When Leslie Smith volunteered to step into the Octagon against Cris Cyborg people thought she was crazy. Cyborg has been known to demolish her opponents, having won 15 professional MMA contest with 13 of those being TKO’s. Smith knew all of this going into the fight and stepped up anyway, when the rest of her division stood silently. It was rumored that this fight with Cyborg at a catch weight of 140lbs (5 lbs higher than Smith had ever fought at before) had been offered to the likes of former Champion Holly Holm, as well as #3 Cat Zingano. All of these top fighters turned the fight down or were set up with different options with in their division, but not Smith.
Although Smith is on the smaller end of the 135lb division (she use to fight at 125lbs) she was willing to meet at a catch weight. She came into fight week gleeming with confidence and willing to put everything she had on the line. This fight, although ending in a loss for Smith could in fact be a win in the recognition department. In the business of MMA, the UFC holds a lot on fan recognition, with the biggest stars of the UFC being fighters who can be recognized outside of the typical fight fans. Some of those fighters being Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor, and Paige Van Zant.
I think Smith chose wisely when she accepted this fight. Being in Brazil, Cyborg was automatically going to draw a big crowd. Smith has never fought on the main card before this fight. With this fight ending the way it did, in a questionable stoppage it has stoked up chatter. Being in Brazil could have had an effect on the early stoppage, as well as the feeling that the outcome was inevitable, regarding Cyborgs dominate nature. Regardless, Leslie Smith should hold her head high and walk proudly into her next fight knowing that she took a chance and step up when nobody else would. I feel for her next opponent and hope to see her back and better than every. Hopefully sooner than later.
Photo courtesy of UFC.com