Casey O'Neill: 'I see myself as one of the top five in the division'

Casey O'Neill believes she will return to the Octagon a better fighter for her debut UFC bout and says she plans to make short work of Lara Precopio Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

Australian Casey O'Neill believes she is already one of the "top five" fighters in the UFC's flyweight division but is happy to do the hard work to prove it - most immediately against Lara Procopio in Las Vegas this weekend.

Having starting her UFC career with a second-round TKO victory over American Shana Dobson in February, O'Neill [6-0] has remained in Las Vegas under the guidance of Xtreme Couture MMA and will on Saturday night return to the Octagon against Procopio [7-1].

And she is adamant the Brazilian will be only a small hurdle on her path to join the elite fighters in the division, a group she already sees herself a part of despite having only had six professional MMA fights and just that outing against Dobson in the UFC.

"Obviously I'm not looking past the fight that I have on Saturday night but I do believe that I am already in that top echelon, I just haven't fought anybody in there yet to prove it," O'Neill told ESPN.

"I look at my division and I see myself as one of the top five in the division, and with experience and time I'm going to prove that to everybody else. Obviously I'm super young and I have a lot of time to grow, but I'm definitely one of the most talented people in the flyweight division, in my opinion.

"And to show that to everyone I'm happy to fight from the bottom of the roster all the way to the top, I'll fight everybody who is there in the division, gain that experience, gain some fans and gain some money, and prove to everybody that I am what I say I am."

O'Neill, who was born in Scotland before moving to Australia at the age of 10, wants to be a little faster out of the gate against Precopio than she was on her UFC debut.

Citing nerves, the 23-year-old says she is however better for the experience and now knows what to expect when she returns to the UFC Apex as the opening fight for UFC on ESPN 25.

"It's always nice to get a win and I'm not going to be someone who sits here and just complains about their wins, but I'm a perfectionist and I do believe that I didn't get to show a whole lot of myself,' O'Neill said of the win over Dobson.

"I think I let nerves overtake me and I was a little bit slower than I usually am. But it was good to get the win on my UFC debut, and especially to get the finish to put my name out there for the division.

"[The nerves] were a mix of a whole lot of firsts for me. It was my first UFC fight; it was my first time walking out first as the blue corner; it was the first time with the coaches that I had in my corner; the first time having my boyfriend in the corner because my dad was away; so it was a lot of firsts and I think that contributed to the [nerves].

"But I feel a lot more comfortable and happy and situated than I was last time around."

While a ranking inside the UFC's top 15 might be beyond her reach against Precopio, O'Neill is focused on improving as a fighter, promising to be "faster, stronger and sharper" than in her TKO win over Dobson.

And that, she hopes, will propel her to a first-round stoppage this time around and a well overdue junk food hit thereafter.

"I'd love to knock her out in the first round and go and get some pizza or something straight away because I am the first fight, and then I can watch the whole card," O'Neill told ESPN. "But I see it going down quite a few ways, probably I will end up finishing it late in the first.

"I finished in the second last time and I told you I'm feeling better, so I think I'll end up with a first-round finish. But if it doesn't end up like that and it ends up in three rounds you'll see that I'm the fitter and stronger opponent over the three rounds and it'll end up just being a worse night for her."