … I was really confident (in Jedrzejczyk), but Joanna underestimated her a little. Namajunas has a bigger reach, and that made the difference."
It’s still unclear what will happen next in the division and who will get the first crack at Namajunas, but Pereira believes “Thug" can have a long reign as champion.
"I think the division will move more now,” Pereira said of the title picture. "If (Namajunas) continues to show that quality, the belt will stay in her hands for a while. She’s confident."