Bellator 259: A Tale of Two Veterans in Cyborg vs Smith 2

Cris Cyborg and Leslie Smith will throw down at Bellator 259
Cris Cyborg and Leslie Smith Credit: Bellator MMA

Cris Cyborg looks to continue to add to her already legendary resume, while Leslie Smith looks for the victory of her career at Bellator 259.

Somehow, Cris “Cyborg” Justino is seemingly on the verge of sweeping another division after more than a decade in the fight game.  After winning and defending gold in several major promotions in MMA history, Justino is looking to clear the field that she has available in her latest home.  At a time when the UFC has given their featherweight division the kiss of death, Justino has a healthy schedule to keep her occupied.  A victory on Friday would be her second defense of the Bellator title, and only Cat Zingano would remain as a fresh opponent.  Beyond that, up-and-comers such as undercard fighters Leah McCourt and Janay Harding would seemingly be all that’s left for Justino in Bellator.

Cyborg could accomplish her mission by year’s end if she stays busy.  At 35 years old, that would seem to be the point.  The fact is, a rematch with Amanda Nunes to avenge her biggest (and in the eyes of many the only) career loss is unlikely to ever happen.  With that in mind, Justino is looking to get as many title defenses and names on her resume as possible as her prime years slowly wind down.  It should be noted, she is still one of the best fighters in all of MMA whose engine has yet to stop running at full speed.  There are still big fights left for her if the stars align, and she is likely hoping to book them while she is still the favorite.

On the other side of the living legend is a familiar foe, and one for whom Friday marks a potential last chance to claim glory.  If the story of Cyborg’s career is dominance, then Leslie Smith’s career is one of persistence.  A decade long pro, Smith has seen plenty in going from flyweight to featherweight and competing for Invicta, the UFC, and now Bellator.  Her wins and losses may not leap off the page, but Smith’s legacy will go beyond such numbers towards causes outside the cage.  She is best known for being one of the biggest advocates for fighter unionization at a time when fighter pay continues to be a hot topic.

Friday’s contest would be more than a victory over one of the sport’s best.  Smith came up short against Cyborg once before, in 2016 when the Brazilian depleted herself to compete at a catchweight of 140 pounds.  With Smith now at 38 years old, to best Justino at this stage of her career and get redemption would be one of the biggest upsets of the year.  After more than a decade in the fight game already, it wouldn’t be out of the question for Smith to possibly even walk away on top as champion.

Justino should look to be patient and find her moments to put forward pressure on Smith.  Smith is known for trying to smother opponents with her physicality and is competent on the mat and on the feet so a patient approach will be the best course for Justino.  “Cyborg” is the more technical striker and is expected to be the explosive striker of the two so a disciplined approach should lead to her being able to capitalize on openings left by Smith when the challenger looks to close the distance.

An upset for Smith would likely lead to an immediate rematch for Justino for what would be the first rubber match of the Brazilian’s career.  Should Justino record her second title defense, attention will likely turn to former UFC title challenger Cat Zingano who is 2-0 under the Bellator banner after making her debut in the promotion in 2020.


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