Every so often, a mixed martial artist goes into a bout as a heavy underdog, despite knowing in his own mind he is the better man in the cage.
This was the case last night in San Jose as Scott Smith, being portrayed as a warm-up fight for a returning Cung Le, knocked out his opponent late in the final round of their middleweight affair.
For over two-and-a-half rounds, Smith stood in front of Le and absorbed several side and spinning back kicks. A few times in the fight, Le’s kicks landed with so much force that they knocked the Strikeforce middleweight halfway across the canvas and into the fence.
From the first round, the fight went as expected. Le kept Scott at bay with numerous kicks. Scott did not seem to have an answer for Le‘s legs as they landed on several occasions, including a huge knockdown that led into Le pounding Smith on the ground.
After another spinning back kick, Smith found himself controlled by Le for the rest of the round.
The second round offered more of the same.
At this point in the fight, predictions appeared to be right on the money as Smith continued to take a decent amount of kicks from all angles. Some to the mid section and others slapped to the face, Smith was made into target practice for Le’s legs.
Most fighters might have slowed down by this point, but not Smith. He continued to stand with Le and take punishment, much like he did with Benji Radach earlier this year.
Blow after blow, Scott Smith took a beating and never made retreat part of his game plan. Instead, maintaining poise was the highest priority as durability was put to the forefront of Smith’s defense.
Going into the third round, Le was up two rounds to none. The obvious fact for Smith was that he needed to win the fight by either knockout or submission.
Very few, if any, expected Smith to do what he did late in the third round.
With 1:48 left until Cung Le would surely win a unanimous decision, Scott Smith landed one of very few strikes to the head of the Vietnamese striker. A soft left hook connected with Le’s chin, ultimately disconnecting him from his senses. Smith took this opportunity to silence any and all doubters who had him losing this fight as he threw a heated flurry.
After a strong right cross, Le feel to the mat which opened up the chance for Smith to finish the fight on the ground. After a couple of strong right hands by Smith from behind, John McCarthy stopped the fight with no intelligent defense shown by Le.
Scott Smith beat more than Cung Le last night. He beat critics and doubting fans who wouldn’t give him a chance against a man who had spent almost two years away from the sport. Smith silenced all who doubted him, including the author of this article.
The “hands of steel” rang true to their name with a left hook that needed little propulsion to make a large impact.
Cung Le might have been the movie star in this bout, but it was Scott Smith who made the curtain call. Two thumbs up.