Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) scrappers Cris Cyborg and Leslie Smith will duel at a Catchweight of 140 pounds this Saturday (May 14, 2016) at UFC 198 inside Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil.
Fight fans have been waiting for Cyborg's Octagon debut for some time. One of the most terrifying women in the sport, a dominant debut would put Cyborg in position for some high-profile fights before long. While Smith isn't the most accomplished fighter, her toughness cannot be denied. Beyond that, Smith was the only fighter to jump at the chance to fight Cyborg at catchweight, so now she has a major opportunity on her hands.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both women:
Record: 15-1 (1)
Key Wins: Marloes Coenen (Invicta FC 6, Strikeforce: Miami), Gina Carano (Strikeforce: Carano vs Cyborg), Shayna Bazler (Elite XC: Unfinished Business)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Cyborg is one of the most aggressive fighters in the world. She routinely swarms her opponent with punches and knees, overwhelming them with an all out assault of violence.
She's finished 13 of her opponents by knockout.
This is a huge fight for Cyborg against an opponent who plays into her style perfectly. So long as her weight cut goes reasonably well, there's no real reason that Cyborg shouldn't be able to walk Smith down and drop the hammer.
Smith is a striker as well, but she's not much of a power puncher nor does she have the athleticism and size of Cyborg. Furthermore, Smith cannot really hope to grapple with Cyborg, who's again, bigger and better. Basically, the key to victory for Cyborg is not to do anything stupid. So long as she shows up in condition to perform, this should be an easy win for her.
Key Wins: Raquel Pennington (Invicta FC 4), Rin Nakai (UFC Fight Night 85), Jessamyn Duke (UFC Fight Night 45)
Key Losses: Jessica Eye (UFC 180), Sarah Kaufman (TUF Nations Finale, Invicta FC 5), Barb Honchak (Invicta FC 7)
Keys to Victory: Smith is a scrapper on every level. Her technique in most areas and overall athleticism is fairly average, but Smith makes up for it by coming forward hard and forcing exchanges without fear of getting hit.
It's a risky idea against Cyborg, but it's the strategy Smith must employ nonetheless.
Basically, Smith's sole opportunity to win this bout lies in forcing her opponent to gas out. Cyborg throws very hard and has slowed down a bit in the past while smashing helpless opponents, so if Smith can stay in her face and exchange, it's not impossible that the Brazilian slows down.
The biggest X-factor in this bout is Cyborg's weight cut. If it severely drains her, Smith suddenly has a much better chance. In addition to losing some of the pop behind her punches, Cyborg will be far more prone to fatiguing if her cut does not go well.
As should be abundantly clear from the tone of this article, "The Peacemaker's" chances are not great here. However, by pushing the pace and firing back, Smith gives herself the best chance at either catching Cyborg or exhausting her.
Bottom Line: It's all about Cris Cyborg.
Back when Ronda Rousey was seen as untouchable -- which wasn't all that long ago -- Cyborg was seen as perhaps her only real challenger. Obviously, much has changed since then, but that's still a bout Cyborg is really working towards. If there's any change that fight ever happens, Cyborg needs to win this bout and put herself in position to fight the best in high-profile shows.
If Cyborg loses, her future is very shaky. In fact, there's a decent chance the UFC will simply release her. Without a Featherweight division, Cyborg's options are either to cut to 135 -- which probably would've happened by now if it was ever going to -- or take super fights.
A loss largely eliminates the latter option.
For Smith, she faces the same circumstances as any massive underdog. She's not expected to make it competitive, so she loses no ground with a loss. Plus, it's not even in her real division. However, a win would be momentous, and it would undoubtedly serve as the biggest moment of her career thus far.
At UFC 198, Cris Cyborg will make her debut opposite Leslie Smith. Will she add another knockout to her resume?