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Cris Cyborg Knocks Out Leslie Smith, Retains Featherweight Title at Bellator 259

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2021

INGLEWOOD, CA - JANUARY 25:  Cris Cyborg in the cage during her featherweight world title fight against Julia Budd at The Forum on January 25, 2020 in Inglewood, California. Cyborg won by TKO in the 4th round. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Cris Cyborg remained atop Bellator's women's featherweight division with a fifth-round TKO win over Leslie Smith in the main event of Bellator 259 from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. 

The finish came better late than never for the champion as she secured the TKO with just around 10 seconds left in the final round. 

Smith only lasted one minute and 21 seconds in her first fight with Cyborg in 2016. She at least made it past that mark this time around as Cyborg took a patient approach, walking her opponent into the cage. 

BellatorMMA @BellatorMMA

🔥 @CrisCyborg drops @LeslieSmith_GF in Round 1️⃣ We are LIVE on @SHOSports with #Bellator259👇 https://t.co/TbKTQ7lKsu https://t.co/jDxc14jfIQ

Smith was able to delay the inevitable onslaught for a few minutes with some defensive boxing. Once Cyborg decided to fire off some combinations, the results were predictable as she put her opponent on the mat. 

Cyborg wasn't quite able to draw the finish in the first round, but she did add a highlight-reel suplex to her repertoire. 

BellatorMMA @BellatorMMA

💥 SUPLEX CITY! Your new Mayor, @CrisCyborg. #Bellator259 is LIVE on @SHOSports. https://t.co/sRMl2QswNv

A counter right hand nearly put Smith down in the second round. The 38-year-old was able to stay upright and showed some strong boxing, but Cyborg's power was the difference. 

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Smith got credit for hanging with a tough opponent even if the fight never really felt like it could go her way:

Aaron Bronsteter @aaronbronsteter

If "heart" was a video game attribute, Leslie Smith would have a 100 rating in the category. No quit from Smith, even with the deck stacked against her.

Toughness alone isn't enough to beat someone of Cyborg's caliber. Smith found that out as she continued to take shots into the championship rounds. 

Those fourth and fifth rounds turned out to simply be more of the same. Cyborg continued to exploit the skill gap between the two, and eventually, it became too much as she got the stoppage in the final moments of the fight. 

BellatorMMA @BellatorMMA

👑 The champ just keeps that pressure coming! #Bellator259's @CrisCyborg vs. @LeslieSmith_GF is LIVE now on @SHOsports👇 https://t.co/TbKTQ7lKsu https://t.co/M0i4IDfKLt

It's Cyborg's third win since joining the company in 2020. As a champion in Bellator, UFC, Invicta and Strikeforce, no one has seen as much gold from different organizations than the Brazilian. If it weren't for a loss to Amanda Nunes, she would have the strongest argument as the greatest of all time. 

Cyborg lost to the Lioness in the final fight on her UFC contract before signing with Bellator. Fighting for Scott Coker's promotion gave her the freedom to pursue boxing while maintaining her MMA career. Cyborg intended to make her boxing debut in 2020, but the pandemic threw a wrench in those plans. 

While the fearsome striker still intends to do that, she's excited about the featherweight division in her current MMA home.  

"This is the first thing I think about -- OK, I want to be in an organization that has my real division," Cyborg said, per Marc Raimondi of ESPN.com. "I cannot wait, fight one time a year, two times a year [and] fight against girls that are [coming up] from 135 [pounds]. This is nice. I'm very happy."

The UFC's women's featherweight division has struggled to really materialize. Nunes is the current champion and has split her time between defending both of her belts. 

Bellator has some interesting options to oppose Cyborg should she want to continue to do so. Julia Budd was competitive in Cyborg's Bellator debut. Cat Zingano is a former UFC title challenger with a win over Nunes on her resume. 

Either one would be a strong enough matchup to anchor another card for the promotion. 

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