One of the most dominant female fighters in MMA history will return this spring in a rematch.
Cris Cyborg (23-2 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) will put her women’s featherweight title on the line against Leslie Smith (12-8-1 MMA, 2-2 BMMA) in the Bellator 259 main event. The promotion announced the headliner during Friday’s Bellator 255 broadcast, which was its debut on Showtime.
Bellator 259 is set for May 21 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The main card for that event will air on Showtime following prelims on MMA Junkie. In addition, Christian Edwards (4-0 MMA, 4-0 BMMA) will fight Ben Parrish (4-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) in a light heavyweight bout on the card, and Georgi Karakhanyan (30-11-1 MMA, 8-9 BMMA) vs. Adam Piccolotti (12-4 MMA, 8-4 BMMA) has been booked at lightweight.
Cyborg and Smith first fought at UFC 198 in May 2016 in a 140-pound catchweight bout. That fight, in Cyborg’s home country of Brazil, was her UFC debut after signing as Invicta’s featherweight champion. She took Smith out with a TKO just 81 seconds into the fight.
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After she lost the UFC women’s featherweight title to current two-division champion Amanda Nunes in late 2018 – her first loss since her May 2005 pro debut – Cyborg had one more win in the UFC, then signed with Bellator.
In her promotional debut in January 2020, she took out longtime champion Julia Budd with a fourth-round TKO to win the belt. This past October, she had her first title defense and submitted Arlene Blencowe in the second round.
Smith signed a new deal with Bellator ahead of her shot at Cyborg’s title. It will be Smith’s first title bout in seven and a half years. She lost a fight for Invicta FC’s flyweight title to Barb Honchak in December 2013.
After that, Smith moved back to bantamweight in the UFC, where she went 4-3 in seven fights from 2014-2017. Her relationship with the UFC was a rocky one toward the end when it came to contract issues and, she has said, because of her involvement with Project Spearhead, an organization that wants to unionize MMA fighters.
Smith signed with Bellator and has gone 2-1 with decisions wins against Sinead Kavanagh and Amanda Bell sandwiched around a decision loss to Arlene Blencowe.
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