Cris Cyborg

Not many female fighters have pushed Cris Cyborg to the fifth and final round.

Leslie Smith was able to do just that Friday night before the reigning Bellator champion finished her off in the main event of Bellator 259. 

The bout was part of the Showtime broadcast that also featured wins by Leandro Higo over Darrion Caldwell and Austin Vanderford over Fabian Edwards.

Cyborg finally put Smith away in their rematch with just nine seconds left in the final round. The win improved her record to 24-2 with a no-contest while Smith dropped to 12-9-1 in her career.

“I knew she was tough and I’ve fought her before. I know her and respect her and she’s a real fighter. I knew with her it would be a great match, because she’s capable and she’s tough,” Cyborg said. “I was really working in sparring to keep going and going because I knew it was going to be this way. I noticed I enjoyed it a little more. It’s going to be 16 years as a professional fighter this month so I started to enjoy it in there.

Following the performance, Cyborg made a call-out for her next opponent: Cat Zingano.

“I’ve been doing this 16 years, I’ve got four titles,” she said. “But before you can be a G.O.A.T. you have to fight the ‘Cat.’ So, I’d like to fight with Cat Zingano and I will ask Scott Coker. Because before you can be a G.O.A.T. you have to fight the ‘Cat.’”

Higo scored a split decision over Caldwell for his 20th career victory. 

“I’ve been waiting for this fight for three years now. It’s exactly how I wanted it to go. I used my wrestling and I used my jiu-jitsu. I’m a complete fighter and I’m ready for any fighter on the planet because I believe I’m the best. I knew I had lost the first round, but in the second when he was throwing all those elbows and cut me open, I’m from a poor family in Brazil and that was nothing I hadn’t seen before. I felt happy being in that cage with blood all over me,” Higo said.

“He ended up taking me down in the second and I went for a kimura, which is something I’m very accustomed to doing, but he reversed it but then he didn’t do anything and I hit him with a lot of strikes on bottom. A lot of elbows and strikes and I stayed very on bottom and he wasn’t doing anything. That’s why I won the second and third round.”

Vanderford, the husband of Paige VanZant, remained unbeaten with a decision over Edwards. He swept all three rounds on all three scorecards. 

“I like my fights bloody, whether it’s me or my opponent. I’ll get a scab. But hats off to Fabian who cut me up a little bit. But happy to get the win,” Vanderford said.

“He was a big, strong guy. I started feeling him give me that head and arm choke. Unfortunately, I didn’t capitalize on it. But I knew what I was going to do. I was going to just grind it out. He’s a good striker so I had to be careful but I felt good. Wrestling … it’s my heart. I’m ready for the next step.”

In other action, Jaleel Willis topped Maycon Mendonca, Hannah Guy upset Valerie Loureda and Saad Awad bested Nate Andrews.

c-Cris Cyborg (24-2, 1 NC) defeated #4-Leslie Smith (12-9-1) via TKO (strikes) at 4:51 of round five

#6-Leandro Higo (20-5) defeated Darrion Caldwell (15-5) via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

 #3-Austin Vanderford (11-0) defeated #4-Fabian Edwards (9-2) via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) 

Jaleel Willis (15-2) defeated Maycon Mendonca (11-5) via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)  

Hannah Guy (3-1) defeated #8-Valerie Loureda (3-1) via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)

Saad Awad (24-13, 1 NC) defeated Nate Andrews (16-4) via KO (strikes) at 3:16 of round one

 #7-Grant Neal (6-0) defeated #8-Tyree Fortune (5-1) via submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:20 of round one

Sumiko Inaba (2-0) defeated Kristina Katsikis (1-2) via TKO (strikes) at 3:35 of round three

Aviv Gozali (6-0) defeated Sean Felton (5-3-1) via submission (heel hook) at 1:17 of round one

#9-Davion Franklin (3-0) defeated Tyler King (12-10) via KO at 2:02 of round one

#7-Leah McCourt (5-1) defeated 6-Janay Harding (6-5) via submission (triangle choke) at 2:42 of round two

Danny Sabatello (11-1) defeated Brett Johns (17-3) via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Alexander Shabliy (20-3) defeated #9-Alfie Davis (14-4) via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

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