Bellator 259 predictions — Cris Cyborg vs. Leslie Smith 2: Fight card, odds, start time, live stream


In May 2016, Leslie Smith didn’t manage to make it 90 seconds against the force of nature that is Cris Cybog. On Friday, Smith will hope that five years of growth will be enough to score a career-defining upset when the pair rematch for Cyborg’s featherweight title in the main event of Bellator 259.

The two first met at UFC 198 in a 140-pound catchweight fight. The fight was Cyborg’s first in the UFC after a lengthy period of trash talk between the then-Invicta FC champion and UFC president Dana White — along with then-UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. A long-discussed fight with Rousey never came together, but Cyborg did manage a 6-1 record in the Octagon, including a stint as 145-pound champion.

After an unceremonious end to her UFC career, Cyborg signed with Bellator MMA and immediately defeated Julia Budd to win the promotion’s featherweight title, becoming the first woman to hold championships in four “major” promotions (Strikeforce, Invicta, UFC, Bellator).

The problem with dominance is that fresh opponents and legitimate challenges become increasingly hard to come by.

Enter Smith, who was 3-2-1 in Invicta, 4-3 in the UFC and now sits at 2-2 in Bellator, maintaining a level of just above .500 in major promotions, but whose time in those promotions makes her a viable option for a fight with Cyborg.

Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including an exclusive interview with Cris Cyborg ahead of Friday’s showdown below.

After a loss to Arlene Blencowe snapped a three-fight winning streak, Smith rebounded with a 2020 decision win over Amanda Bell to secure her shot at the title. Now, it’s up to Smith to prove the validity of her claims of her growth since the 81-second knockout loss to Cyborg the first time around.

“We both changed,” Smith said at Bellator 259 media day. “We both have been doing this for a long time, and I know that I have a much higher level of fight maturity, fight knowledge. I’m more cerebral. I have a better understanding on how to create and exploit opportunities than I ever did, but I know that she has changed a lot, too. I think as our styles have evolved, I think this has made the fight a lot more interesting than the first fight.”  

Here’s the fight card for Bellator 259 with the latest odds from William Hill Sportsbook.

Bellator 259 card, odds

Cris Cyborg (c) -1200

Leslie Smith +750

Women’s featherweight title

Darrion Caldwell -310

Leandro Higo +250

Bantamweight

Austin Vanderford -240 Fabian Edwards +200 Middleweight
Maycon Mendonca -120 Jaleel Willis +100 Welterweight
Valerie Loureda -550 Hannah Guy +400 Women’s flyweight

Bellator 259 viewing information

Date: May 21 | Start time: 9 p.m. ET
Location: Mohegan Sun Arena — Uncasville, Connecticut
TV Channel: Showtime | Stream: Showtime.com or the Showtime App

Prediction

Cris Cyborg vs. Leslie Smith: Smith is a capable fighter and her 4-1 record since the first loss to Cyborg does suggest some growth as it is tied for the best five-fight stretch of her career. That said, Cyborg is a simply on a different level from every other woman on the Bellator roster. The only woman on earth who would be expected to compete with — let alone beat — Cyborg is Amanda Nunes. Cyborg’s power is likely to simply be too much for Smith to be able to deal with in a five-round fight. But improvement can come in many forms, including Smith doing better than the first time around. Pick: Cris Cyborg via TKO3 





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