Cris Cyborg showed a new, patient side to her MMA game. But she did what she does best in the end, finishing Leslie Smith with nine seconds left in the fight.
Cyborg (24-2 MMA, 3-0 Bellator) and Smith (12-9-1 MMA, 2-3 Bellator) engaged in a five-round war for the main event of Bellator 259. The fight was in stark contrast to the first meeting between the two in Cyborg’s UFC debut in 2016 that ended in a first-round finish. And although Smith was unable to avenge the loss, she demonstrated grit throughout the rematch.
Cyborg completely dominated the opening two rounds of the championship bout. Her striking was as powerful as ever, dropping Smith several times. However, Smith stayed composed and survived the barrage, as well as some ground and pound, to remain in the fight.
The third round saw Smith’s best work in the entire fight. She absorbed fewer significant strikes and sustained less damage while landing some strikes of her own as well. While Smith’s performance and output were improved over the first two rounds, Cyborg maintained control and dominated most exchanges, easily winning the round.
Cyborg showed us a much more patient and tactical side to her game in the last two rounds of the fight. She picked her shots and did not allow Smith to coax her into any exchanges she didn’t want to be in. Her output was different; Cyborg was less aggressive than what we are accustomed to seeing. She also mixed in several takedowns and utilized her ground game more than ever in the past. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt, Cyborg chose to show us a bit more of the ground game that we first witnessed in her title defense over Arlene Blencowe.
It appeared that the champ would go the distance for the first time in over twelve years. However, with the fight winding down, Cyborg countered Smith with a right hook that sent her to the mat. She immediately moved in to finish the fight, and it appeared that Smith was out and then woke back up before the referee stoppage with just nine seconds left.
After the victory, Cyborg went on to call out Cat Zingano for her next title defense.
Do you want to see Cris Cyborg defend her Bellator featherweight belt against Cat Zingano next?