The featherweight championship main event served as a rematch almost five years to the day from their first meeting in Cyborg’s UFC debut, where she stopped Smith via strikes in just over a minute at UFC 198 at a catchweight of 140 pounds.
It was a much different battle the second time around, with Smith showing an incredible amount of heart to survive a slew of tough spots. In the end, Cyborg finally put Smith away with a thunderous right hand and vicious ground and pound before the fight was stopped at the 4:51 mark of the fifth round.
Cyborg landed a leg kick with the opening strike of the fight, followed by a hard right hand. Smith showing patience and holding back her aggression, while Cyborg scored with a combination. Smith landed a nice right hand over the top while the champion answered with a kick to the midsection. They traded body kicks and return to the center of the cage where Cyborg beautifully counters. Smith landed a right hand before Cyborg dropped her and got on top. Smith was able to get her wits to her as Cyborg moved to side control. The Brazilian took Smith’s back and belly to back suplexed the challenger with some ground and pound to boot. Smith showed tremendous fortitude getting back to her feet as she got out of the first.
Cyborg opened the second with a straight jab and a kick to the body. Smith answered with a right hand and a nice body kick of her own. The champion continued to stalk Smith, cutting off the cage and landing a pair of hard left hooks. Smith hung tough, landing body kicks, but the champ continued to pick her shots and make them count, scoring with several jabs to the head and body. A hard right hand from Cyborg stunned Smith and took the fight down. Smith got back to her feet, only to take another hard right as the bell sounded.
An exchange of leg kicks opened the third round with Smith turning up the activity. Cyborg took it to the mat, but Smith got right back to her feet. The challenger began to move forward more, landing body kicks. Cyborg landed a trio of punches and Smith came up short on a takedown. Smith landing a hard jab and an overhand right. Cyborg landed a pair of hard jabs and a body kick. A front kick by Smith was countered with a hard combination and an inside leg kick from Cyborg. The jabs continued to land from the champion, and she dropped Smith again with a right hand before taking her back. Cyborg took it down and ended the round on top.
Smith landed a nice switch kick in the opening minute of the championship rounds. Cyborg slowed the challenger down with a left hook and a body-head combination. They traded jabs with the champion getting the slight edge. Smith scored with a leg kick and Cyborg landed a bomb over the top with her right hand. A hard exchange from both warriors led to Cyborg catching a leg kick and flooring Smith with a right hand. Smith got back to her feet, showing tremendous tenacity. But Cyborg answered with a hard combination and a takedown with 40 seconds to go in the round, right into side control. Cyborg put a stamp on the round with some ground and pound.
Smith knew she needed a finish; she was being out struck at nearly a four to one clip. But Cyborg moved forward with a lead right hand before landing a takedown transitioning right into side control near the fence. As Smith got to her feet, she ate a big right hand from Cyborg. In the final minute, Cyborg landed another a big right hand with 30 seconds to go that dropped Smith. Cyborg may have woken her up with punches, but the referee had seen enough stopping the fight at 4:51 of the final round.
After the victory, Cyborg called out fellow former UFC fighter Cat Zingano.
In their second meeting, Darrion Caldwell was looking for official closure in his rivalry with Leandro Higo—who missed weight by 1.5 pounds for the bantamweight co-main event. Caldwell submitted Higo in the opening round of their first meeting at Bellator 195 in March 2018.
The fighters felt each other out for the first 40 seconds before Caldwell landed a kick to the body. Higo answered with a hard calf kick before Caldwell landed an easy takedown. Higo attempted a guillotine but Caldwell was in no danger. Hard elbows over and over from Caldwell, who drew first blood on the top of Higo’s head. “The Wolf” continued top pressure before Higo attempted an armbar and a triangle, all to no avail. Higo looked for a heel hook which led to eating hammer fists before the round closed.
After the doctor cleared Higo to continue on, he opened up the second with a hard leg kick. A check left hook landed clean from Higo, Caldwell answered with a low kick to the leg. A Higo leg kick dropped Caldwell, who scrambles on top. Higo landed some hard elbows off of his back as Caldwell wasn’t doing much in top position. Higo still more active on bottom with short punches. Caldwell tried to posture up and landed a hard elbow. Caldwell was happy to end the round on top as Higo was warned for grabbing the fingers of Caldwell’s glove.
Higo looked for a takedown to start the final round, but Caldwell was able to take his back on the feet against the fence. The former bantamweight champion tried to drag Higo to the ground to no avail. Higo sprawled and looked and landed an illegal knee to the head of the grounded Caldwell. The referee stopped the action and issued a hard warning as Higo lost his position. Caldwell shot a single and Higo cinched a tight guillotine but couldn’t finish. Higo took the back of Caldwell in the final 90 seconds. Caldwell tried to scramble but Higo maintained the position and landed knees to the rear end of Caldwell before cinching in full back control. Caldwell desperately scrambled to get on top.
In the end, the former champ lost a split decision to Higo, evening their series at one fight apiece.
Austin Vanderford takes another step towards title contention
The heat for the fight between Austin Vanderford and Fabian Edwards built throughout the week and it carried over in the cage for their highly anticipated middleweight bout. Edwards came out aggressive as both men took the center, but Vanderford landed a takedown 45 seconds in. Edwards worked his way up and landed a big shot upon separation as he aimed to keep this one standing as much as possible. Vanderford scored with a leg kick and a right hand, while Edwards landed a straight left hand. Vanderford had a takedown defended for a moment, but stayed on it and ended up on top for the final 30 seconds.
Leg kick landed for Edwards that was ultimately too low to start the second stanza. When the action resumed, Vanderford charged in with a combination. Edwards landed a hard standing elbow before defending a takedown. Body kick found the mark for Edwards followed by a straight left hand and a push kick to the midsection. Vanderford would change levels and earn a big takedown just before the halfway point of the fight. Edwards attempted to scramble to his feet and Vanderfrod took the back before diving into the full guard of his opponents. Despite some activity off of his back, Edwards wasn’t able to get back to his feet before the bell sounded.
Vanderford kicked off the third with a hard right hand and transitioned right into another takedown staying heavy on top in the half guard. Edwards tried to explode back to his feet but Vanderford wasn’t having it. Edwards tried to use a two-on-one to try and slow Vanderford down, but the ATT fighter got his arm free to land shots. Vanderford remained on top with a minute to go and landed big elbows until the final horn sounded, and he walked back to his corner a bloody mess from Edwards’ slicing elbow of his own from bottom.
The judges all scored it for Vanderford as he improved to 11-0 and took one step closer to a title shot at 185 pounds.
Jaleel Willis earned his sixth straight victory in the event’s second main card bout, using a superior wrestling attack to thwart the dangerous striking of Maycon Mendonca. The former LFA champion improved to 2-0 in the Bellator cage with a unanimous decision victory.
Check out the full Bellator 259 results below:
Cris Cyborg def. Leslie Smith via TKO – Round 5, 4:51
Leandro Higo def. Darrion Caldwell via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Austin Vanderford def. Fabian Edwards via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Jaleel Willis def. Maycon Mendonca via unanimous decision is (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Aviv Gozali def. Sean Felton via submission (heel hook) – Round 1, 1:17
Davion Franklin def. Tyler King via KO (punch) – Round 1, 2:02