Scott Smith’s road to Strikeforce has been filled with twists and turns, much like his recent fights that have kept fans on the edge of their seats.
Smith -- who currently competes in the 185-pound division -- began his career fighting at heavyweight nearly a decade ago. His first major appearance, however, came during a light heavyweight tournament under the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) banner in 2005.
Branded the dark horse, Smith would stop Tim McKenzie and Tait Fletcher in the first round with his heavy hands en route to becoming the WEC light heavyweight champion. He successfully defended his belt once against the late Justin Levens before getting called up to the big show, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
With the Octagon in his crosshairs, Smith continued his weight loss, cutting to middleweight to take on David Terrell at UFC 59: "Reality Check" in 2006. Naturally, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt was not interested in testing Smith's power and managed to take the fight to the ground and submit him with a rear naked choke.
Smith was invited back, however, it was as a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter: "The Comeback" edition, which he did not win, losing to eventual season winner, Travis Lutter. It set up an eventual showdown with Long Island slugger Pete Sell at the TUF 4 Finale. The back-and-forth brawl was one for the ages, concluding with a sequence that saw Smith, doubled over and basically finished with a liver punch, unleashing a "Hail Mary" knockout punch that put "Drago" on ice.
The epic clash with Sell is one of the most memorable fights in UFC history to date. And it has set the tone for Smith's fireworks-filled performances ever since -- just ask Kyle Noke, Terry Martin, Robbie Lawler and Benji Radach, among others.
It's been a wild ride, which has put him on a collision course with the brash and gritty Stockton, Calif., native, Nick Diaz -- someone who he considers, "one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world right now" -- at Strikeforce: "Lawler vs. Shields" at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., on June 6.
During the Strikeforce press conference call this afternoon, Smith talked about how he matches up against Cesar Gracie-trained product.
"I will have to use everything I’ve got to beat him," he said. "I plan on keeping this fight standing. Diaz is going to try and pick me apart; he is a more technical fighter then I am. He will want to get the fight to the ground at some point though. That’s his best chance for winning this fight. I am going to use my sprawl and brawl technique to keep the fight where I want.
When asked how the fight would go, Smith said, "I will be going for the knock out from the opening bell. I can’t wait for Nick to establish his gameplan. People don’t give him enough credit. He has more power then it seems. He does a good job of setting his power punches with those pawning jabs so I’m not underestimating his power."
Smith also confirmed that the injuries he has sustained this past year are fine, saying "as far as my knee goes, I am 100 percent healthy for this fight and ready to go. This will be one exciting fight for sure."
As outlined above, Smith is no stranger to exciting fights -- he has come back from the brink of defeat to "steel" a win on numerous occasions. And on June 6, Smith will step into the cage with against one of his most formidable foes to date in Nick Diaz.
Both men last competed on Strikeforce’s last show earlier this year to get in this position. The fight has all the ingredients of a war, as well as future title implications, with the winner moving one step closer to a middleweight title fight opposite Cung Le.
In fact, Smith feels this fight card will answer a lot of questions about who Le will face next.
"After this card, there's going to be two guys deserving of that title shot. Cung Le is definitely the champion. Hopefully, I will get the chance to test myself against him. I definitely think I'm in line for one of the top fights," Smith said. But I do understand timing is everything for fights."
That might be a future stop, but for now, "Hands of Steel" is focused on Diaz. And the road that got him to this point is all in the rearview mirror. He now has the opportunity to chart a new course for yet another successful MMA journey ... and it starts with Diaz in little less than a fortnight.