Cris Cyborg picked up yet another victory in a long, illustrious career. But this one, unlikely many of the others, wasn’t over quickly.
Cyborg defended her Bellator women’s featherweight title, beating Leslie Smith by TKO at 4 minutes, 51 seconds of the fifth round in the main event of Bellator 259 on Friday night at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. It was a rematch of a 2016 bout that Cyborg finished via TKO in just 1:21.
Known for her violent, quick finishes, Cyborg previously had been deeper than the third round only three times in her career. Smith is only the second fighter to take Cyborg into the fifth round, joining former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm.
ESPN has Cyborg ranked No. 3 on its women’s MMA pound-for-pound list. Her only loss since her pro debut in 2005 came against Amanda Nunes, the UFC women’s bantamweight and featherweight champion.
In their first fight at UFC 198 five years ago, Smith disputed the stoppage as being too early. She got some measure of vindication Saturday night, but the outcome wasn’t really ever in doubt.
Cyborg dominated every round, landing big combinations and several impactful suplexes that sent Smith hard to the mat. Cyborg dropped Smith in four out of five rounds with punches. Many of Cyborg’s former opponents have folded after feeling her power, but Smith didn’t until the closing seconds.
“I knew she’s tough,” Cyborg said in her postfight interview. “I knew. I’ve met her before. I know her. I really respect her. She’s a real fighter.” With time expiring in the fifth round, Cyborg landed a crushing right hand that dropped Smith. She then followed up with big punches on the ground. Smith turned over and covered up, but Cyborg continued the onslaught, and referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in and waved it off.
Afterward, Cyborg called out former UFC title challenger Cat Zingano for her next title defense. Zingano is 2-0 in Bellator and coming off a finish last month.
Cyborg (24-2, 1 NC) picked up her second Bellator title defense Saturday night. The Brazil native, who trains out of Southern California, has won four straight overall. She has 19 career wins via KO/TKO in 24 victories. Cyborg, 35, is the only fighter in MMA history to win titles in four major promotions: UFC, Bellator, Strikeforce and Invicta FC.
Smith (12-9-1) has dropped two of three following a three-fight winning streak. The 38-year-old California native has been one of the most vocal MMA fighters in the world about attempting to organize athletes in the sport to set up a union or association.